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Cirque or Cirque Lake

Cirque Or Cirque Lake        Whistler & Garibaldi Park Glossary of Hiking Terms

Cirque or Cirque Lake: a glacier-carved bowl or amphitheater in the mountains.

To form, the glacier must be a combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds. Thick snow, protected in this way, grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Eventually a magnificently circular lake is formed with steep sloping sides all around.


Glossary of BC Hiking Terms

Glossary of Hiking Terms                                                    Whistler Hiking Trails

  • Ablation Zone: the annual loss of snow and ice from a glacier as a result of melting, evaporation, iceberg calving, and sublimation which exceeds the accumulation of snow and ice. Located below the firn line.  Firn originated from Swiss German and means "last year's snow".  It has been compacted and recrystallized making it harder and more compact than snow, though less compact than glacial ice.  An excellent place to see an ablation zone is Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler.  The Wedgemount Glacier has been receding for decades.  In the 1970's the glacier terminated at Wedgemount Lake with a steep and vertical wall of ice at the shore of Wedgemount Lake.  Today the glacier terminated a couple hundred metres above Wedgemount Lake.

  • Accumulation Zone: the area where snow accumulations exceeds melt, located above the firn line.  Snowfall accumulates faster than melting, evaporation and sublimation removes it.  Glaciers can be shown simply as having two zones.  The accumulation zone and the ablation zone.  Separated by the glacier equilibrium line, these two zones comprise the areas of net annual gain and net annual loss of snow/ice.  The accumulation zone stretches from the higher elevations and pushes down, eventually reaching the ablation zone near the terminus of the glacier where the net loss of snow/ice exceeds the gain.  The Wedgemount Glacier in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler is an ideal place to see an accumulation zone up close.  From across Wedgemount Lake you can see the overall picture of both the accumulation zone and ablation zone of a glacier.  The Wedgemount Glacier is also relatively easy and safe to examine closely and hike onto.  The left side of the glacier is frequented in the summer and fall months by hikers on their way to Wedge Mountain and Mount Weart.

  • 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, turquois 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.

  • Backshore: the area of the shoreline acted upon by waves only during severe storms.
  • Bar: A ridge of sand or gravel in shallow water built by waves and currents.

  • Barrier beach or island:  a land form parallel to the shoreline, above the normal high water level.
  • 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. Characterised 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 verticle 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 Line: separates the accumulation and ablation zones.  As you approach this area, you may see strips of snow in the ice.  Be cautious, as these could be snow bridges remaining over crevasses.  Snow bridges will be weakest lower on the glacier as you enter the accumulation zone.  The firn line changes annually.
  • 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 highpoints 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(Usnea): The lichen seen hanging from tree branches in much of British Columbia.  It hangs from tree bark and 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.
  • Seracs: large pinnacles or columns of ice that are normally found in icefalls or on hanging glaciers.
  • 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.

  • Valley Glacier:  resides and flows in a valley

  • Waterbar: a ditch that carries water from one side of a road to the other.

Some Hiking Trails in Whistler...

Brandywine Meadows hiking in Whistler BCBrandywine Meadows is a nice, moderately difficult hike in a massive flower filled valley high up in the Callaghan Valley.  Located 40 minutes south of Whistler, this tough and sometimes muddy trail gains a huge 550 metres of elevation in just 3k (trailhead to valley).  The trail runs parallel to Brandywine Creek, which is steeply flowing, very loud and quite beautiful at various vantage points.  After two kilometres on the Brandywine Meadows trail, the elevation gain levels off and you catch several alpine mountain peaks through the trees.  And finally reaching the meadows, the amazing valley stretches into the Helm Creek hiking in Garibaldi Provincial Park Whistler BCdistance, ending at the formidable mountains.  In that grey and white mass of mountain peaks in the distance you will see Brandywine Mountain.  A visible and well worn trail skirts the right edge of the valley leading to the rocky slopes that lead you to Brandywine Mountain.  The trail, of course, gives way to the mess of boulders and erratics that make the beautiful, flower filled meadows below look all the more serene. Helm Creek is a cute, meandering creek that winds its way from beyond Black Tusk, down the valley to the wonderful campground that takes its name. From the Helm Creek Campground Taylor Meadows in Garibaldi Provincial Park Whistler BCit descends further along the Helm Creek Trail, until it joins the Cheakamus River not far from where it leaves Cheakamus Lake.  The location of Helm Creek Campground is pretty amazing for a variety of reasons.  First it is just a great location. About halfway between Cheakamus Lake and Black Tusk it lays in some amazingly scenic areas. Beautiful, climbable mountains all around. Amazing fields of snow that run all the way to the base of Rainbow Sproatt Flank Trail in Whistler BCBlack Tusk well into July.  Rivers, creeks and waterfalls everywhere you look from the idyllic campground. A large, grassy field ringed by trees and Helm Creek.  What you always want from a campground is a convenient and clean water source and of course Helm Creek is both.  Taylor Meadows is a beautiful campsite and alternative to the much busier Garibaldi Lake campsite. Located in between Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk itself. It is reached from the same trailhead to Garibaldi Lake.  There are 40 very nice tent platforms, toilets, a good water source and a food cache,  all in the lush forest Black Tusk - Whistler Hiking Trailsof Taylor Meadows with the distant view of Black Tusk.  The hike is a relaxing 7.5k through a deep, big tree forest.  The first half is a series of switchbacks and then the thick forest gives way to Taylor Meadows.  The grassy meadows open up the view of snowy mountains and the spectacular Black Tusk just a couple kilometres away.  Generally Taylor Meadows is not a destination, but part of a circle route.  For example, trailhead to Taylor Wedgemount Lake - Whistler Hiking TrailsMeadows, Taylor Meadows to Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, then return via Garibaldi Lake.  This makes for a long hike at 30k, which is why tenting at this perfectly beautiful, and perfectly located Taylor Meadows Campsite, is a great idea.  Trails run so abundant in Whistler that many go unnoticed, neglected or taken for granted.  The Flank Trail is one of these.  Most people in Whistler don't even know about it, but the ones that do, love it.  Officially known as the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail, it runs the length of Whistler Valley, opposite Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.  Flanking Russet Lake and Singing Pass Trail in Whistlerboth these enormous mountains, the Flank Trail is the inspiration for an ever-growing number of trails that run to it, from it, and across it.  From the Callaghan Valley, far south of Whistler, near Whistler Olympic Park it begins(or ends).  It then stretches 40 kilometres along the flank of the massive and sprawling Mount Sproatt, then Rainbow Mountain, where it finally terminates near Ancient Cedars and Showh LakesCirque Lake hiking trail near Whistler BCWhistler is packed with tremendously beautiful hiking trails.  Whistler, as a resort community, is only decades old but the enormous number of hiking trails is staggering.  The huge number of trails ensures that most remain sparsely hiked and incredibly diverse.  You can find hikes with majestic waterfalls, enormous glaciers, heart pounding summits, impossibly blue lakes, and fantastic views.  Lots of fantastic views.  Two hikes listed below even have user maintained huts that are free to use by anyone.  It is of course difficult to narrow a top 5 list down to only five hikes out of so many wonderful hikes.  Black Tusk tops the list mainly for the its extraordinary view and its incredible geology.  It is constantly amazing.  From its crumbling sides to its alarmingly dangerous looking approach, you can't help but marvel at everything about this mountain.  And standing on its summit, you stare down at everything.  Recalling how impossibly steep the sides look from every angle, you can barely believe it when you reach the top.  Another wonderful aspect of the Black Tusk is simply the hike itself.  It is really three hikes in one as you can hike to Garibaldi Lake on the way and Taylor Meadows on the return journey.  Both of these hikes are worthy destinations on their own, but combined with Black Tusk are incredible.  The roundtrip hike, trailhead to trailhead for Black Tusk is 30k.

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Aerial Video of Camping at Callaghan Lake Provincial Park



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