Garibaldi Park Whistler A to Z: DeadfallDeadfall means a tangled mass of fallen trees and branches.  There are several name variations for fallen trees that are commonly used in Whistler.  Windthrow, blowdown and windsnap are used somewhat interchangeably with deadfall.  Deadfall is a more generalized term that literally means dead and fallen, as in a dead and fallen tree.  Windthrow and blowdown, however are more specifically used to refer to trees blown over and uprooted by strong winds during storms. 

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Encountering a fallen tree while hiking in Whistler is usually the result of a storm over the winter uprooting the tree and leaving it sprawled over the forest floor.  This you would call deadfall, or more specifically a blowdown or windthrow.  If the tree did not uproot, but instead was broken along its trunk it would be called windsnap.  Seeing these in the forest is always an impressive sight, owing to the tremendous strain that the tree must have been under in order to break along its massive trunk.  In a large diameter tree recently broken, the remaining stump will often have a jagged crown of spears pointing to the sky.  Other examples of windsnap you often see in Whistler will have twisted apart and left a bizarre spiral pattern in the mangled stump.  Large and tall trees are more susceptible to storms as their tremendous size and mass put enormous strain on their ability to anchor to the ground.  Therefore, along the Cheakamus Lake trail in Garibaldi Park in the spring, for example, will almost guarantee you will encounter a massive deadfall.  Of course, you will also be hiking past deadfall from the previous decades that were too enormous to move and required a section to be chainsawed out to unblock the trail.  Some impressive deadfalls on the Cheakamus Lake trail have actually altered the direction of the trail to bend around and between massive deadfall trees.

Cheakamus Lake Trail Altering Deadfall

Whistler's Ancient Cedars trail is similarly defined by deadfall.  One huge, fallen Western Redcedar has a large section cut out of it so people can walk through, instead of over or around this ancient giant.  Ancient Cedars is a wonderful place to see dramatically beautiful and monstrous trees, but also to marvel at the bewildering array of deadfall in this isolated forest narrowly rescued from the chainsaw just a few decades ago.

Deadfall in Whistler's Ancient Cedars

Causes of deadfall, windthrow, blowdown and windsnap are largely determined by storm exposure and how well they are anchored to the ground.  Windsnap, however, has another important cause that leaves them vulnerable to storms.  Decayed trunks, fungus induced patches of dead tissue, or insect damage can weaken a tree enough to snap it when stressed by high winds.  These are three examples of deadsnap found in Whistler on the trail to Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Park.  The weird spiral deadsnap in the middle picture is not as rare as you might expect.  Another good example is found about 4 kilometres along the Rubble Creek trail, also in Garibaldi Park.

Examples of Windsnap Deadfall in Whistler

Other contributors to deadfall, windthrow and blowdown are water erosion undermining a trees roots, or soil erosion from growing on steep terrain.  Another cause is the removal of neighbouring trees through logging or road building can expose extant trees to stronger winds and more strain on their roots.  This wonderfully huge example of windthrow or blowdown came down in a storm in 2015.  Located in the midst of the Madeley Lake campground it has remained an absurdly and hilariously huge obstacle for over a year, until some trail work and chainsawing redirected the trail.  The trail now awkwardly bends around the massive, splayed roots and it is now an interesting feature along the short path to the outhouse.

Deadfall Windthrow Blowdown at Madeley Lake

Deadfall can actually provide significant benefits to promoting a healthy forest.  Studies of forests in the Pacific Northwest of the United States have shown that the large bare patches revealed by uprooted trees become areas of higher biodiversity than the surrounding forest floor.  This is due to the tremendous influx of seeds into the newly opened ground as well as the newly opened canopy allowing sun and rain in where previously it was largely blocked.  The deadfall itself quickly becomes an advantageous place for seedlings to grow as the decaying tree is nutrient rich, excellent at holding moisture and is elevated above the ground toward the sun.  Nurse logs and nurse stumps are often extraordinary sights to see, like this famous example along the Schooner Trail in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island.

Nurse Log in Tofino

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Bench: a flat section in steep terrain.  Characteristically narrow, flat or gently sloping with steep or vertical slopes on either side.  A bench can be ...
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Accumulation Zone: the area where snow accumulations exceeds melt, located above the firn line.  Snowfall accumulates faster than melting, evaporation and ...
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Northair Mine is a surreal little world of colourful murals on abandoned cement foundations, surrounded by an astoundingly tranquil little lake in a ...
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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 ...
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Deadfall means a tangled mass of fallen trees and branches.  There are several name variations for fallen trees that are commonly used in Whistler.  ...
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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.  Around ...
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Tom Fyles (27 June 1887 - 27 March 1979) was an astoundingly skilled climber that figured prominently in the climbing community of Vancouver for more than two ...
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