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Recommended This Week

Inuksuk(Inukshuck) at the summit of Whistler Mountain

Cairns & Inuksuks(Inukshuks)                          Sea to Sky Hiking Terms

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 rocks.  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.

Inuksuk(Inukshuck) at the summit of Whistler Mountain

Below is a simple rock cairn and rock barrier for a bivouac next to Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler.

Cairn and Bivouac - Russet Lake

Russet Lake is a fantastic alpine lake that lays at the base of the Fissile.  The Fissile is the strikingly bronze coloured mountain so visible from Whistler Village.  From the Village look into the distance at the Peak to Peak hanging between Whistler and Blackcomb and you will see the Fissile.  Its pyramid shape in the distance perfectly separates the two mountains.

Aerial View of Adit Lakes

Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful.  The colours change from moment to moment in and extraordinary way.  The distinctive colour of the Fissile and the stark grey of the mountains around contrast amazingly with the blue of the lake and green grass in the valley.  So many different factors fill the place with colour.

Russet Lake Aerial Video

There is a considerable amount of exploring available in the valley around Russet Lake.  The fissile is a difficult but very feasible hike from Russet Lake.  Below Russet Lake is a very accessible glacier as well as a bonanza of glacier formed landscape features, inviting hours of interesting exploration.  Above Russet Lake there is a beautiful snow covered ridge that commands incredible views all around and if you have the energy makes for a spectacular tent site.

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 on the Flank Trail

The image above is bivouacking along the Flank Trail in the Winter.  The image below is of Bivouac Island, Callaghan Lake.  More free places to bivouac in and around Whistler, click here.

Bivouac Island - Callaghan Lake

Bushwhack - Squamish Hiking TermsBushwhack: a term popularly used in Canada and the United States to refer to hiking off-trail where no trail exists.  Literally means 'bush' and 'whack'.  To make your own trail through the forest by whacking or cutting your way through.  Often used to plot a new trail and trail markers are used to mark various routes until a preferred route is found.  In Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park, bushwhacking may also refer to an early season trail that is littered with fallen trees from winter storms.  Existing trails can also become overgrown and require bushwhacking to navigate through.  The Brew Lake trail in Whistler requires some bushwhacking for some of the overgrown trail.  A bushwhacker is a term used to describe someone who spends a lot of time in the wilderness.

Class 1,2,3,4,5 Terrain Rating System: a rating system to define hiking, scrambling and climbing terrain levels of difficulty.  Separated into 5 levels of difficulty ranging from class 1 to class 5.  Class 1 is easy hiking, to class 5 terrain, which is very difficult Class Rating System - Squamish Hiking Termsterrain requiring ropes.   Class 5 Terrain: technical climbing terrain.  Rope required by most climbers.  If you are looking at a vertical rock wall, you are effectively looking at class 5 terrain.  A typical gym climbing wall is replica of a class 5 terrain rock wall.  Class 4 Terrain is one grade easier than class 5 terrain.  Class 4 terrain is defined as very steep terrain which rope belays are recommended.  Though experienced climbers will find class 4 terrain relatively easy and safe to navigate, novices to climbing will find class 4 terrain difficult, frightening and dangerous.  The Lions in North Vancouver requires climbing a short section of class 4 terrain to reach the summit.

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 world. 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 Hoary Marmot - Squamish Hiking Termsquite 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.

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