Garibaldi Park Whistler A to ZAblation Zone: the lower altitude region of a glacier where there is a net loss of ice mass due to melting, sublimation, evaporation, ice calving or avalanche.  The ablation zone of a glacier such as the Wedgemount Glacier has meltwater features such as englacial streams and a glacier window.  An englacial stream refers to meltwater flowing inside a glacier.  A glacier window is a cave-like opening at the mouth of a glacier where meltwater runs out.

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A glacier such as the Wedgemount Glacier which stretches from Wedge Mountain down toward Wedgemount Lake, the ablation zone is quite beautiful.  A big pool of meltwater spills down the rock face and into turquoise coloured Wedgemount Lake.  The pool of water is at the toe of Wedgemount Glacier and the large glacier window appears like a huge, gaping mouth.  Big chunks of ice float in the pool and chunks of glacier split off into the water.  The Wedgemount Glacier has been receding for decades.  In the 1970's the glacier terminated with a steep and vertical wall of ice at the shores of the lake.  Today the glacier terminates several hundred metres above Wedgemount Lake.  Of the many accessible glaciers around Whistler in Garibaldi Provincial Park, the Wedgemount Glacier is possibly the most impressive.  The trailhead for Wedgemount Lake is located near the north end of Green Lake, just 10 minutes north of Whistler Village.  Wedgemount Lake is a beautiful turquoise, glacier coloured lake lake that is nestled in a gorgeous and hostile looking rocky valley surrounded by mountains.  Rethel Mountain, Parkhurst Mountain, Wedge Mountain, Mount Weart, Armchair Glacier and Mount Cook surround the lake with Wedgemount Glacier filling the valley between Parkhurst and Weart and flowing down from the highest mountain in Garibaldi Park.

The Ablation Zone of Wedgemount Glacier

The ablation zone of Wedgemount Glacier shown here in the summer with the englacial stream pooling in front of the glacier window.  The Wedgemount Glacier is one of the most easily accessible glaciers around Whistler.  Though the seven kilometre trail to Wedgemount Lake is fairly steep, it is relatively short.  Without a heavy backpack a fit person can hike the trail in well under two hours.  With a heavy pack expect to take over two hours. 

Ablation Zone Wedgemount Glacier

Once at the lake you will see a faint trail lead down and around the far end of the lake and up to the ablation zone and the dramatically beautiful glacier window.  Though the shape and size of the glacier window varies from year to year, it is always a magnificent sight to see up close. 

Ablation Zone Wedgemount Glacier

Ablation Zone Aerial Wedgemount Glacier

Wedgemount Lake Ablation Zone

Wedgemount Glacier's Ablation Zone Aerial Views

The ablation zone below Wedgemount Glacier is shown here from several metres above the glacier window

Ablation Zone Aerial Wedgemount Glacier

Ablation Zone Aerial View Wedgemount Glacier

Wedgemount Glacier's Englacial Stream

One of the nicest places to see Wedgemount Glacier is from the edge of the englacial stream that tumbles over the final rocky slope to the turquoise, glacier coloured water.  At the far end of the lake the water flows out via Wedgemount Falls to Wedgemount Creek and down the valley to Green River.

Ablation Zone Glacier Window View

Sights to See Around Wedgemount Lake

Though Wedgemount Glacier is an impressive sight, Wedgemount Lake, with its captivating colour is the main attraction. The extraordinary turquose colour of the lake contrasts well with the dark and menacing Rethel Mountain towering above.  Hiking to the ablation zone of Wedgemount Glacier is just one of many beautiful sights to see.  There are a few excellent and secluded places along the shore perfect to jump into the always bitterly cold water.  You can hike the short route to get close to the top of Wedgemount Falls.  On the way you pass over the hill at the end of the lake with great views.  Back down at the ablation zone of Wedgemount Glacier you can hike up onto the glacier and make your way up to the Wedge-Weart Col that separates these two mighty peaks.

Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park

Rethel Mountain

Rethel Mountain towers over Wedgemount Lake and meets the abrupt end of the lake where it flows out and down Wedgemount Falls.  The Wedgemount Lake side of Rethel Mountain is north facing and therefore always in the shade, making its already dark form almost pure black, especially near sunset.

Rethel Mountain Aerial View

Wedgemount Falls

Wedgemount Falls drops about 300 metres down an almost vertical cliff from Wedgemount Lake.  There is one spot along the trail to Wedgemount Lake that you catch sight of it and it never fails to catch you by surprise.  Concealed by trees, you hear it long before you catch sight of it.  When you finally get a glimpse of it between the trees, you can't help but be shocked at how close it looks, despite being quite far away still.

Wedgemount Falls in Garibaldi Park

Swimming in Wedgemount Lake With Icebergs

Often Wedgemount Lake is frozen well into June and early July.  The rest of the summer it is not unusual to see icebergs floating in the lake.  Despite the obvious bitterly cold temperature of the water even on a 22c day in July, it is hard not to jump in the lake.  From the hut, if you walk directly towards the lake and bear right when possible you will come to a couple perfect places to jump in.

Wedgemount Lake Iceberg Swimming

Relatively smooth rock outcrops can be found along the shore and you usually can't see the bottom of the lake around them.  As the water is close to freezing even on the hottest days of the year, jumping in is preferable to walking in from the shore down at the other end of the lake in front of the tent platforms.  As you hit the water your entire body instantly numbs from the cold and you can't help but scramble out of the water and back into the sun on the warm rock.

Swimming Wedgemount Lake 3

The views from this perfect swimming rock are sensational.  Across the lake and to the left you see Parkhurst Mountain (pictured above) and to your right you look toward the end of the lake with Rethel Mountain towering above (pictured below).

Swimming Wedgemount Lake Rethel

The Wedge-Weart Col

The Wedge-Weart Col is possibly the easiest hike from Wedgemount Lake.  It is a long scramble through the boulder strewn terrain to the Wedgemount Glacier, then a long ascent up Wedgemount Glacier.  It is deceptively far so allow at least 4 hours roundtrip, hut to hut.

Wedge Weart Col View of Mt James Turner

Below is a picture taken from the Wedge-Weart Col looking south with Parkhurst Mountain in the middle and Rethel Mountain on the right.

Wedge Weart Col View of Parkhurst and Rethel Mountain

Mount Cook & Armchair Glacier

Mount Cook is a relatively easy hike from Wedgemount Lake.  It is partly marked and a worn trail leading to a scramble up the logical ascent of Mount Cook.  You get tremendous views of Wedgemount Lake and surrounding mountains from the summit.  Armchair Glacier is adjacent to Mount Cook and catches your attention far more than the unassuming Mount Cook.

Armchair Glacier from the Route to Mount Cook

Camping at Wedgemount Lake

If you are camping overnight, you will pass several rustic, gravel tent clearings directly opposite the glacier and just steps from the lake.  Up towards the hut there are several wooden tent platforms for tents as well.  No matter where you set up your tent you have a breathtaking view of this alpine paradise.

Wedgemount Lake Tent View of Glacier

Up in the midst of the boulder field near the Wedge Hut you will find several more beautiful tent platforms overlooking the lake.  From there you get a much better view of the Wedgemount Lake, Wedgemount Glacier and the surrounding mountains.  The picture below is a typical sunset tent view of Wedgemount Lake.

Wedgemount Lake Sunset Tent View

Wedgemount Lake Maps

Below is a map showing Wedgemount Lake from several vantage points.  The upper tent pad view looking across to Wedgemount Glacier, an iceberg in July, the beautiful glacier window, the amazing view from the lower tent pads along Wedgemount Lake.  The map also shows the various routes up Wedgemount Glacier to Wedge Mountain.  These routes are potentially very dangerous and glacier travel is always unpredictable and hazardous, so make sure you know what you are doing before venturing beyond the glacier window.

Wedgemoiunt Lake Trail Map v14

Wedgemount Lake Driving Directions Map v9

Ablation Zone at Joffre Lakes

Another great place to get up close to see an ablation zone of a glacier is at Joffre Lakes.  There is a glacier window found above Upper Joffre Lake that most visitors to the lakes don't bother to hike to.  It is just a five minute hike up the rocky slope that stretches above the campsites.  Here you find a small glacier window and a lot of glacier water flowing out.  Not as impressive at the one at Wedgemount Lake, though the area is pretty nice to explore, and the view of Joffre Lakes is magnificent.  There are also so great rock outcrops that are warm and sunny places to lounge in the summer.

Joffre Lakes Glacier Window

Joffre Lakes Ablation Zone

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park Map v14

Two Fantastic Books About British Columbia!

Scrambles in SW BCGeology of British ColumbiaHere are two excellent books on hiking and geology of British Columbia.  Matt Gunn's Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia includes the various routes to the summit of Wedge Mountain as well as summit routes to the neighbouring peaks, Weart, Cook, Parkhurst and Rethel.  Mount Weart is the second highest mountain in Garibaldi Park and is located just north of Wedge Mountain, separated by the Wedge-Weart Col.  Published in 2005, Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia is still the best guide in print or online.  Geology of British Columbia: A Journey Through Time by Sydney Cannings, JoAnne Nelson and Richard Cannings is a beautiful history of BC's geology and the 200 million year history of creatures living in this extraordinary corner of the world.  The authors take us on a journey through time, describing the collisions of island chains called terrains, the sliding of plates, the erupting of volcanoes, and the movement of glaciers that created British Columbia as we know it today.  They also describe the rich legacy of fossils left behind as a result of all this geological activity.

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Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

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