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Retreation Glacier at Wedgemount Lake in Whistler

Retreation Glacier             Whistler & Garibaldi Park Glossary of Hiking Terms

Retreation Glacier: a deteriorating glacier; annual melt of entire glacier exceeds the flow of the ice.


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.


Driving Destinations from Whistler Village

Whistler has a dizzying array of things to do and places to see.  Some are obvious and hard to miss, such as the often visible Black Tusk that dominates the backgrounds of millions of holiday photos.  Other places around Whistler are less known, easy to miss, or simply buried in the endless wilderness everywhere you look.  These places are not terribly hard to get to by car if you know where to aim.  Here are some of them, if you have the time or inclination for a road trip, make Whistler even more amazing and definitely more interesting.

Alexander Falls 23 from Whistler VillageAlexander Falls is a very impressive 43 metre/141foot waterfall just 30 minutes south of Whistler in the Callaghan Valley.  Open year-round and located just before Whistler Olympic Park where several of the 2010 Olympic events were held.  There is a nice viewing platform on the edge of the cliff across from the falls which crash fantastically into the valley below.  The parking area and viewing platform at Alexander Falls is one big area just 40 metres from the main road (to Whistler Olympic Park).  The adventurous can find the obscure trail that leads to both the top of the falls as well as, with great difficulty, to the base of the falls.  For a unique and breathtaking spot to share a beer on the outskirts of Whistler, Alexander Falls surely ranks quite high.  Of impressive waterfalls in the Whistler area, Alexander Falls is one of several spectacular ones.  Others in the area include the amazing Brandywine Falls, Rainbow Falls, and Nairn Falls.  Along very difficult hike to Wedgemount Lake you will see the incredible Wedgemount Falls.  Down in Squamish, 45 minutes south of Whistler, you will find Shannon Falls.

Northair Mine 27k from Whistler VillageNorthair Mine is a surreal little world of colourful murals on abandoned cement foundations, surrounded 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.  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.

North Arm Farm 37k North of WhistlerThe North Arm Farm in Pemberton, just a 40 minute drive north of Whistler is startlingly beautiful in a wonderfully charming and unexpected way.  And even more unexpectedly... it's free.  Free to wander through the fields of strikingly colourful and organized crops laying seemingly at the foot of the wildly spectacular Mount Currie.  Along with the beautiful setting and views there is an area surrounded by animals.  Chickens, pigs and geese crowd around you hoping for scraps from the farm shop.  The Farm Shop and Cafe are fantastic as well.  A surprising variety of bakery and lunch items crowd the counters.  Along with shelves and bins of farm fresh produce.  You suddenly realize that you just came through what could be called Pemberton Farm Experience.  All for free, except of course for all the amazing food you are inevitably going buy before leaving.  North Arm Farm stretches over 60 acres along the Lillooet River and boasts a wide array of organically grown produce.  From asparagus in April, to beans, peas, corn, squash, carrots, beets and their celebrated pumpkins in October.  They even have seasonal You Pick berries, flowers and pumpkins.

Porteau Cove on the Sea to Sky HighwayPorteau Cove Provincial Marine Park is a beautiful little stop on the way to or from Whistler.  You will notice the lack of washroom stops on the way to or from Whistler on the Sea to Sky Highway, and if nothing else, makes Porteau Cove a perfect rest stop.  Aside from washrooms there is a wonderful pier with viewing platforms that hover high above the ocean of this majestic and enormous Canadian fjord - the most southerly fjord in North America.  There is a nice campground that extends down the shore towards Vancouver.  Porteau Cove is well known in the Scuba Diving community for amazing diving.  In fact a ship was purposely sunk in the area to increase the already amazing diving appeal. Other underwater curiosities make this a well used and beautiful place to dive.  On any given day, you will see groups of scuba divers in the distance or getting in or out of the water.  Their entry area by the boat ramp has a nice description of what is under the water that makes it such a fascinating place to dive.  One the pier you will find an interpretive tour of sorts as their are descriptions, every few metres along the railings of what you may see from the pier viewpoints.

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