Glacier Window Sea to Sky Hiking Terms
Glacier Window: the cave-like opening at the mouth of a glacier where meltwater runs out. Glacier windows are often extraordinarily beautiful. A blue glow often colours the inside and the walls are filled with centuries old glacial till. You can often see deep into the clear walls and the enormous magnitude of a glacier can be appreciated from up close. The popular and easily accessible glacier window at the terminus of the Wedge Glacier at Wedgemount Lake is a stunning example of this. The glacier window shown here is located above Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler.
Click the image below to see an aerial video of the Wedge Glacier at Wedgemount Lake in Whistler. Wedgemount Lake is one of the most spectacular hikes in Garibaldi Park. Though it is a relentlessly exhausting, steep hike, it is mercifully short at only 7 kilometres (one way). The elevation gain in that short distance is over 1200 metres which makes it a much steeper hike than most other Whistler hiking trails. Compared with other Whistler hikes, Wedgemount Lake is half the roundtrip distance of either Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, for example, at 13.5k and 15k respectively (one way).
Wedgemount Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight beneath the dazzling mountain peaks and stars. Many sleep under the stars on one of the many beautiful tent platforms that dot the landscape. Solidly built, wooden tent platforms are everywhere you look at Wedgemount Lake. Strategically positioned, these platforms manage to maintain an amazingly secluded feel despite their numbers. In all Wedgemount Lake has 20 of these tent areas. Most are wooden, but several down by the lake shore are gravel, yet every bit as nice.
At a fast hiking pace you can reach Wedgemount Lake from the trailhead in just an hour and a half but at a leisurely or backpack laden pace you will likely take over two hours. The trail is well marked and well used. The steepness of the trail doesn't require any technical skill, however that last kilometre before the lake you will be scrambling on all fours quite a bit.
The elevation gain makes a tremendous difference when carrying a heavy backpack and unprepared for the exertion. There is hardly a section of the trail that is not steeply uphill. The first 15 minutes takes you into the deep forest and then across Wedgemount Creek. This crashing creek can be heard from quite a distance and gives you a hint of the steepness of the trail to come.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Squamish Hiking Trails
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.
Bivouac 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.
Bushwhack: 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.
Buttress: a prominent protrusion of rock on a mountain, often column-shaped, that juts out from a rock or mountain. They are often so distinct as to be named separately from the mountain they protrude from. Buttresses often make a viable bivouacking option on an otherwise steep mountain. Numerous in the mountains surrounding Whistler, the term buttress is frequently heard while hiking, scrambling, ski touring and climbing.