Cornice Sea to Sky Hiking Terms
Cornice: a wind deposited wave of snow on a ridge, often overhanging a steep slope or cliff. They are the result of snow building up on the crest of a mountain. Cornices are extremely dangerous to travel on or below. A common refrain of climbers is that if you can see the drop-off of a cornice, you are too close to the edge. Cornices are dangerous for several reasons. They can collapse from hiking across or they can collapse from above. A third danger to consider is the fact that they can often trigger a massive avalanche that extends a considerable distance from its starting point.
The cornice shown in the above and below images are of Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park, Whistler.
Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Park. The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with flowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints. The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses.
Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Park, you will stare in wonder. Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks amazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains.
The main trailhead for Panorama Ridge is at Rubble Creek, 25 kilometres south of Whistler Village on the Sea to Sky Highway you will see a Garibaldi Park sign indicating the turnoff. From the highway a paved road runs for 2 kilometres to the Rubble Creek trailhead and parking area. This is the most popular and close trailhead for Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows and Black Tusk as well as Panorama Ridge.
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.
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 Whistler and in Garibaldi Provincial Park you will see dozens of excellent examples. Below Russet Lake in Whistler, the glacier at the bottom of the valley, below the lake has a wonderful example of an arête. The far side of Mount Price, near Garibaldi Lake also has an enormous arête. The Wedge-Weart Col beyond Wedgemount Lake is a prominent arête to the summit of Wedge Mountain.
Backshore: the area of the shoreline acted upon by waves only during severe storms. The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island runs for much of its 77 kilometre length along a very distinct backshore route. Often visible are signs of winter storms that have recently dislodged enormous trees from the rugged coastline. A backshore can range from as little as a few centimetres high to hundreds of metres high. The backshore route along the West Coast Trail is often as subtle as a sandy beach edged by a slightly higher border of grass and forest. Other areas of the trail the backshore is a vertical, solid rock cliff with crashing waves cutting into it far below.
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.
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.