Ablation Zone: the annual loss of snow and ice from a glacier as a result of melting, evaporation, iceburg calving, and sublimation which exceeds the accumulation of snow and ice. Located below the firn line.
Accumulation Zone: the area where snow accumulations exceeds melt, located above the firn line.
Aiguille: a tall, narrow, characteristically distinct spire of rock. From the French word for "needle". Used extensively as part of the names for many peaks in the French Alps.
Alpine Zone or Alpine Tundra: the area above the treeline, often characterized by stunted, sparse forests of krummholz and pristine, turquoise lakes.
Arête: a thin ridge of rock formed by two glaciers parallel to each other. Sometimes formed from two cirques meeting. From the French for edge or ridge.
Bench: a flat section in steep terrain.
Bergschrund or abbreviated schrund: a crevasse that forms from the separation of moving glacier ice from the stagnant ice above. Characterized by a deep cut, horizontal, along a steep slope. Often extending extremely deep, over 100 metres down to bedrock. Extremely dangerous as they are filled in winter by avalanches and gradually open in the summer.
Bivouac or Bivy: a primitive campsite or simple, flat area where camping is possible.
Bushwhack: to hike off-trail or where no trail exists.
Buttress: a prominent protrusion of rock on a mountain, often column-shaped, that juts out from a rock or mountain.
Cairn: in modern times a pile of rocks used to indicate a route or a summit. Historically they were erected as sepulchral monuments.
Chimney: a gap between two vertical faces of rock or ice.
Cirque Glacier: formed in bowl-shaped depressions on the side of mountains.
Cirque: a glacier-carved bowl or amphitheatre in the mountains.
Class 5 Terrain: technical climbing terrain. Rope required by most climbers.
Col: a ridge between two higher peaks, a mountain pass or saddle.
Cornice: a wind deposited wave of snow on a ridge, often overhanging a steep slope or cliff.
Couloir: a narrow gully often hemmed in by sheer cliff walls. From the French word meaning passage or corridor.
Crevasse: is a split or crack in the glacier surface, often with near vertical walls.
Cross-ditch: a ditch that carries water from one side of a road to the other, deeper than a waterbar.
Culvert: a device used to channel water under a road or embankment.
Diagonal Crevasses: form at an angle to the flow of a glacier. These are normally found along the edges where a glacier ends
Drumlin: a ridge or hill formed from glacial debris. From the Gaelic “ridge”.
Erratic or Glacier Erratic: is a piece of rock that has been carried by glacial ice, often hundreds of kilometres. Characteristic of their massive size and improbable looking placement.
Firn: compacted, granular snow that has been accumulated from past seasons. Firn is the building blocks of the ice that makes the glacier.
Gendarme: a pinnacle sticking up out of a ridge. A steep sided rock formation along a ridge, “guarding” the summit. From the French ”man-at-arms”.
Glacier Window: the cave-like opening at the mouth of a glacier where meltwater runs out.
Glissade: descending down a snow slope on foot, partly sliding.
Hanging Glacier: separating portions of glaciers, hanging on ridgelines or cliffs.
Headwall: a steep section of rock or cliff. In a glacial cirque it is it's highest cliff.
Highpointing: the sport of hiking to as many high points as possible in a given area.
Hoary Marmot: the cute, invariably pudgy, twenty plus pound ground squirrels that have evolved to live quite happily in the hostile alpine areas of much of the world. In the northwest of North America, marmots have a distinct grey in their hair, a hoary colour, so have been named hoary marmots.
Ice Mill: a hole in the glacier formed by swirling water on the surface. These can be large enough for a human to slip into.
Icefalls: a jumble of crisscross crevasses and large ice towers that are normally found where a glacier flows over a slope with a gradient change of 25 degrees or more.
Krummholz: low-stunted trees found in the alpine. From the German “twisted wood”.
Longitudinal Crevasses: form parallel to the flow of a glacier. These are normally found where a glacier widens.
Massif: a cluster of mountains. A section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures.
Moat: is a wall formed at the head of a glacier. Formed from heat reflected from the valley wall.
Moraine (lateral): formed on the sides of a glacier.
Moraine (ground): the rocky debris extending out from the terminus of a glacier.
Moraine (medial): the middle of a glacier. Also formed as two glaciers come together or as a glacier moves around a central peak.
Moraine (terminal): formed at the terminus of a glacier.
Nunatuk: a rock projection protruding through permanent ice or snow.
Old Man's Beard: or Usnea as it is technically called, is the lichen seen hanging from tree branches everywhere in the mountains in Whistler and much of the world. It hangs from tree branches looking like greenish-grey hair.
Piedmont Glacier: formed by one or more valley glaciers spreading out into a large area.
Post Holing: difficult travel through deep snow where feet sink.
Pressure Ridges: wavelike ridges that form on a glacier normally after a glacier has flowed over icefalls.
Pyramidal Peak: a mountaintop that has been carved by glaciation into a distinct, sharp horn-like shape. The Matterhorn in the Alps is a well know example of this striking phenomenon.
Retreation Glacier: a deteriorating glacier; annual melt of entire glacier exceeds the flow of the ice.
Scree: from the Norse “skridha”, landslide. The small, loose stones covering a slope. Also called talus, the French word for slope. Scree is mainly formed from the annual freeze/thaw periods of spring and fall, where water seeps into cracks in the rock and expands when freezing.
Snow Bridge: a structure of snow that fills in an opening such as a crevasse or a creek. Often formed by a snow drift which begins as a cornice and grows into a snow bridge. In the summer, what was a small creek crossing, in the winter will be an often precarious snow bridge. Though, not terribly dangerous, this often encountered type may drop you in an instant, thigh deep in freezing creek, and armpit deep in snow.
Surging Glacier: annual flow of the ice exceeds the melt; the movement is measurable over a period of time.
Talus: a sloping jumble of boulders at the base of a cliff.
Tarn: a small alpine lake.
Transverse Crevasses: form perpendicular to the flow of a glacier. These are normally found where a glacier flows over a slope with a gradient change of 30 degrees or more.
Traverse: crossing a slope at the same elevation.
Waterbar: a ditch that carries water from one side of a road to the other.