Chimney Sea to Sky Hiking Terms
Chimney: a gap between two vertical faces of rock or ice. Often a chimney offers the only viable route to the summit of a mountain. An example of this is Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler. The final ascent of Black Tusk requires climbing a near vertical chimney with crumbling rock all around. Black Tusk is the extraordinarily iconic and appropriately named mountain that can be seen from almost everywhere in Whistler. The massive black spire of crumbling rock juts out of the earth in an incredibly distinct way that appears like an enormous black tusk plunging out of the ground. Whether you spot it in the distance from the top of Whistler Mountain or from dozens of vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway, its unmistakable appearance is breathtaking.
The image below is a view of hikers climbing down the Black Tusk chimney. Whether you see it from the highway or from closer vantage points such as Taylor Meadows, Helm Creek, Panorama Ridge or Garibaldi Lake, all views make climbing to the top look impossible. In fact, Black Tusk seems to look more impossible to climb the closer you get to it. Even when you are close enough to touch its vertical, black and crumbling sides, you wonder in amazement how anyone can ever reach the top.
The image below is looking out from near the top of the Black Tusk chimney. Panorama Ridge extends to the left, then Garibaldi Lake, Table Mountain and Mount Garibaldi is the giant in the distance. About 170,000 years ago renewed volcanic activity in what is now Garibaldi Park produced a lava dome within a cinder-rich volcanic cone itself over a million years old. Cinder-rich simply means that the cone formed out of explosive volcanic action and hardened, to some extent, in the air and therefore filled with air pockets and evidently light and weak in structure. This lava dome which was to become Black Tusk, hardened inside this more easily eroded cinder cone, so in the past 170,000 years the outer cinder cone has crumbled away to reveal the lava dome within. The Black Tusk itself is extremely crumbly as well as can be seen when you near it. It looks as if erupting out of a uniformly sloping mountain of jagged, black boulders.
Black Tusk is within the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt also called the Canadian Cascade Arc. This volcanic belt contains mostly dormant volcanoes, though also includes the much alive and infamous Mount St. Helens in Washington State, in the US. Mount Garibaldi from which Garibaldi Park gets its name was an active volcano as recently as 9300 years ago. Also in the area but well north of Black Tusk near Pemberton, Mount Meager had multiple eruptions ending only recently, that is 2350 years ago according to recent studies. Meager now has become known in the region for its alarmingly frequent mudslides that terrorize the Meager Creek Hot Springs below and the town of Pemberton further down the valley. The last mudslide occurred just a couple years ago and was one of the largest in recorded Canadian history. Pemberton was partly evacuated as a result.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Squamish 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 with a steep and vertical wall of ice at the shores of Wedgemount Lake. Today the glacier terminates 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. Around Whistler in the alpine you will find several distinct aiguilles. Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park could be called an aiguille, however its long and prominent history has given it another descriptive term of "tusk". You will find aiguilles on many hikes in British Columbia.
Alpine Zone or Alpine Tundra: the area above the treeline, often characterized by stunted, sparse forests of krummholz and pristine, turquoise lakes. The Sproatt alpine is an excellent example of an alpine zone in Whistler. Dozens of alpine lakes, rugged and rocky terrain and hardy krummholz trees everywhere you look. The hostile, cold and windy climate in the alpine zones around Whistler make tree growth difficult. Added to that, the alpine areas are snow covered the majority of the year. Other good places to explore alpine zones in Whistler are Wedgemount Lake, Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler Mountain, Black Tusk and Callaghan Lake.
Barrier Beach or Island: a land form parallel to the shoreline, above the normal high water level. Characteristically linear in shape, a barrier beach extends into a body of water. In Garibaldi Provincial Park at Garibaldi Lake there is an excellent example a barrier beach leading toward the Battleship Islands. The West Coast Trail has an ever-moving barrier beach at the famous Tsusiat Falls camping area. The broad falls cascade off a sheer cliff and cut a constantly changing path to the ocean. The barrier beach can only be reached by a precarious log crossing or by wading across the rushing flow of water. A barrier island can be quite beautiful. An excellent example is Sea Lion Haul Out Rock along the West Coast Trail. This enormous, flat topped, solid rock barrier island sits just a few dozen metres from the trail. Hundreds of sea lions make their home here and provide a constant show for passing hikers.
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 formed by various geological processes. Natural erosion of a landscape often results in a bench being formed out of a hard strip of rock edged by softer, sedimentary rock. The softer rock erodes over time, leaving a narrow strip of rock resulting in a bench. Coastal benches form out of continuous wave erosion of a coastline. Cutting away at a coastline can result in vertical cliffs dozens or hundreds of metres high with a distinct bench form. Often a bench takes the form of a long, flat top ridge. Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park is an excellent example of a bench. The Musical Bumps trail on Whistler Mountain is another good example of bench formations. Each "bump" along the Musical Bumps trail is effectively a bench.
Bergschrund or abbreviated schrund: a crevasse that forms from the separation of moving glacier ice from the stagnant ice above. Characterized 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. The Wedge glacier at Wedgemount Lake is a great and relatively safe way to view bergschrund near Whistler. At the far end of Wedgemount Lake the beautiful glacier window can be seen with water flowing down into the lake. From the scree field below the glacier you can see the crumbling bergschrund separate and fall away from the glacier. Up on the glacier you fill find several crevasses. Many are just a few centimetres wide, though several metres deep. Hiking along the left side of the glacier is relatively safe, however the right size of the glacier is extremely dangerous as the bergschrund vary in width and can be measure only in metres instead of centimetres. Hikers venturing up the glacier are advised to keep far to the left or only at the safe, lower edges near the glacier window.