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Col                                       Whistler & Garibaldi Park Glossary of Hiking Terms

Col: a ridge between two higher peaks, a mountain pass or saddle.



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.


Free Campsites In and Near Whistler

Whistler is surrounded by an immense wilderness dotted with spectacular, hidden lakes and amazing places to set up a tent.  Decades of logging activity has left a network of forest service roads that has opened easy access to these places.  Some of these you can drive to, some may need a 4x4 and some require a little hiking or a short boat ride.  Some closer to Whistler Village you can just hike, walk or bike to.

Northair Mine is a surreal little world of colourful murals on abandoned cement foundations, Northair Mine Aerial Video - Free Whistler Campsitessurrounded by an astoundingly tranquil little lake in a secluded forest.  Just a short logging road off of the Callaghan Valley Road takes you to this unusual little abandoned mine.  You would have driven by the turnoff if you have been to Whistler Olympic Park, which is just a couple kilometres away.  Northair Mine gets its name from the Vancouver based mining company the Northair Group.  The mine was in production from 1976 and extracted 5 tons of gold before being abandoned in 1982.  Northair Mine is tricky to find and even when you near it, the turnoff is not obvious(see the map here for directions).  However, once you find it, it is quite a sight.  The area that encompasses Northair Mine is huge.  About 2 kilometres long, edged by a cliff on one side and a beautiful lake on the other.  A nice, smooth gravel road runs through the area, along the edge of the lake toward Whistler Olympic Park.  Another gravel road runs through the massive cement foundations of what must have been quite a large building.  Beautiful graffiti art covers some of the cement pilings and scattered remnants indicate that this skeleton of a building has been home to its share of gatherings since being abandoned.  Another aerial video showing more of the potential tent sites here.

Callaghan Lake Island CampsiteCallaghan Lake Provincial Park has a main campsite area next to the lake that is pretty nice.  But for a spectacular place to put up a tent, the lake has some little islands.  If you do have a canoe or boat, cross the lake you will find several amazing, backcountry places to put your tent as well as an incredible little island.  All with phenomenal view of crystal clear, green water, trees, and snowy mountains.  If you are motivated and have a canoe you can paddle to the far end of the lake and take the difficult, though beautiful trail to Cirque Lake. Callaghan Lake is certainly one of the most convenient and beautiful places to camp before reaching Whistler, if for example, if you are driving in from out of town and want a great, free, convenient (except for the 8.5k logging road), place to spend the night.  Callaghan Lake Provincial Park is a relatively untouched wilderness of rugged mountainous terrain.  The valley walls were formed by relatively recent glaciation.  Evidence of this can be seen in the considerable glacial till and slide materials visible across the lake.  Around the lake you will see talus slopes, flat rock benches, cirques, hanging valleys, tarns, waterfalls and upland plateaus with bog.

Mount Sproatt, or as it is known locally as simply "Sproatt", is one of the many towering mountains visible from Whistler Village.  Above and beyond Alta Lake, directly across from Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain.  Next time you walk through Whistler Village and cross the pedestrian bridge Sproatt Alpine Trail Campsite Videowith Village Gate Boulevard below you, you will see Mount Sproatt from this excellent vantage point.  It is the rocky giant, abruptly steep on one end and gently sloping on the other.  What you can't see from Whistler Village is the extraordinarily beautiful alpine paradise that lays beyond it.  Lakes and tarns everywhere you look.  Fields of alpine flowers and wonderfully mangled, yet strikingly beautiful forests of krummholz.  Hostile looking fields of boulders and absurdly placed erratics the size of RV's.  Beyond, of course, endless stunning view of distant, snowy mountains.  At the far end(Northair Mine) side of the trail you can 4x4 very close to some amazing alpine lakes(shown here) to camp beside.  Less than an hours hike will then get you to paradise.  Alternatively, you can hike the Alpine Sproatt Trail from the Whistler side and hike to the alpine in a couple hours(about 5k to the alpine).

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