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Recommended This Week

Bar - Sea to Sky Hiking Terms

Bar                                                                            Sea to Sky Hiking Terms

Bar: A ridge of sand or gravel in shallow water built by waves and currents.  Tsusiat Falls along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island has an excellent example of a bar.  An enormous and ever changing sand bar created from the waterfall meeting the Pacific Ocean.  Often this bar is a dozen metres high and 400 metres long as it runs parallel to the ocean before flowing into it.  Similar to a barrier beach, however a bar is more pliable and recent than a barrier beach, which tends to have long-term plant growth on it.

Tsusiat Falls - Bar

The ever-changing bar created by Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail.  Every spring reveals a radically changed bar at Tsusiat Falls.  Winter storms batter the shore and obliterate the established bar from the previous year.  Though following roughly the same route every year, the bar here can be shallow or deep, winding or straight as it makes its way to the ocean.

Bar - Tsusiat Falls

The West Coast Trail is incredible.  Everything about it is amazing.  From its wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to it's endless jaw dropping views.  And it's tough.  Very tough.  It is a trail that shouldn't exist.  Trails always form out of the easiest route worn down over the years.  This trail was formed out of necessity.  And the route is the only route.  Hemmed in by steep cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other, the route evolved where it shouldn't have.  Always wet, always up and down, thousands of creeks and canyons.  Even with all the construction of suspension bridges and ladders it's brutal.  And yearly, winter storms blast down impossibly enormous trees.  It's difficulty can be measured by its relatively short distance of 75km yet it takes 4-7 days to complete.  This is for two wonderful, spectacular and telling reasons.  First it is a jigsaw of a trail, up and down over endless chasms tangled with rainforest.

West Coast Trail Caves

It just takes a long time to snake through.  The second reason is just too good to be true.  It's so beautiful.  Wildly beautiful.  And this is a phenomenon that the West Coast Trail is alive with.  It's unbelievably beautiful at every glance.  Everywhere you look.  This alone would secure this hike as one of the worlds best.  But there is another thing that combined with its beauty, makes it what it is.  West Coast Trail.  This is a phenomenon that is seldom understood or explainable.  It's tough.  The trail is brutal.  It's invariably raining.  So you are always wet.  This makes you soggy and crabby.  Tired and exhausted.  The treacherous trail in this wet is muddy, slippery and requires your full attention at every step.  This mesmerizes you as you hike.  You focus completely on your next step and your mind relaxes into a meditative state.  This is when it happens.  You look up, catch a glance of what's around you. And it's marvelous.  This is it.  The West Coast Trail is a perfect combination of brutal difficulty and spectacular wildness and beauty.

Bear on the West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail, originally called the Dominion Life Saving Trail was built out of necessity because of the enormous number of shipwrecks that gave this stretch of ocean from Tofino to Victoria the brutal name, The Graveyard of the Pacific.  With at least 484 shipwrecks, this trail formed to facilitate survivors walking to Victoria and rescuers hiking to help them.  It inevitably became a recreational hike in the last few decades.  It's difficulty, once it's worst trait, now it's defining feature.  It lies within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve which represents and protects three beautiful, coastal lowland forests.  Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail.

Glossary of Hiking Terms                                    Squamish Hiking Trails

Bivouac - Squamish Hiking TermsBivouac or Bivy: a primitive campsite or simple, flat area where camping is possible.  Often used to refer to a very primitive campsite comprised of natural materials found on site such as leaves and branches.  Often used interchangeably with the word camp, however, bivouac implies a shorter, quicker and much more basic camp setup.  For example, at the Taylor Meadows campground in Garibaldi Park, camping is the appropriately used term to describe sleeping there at night.  If instead you plan to sleep on the summit of Black Tusk, bivouacking would be more accurately used.  In the warm summer months around Whistler you will find people bivouacking under the stars with just a sleeping bag.  The wonderful, wooden tent platforms at Wedgemount Lake are ideal for this.

Bivouac Island - Callaghan Lake

Cairn: a pile of rocks used to indicate a route or a summit.  The word cairn originates from the Scottish Gaelic word carn.  A cairn can be either large and elaborate or as simple as a small pile of Cairns and Inuksuks - Squamish Hiking Termsrocks.  To be effective a cairn marking a trail has to just be noticeable and obviously man-made.  In the alpine areas around Whistler, above the treeline, cairns are the main method of marking a route.  In the spring and fall when snow covers alpine trails, cairns mark many routes.  An inuksuk(aka inukshuk) is the name for a cairn used by peoples of the Arctic region of North America.  Though an inuksuk can take many forms similar to a cairn, it is usually represented by large rocks formed into a human shape.  The word inuksuk literally translates from two separate Inuit words, inuk "person" and suk "substitute".  The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler used the inuksuk for the logo of the games.  Today you will find several giant rock inuksuks in Vancouver and Whistler at various places.  In Whistler there is an impressive inuksuk, several metres high a the peak of Whistler Mountain.

Highpointing: the sport of hiking to as many high points(mountain peaks) as possible in a given area.  For example, highpointing the lower 48 states in the United Highpointing - Squamish Hiking Termsstates.  This was first achieved in 1936 by A.H. Marshall.  In 1966 Vin Hoeman highpointed all 50 states.  It is estimated that over 250 people have highpointed all of the US states.  Highpointing is similar peakbagging, however peakbagging is the sport of climbing several peaks in a given area above a certain elevation.  For example, a highpointer may climb the summit of Wedge Mountain, the highest peak in the Garibaldi Ranges, then move to another mountain range.  Whereas a peakbagger may summit Wedge Mountain, then Black Tusk, Panorama Ridge, Mount Garibaldi and many more high summits in the region.

Highpointing Aerial Video

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 Hoary Marmot - Squamish Hiking Termsworld. In the northwest of North America, marmots have a distinct grey in their hair, a hoary colour, so have been named hoary marmots. They manage to survive quite happily in the alpine, largely by hibernating for 8 months of the year and largely for having a surprisingly varied array of food in such an inhospitable environment. They live off of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, and roots and flowers. And live quite well it seems, as they always look chubby, which has one great drawback. They are sought after by bears and wolves. They have a wonderful defense system though. They are constantly on watch and whistle loudly at the first sign of danger, alerting the colony. The prevalence of these "whistlers" as they came to be locally called, in the early days of London Mountain resulted in it's name being changed to Whistler Mountain in the 60's. Hiking on Whistler, Blackcomb or Wedgemount Lake in the summer will almost guarantee an encounter with a chubby, jolly little whistler marmot.

Krummholz - Squamish Hiking TermsIcefalls: 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”.  Continuous exposure to hostile, alpine weather causes trees to form in bizarre and stunted ways.  Many types of trees have formed into bizarre krummholz trees including spruce, mountain pine, balsam fir, subalpine fir, limber pine and lodgepole pine.  The lodgepole pine is commonly found in the alpine regions around Whistler.

Longitudinal Crevasses: form parallel to the flow of a glacier.  These are normally found where a glacier widens.

Old Man's Beard - Squamish Hiking TermsNunatuk: a rock projection protruding through permanent ice or snow.  Their distinct appearance in an otherwise barren landscape often makes them identifiable landmarks.  Nunatuks are usually crumbling masses of angular rock as they are subject to severe freeze/thaw periods.  There is a very prominent nunatuk near the glacier window of the Wedge Glacier.  The glacier has been retreating in the past few years, so this massive nunatuk marks the terminus of the glacier now.

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.  A form of lichen, usnea can be found world-wide.  There are currently over 85 known species of usnea.

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