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Recommended This Week

Krummholz - Sea to Sky Hiking Terms

Krummholz                                                             Sea to Sky Hiking Terms

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.  The krummholz tree below is on an island amongst the Battleship Islands along the shore of Garibaldi Lake.  This hardy little tree(pictured below) is crushed yearly by metres of snow, yet continues to grow on this beautiful spot.

Krummholz Island on Garibaldi Lake

Krummholz trees in the alpine in Whistler have to suffer the harsh winters as well as the crushing weight of boulders and scree.  This group of krummholz trees are holding back boulders on Whistler Mountain.

Krummholz on Whistler Mountain

The alpine hiking trails on Whistler Mountain are the ultimate in luxurious hiking.  Little hiking effort gets you amazing views of turquoise lakes, snowy mountain, valleys of flowers, waterfalls and spectacular glaciers.  In the summer months, Whistler Mountain is somewhat divided in two.  The lower half of the mountain is for biking and the upper half is for hiking, sightseeing, trail running, eating and drinking.

Whistler Mountain - Sea to Sky Terms

There are a few directions you can start hiking from the Roundhouse Lodge, however, taking the Peak Express(quad chairlift) up to the summit of Whistler Mountain is an amazing place to start.  The Peak Express is an exhilarating ride that takes you to the start of Whistler Mountain's best hiking trails.  The Half Note Trail, High Note Trail and Mathew's Traverse start here.  The High Note Trail in turn leads to the Musical Bumps Trail to Russet Lake and Singing Pass in Garibaldi Provincial Park.

Cheakamus Lake from the High Note Trail

The summit of Whistler Mountain is also a destination of its own.  Spectacular views all around from this rocky, alpine summit visible from almost everywhere in Whistler.  Black Tusk comes into view as you exit the Peak Express.  This amazingly distinct pinnacle of jet-black rock is a local icon and remnant of a not too distant history of volcanism in the area.  As you admire its absurdly vertical form, remind yourself that there is almost certainly a few hikers looking back at you from its summit.

Glossary of Hiking Terms                                    Squamish Hiking Trails

Alpine Zone or Alpine Tundra: the area above the treeline, often characterized by stunted, sparse forests of krummholz and Alpine Zone - Squamish Hiking Termspristine, 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.

Alpine Zone Aerial Video - Squamish Hiking

Arete - Squamish Hiking TermsArête: 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 Backshore - Squamish Hiking Termsruns 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.

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 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. Hoary Marmot - Squamish Hiking TermsAnd 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..

Ice Mill: a hole in the glacier formed by swirling water on the surface.  These can be large enough for a human to slip into.

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.

Massif: a cluster of mountains. A section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures.Nunatuk - Squamish Hiking Terms

Moat: is a wall formed at the head of a glacier.  Formed from heat reflected from the valley wall.

Moraine (lateral): formed on the sides of a glacier.  Moraine (medial): the middle of a glacier.  Also formed as two glaciers come together or as a glacier moves around a central peak.  Moraine (terminal): formed at the terminus of a glacier.  Moraine (ground): the rocky debris extending out from the terminus of a glacier.

Nunatuk: 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.

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Porteau Cove Provincial Marine ParkSea to Sky GondolaVictoria Hiking