Retreation Glacier Sea to Sky Hiking Terms
Retreation Glacier: a deteriorating glacier; annual melt of entire glacier exceeds the flow of the ice. Glaciers around Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park are retreation glaciers owing to the past few decades of warming temperatures.
Wedge Glacier at Wedgemount Lake(pictured above and below) is a retreation glacier. As recent as two decades ago, the Wedge Glacier terminated at Wedgemount Lake, however, now the glacier ends several hundred metres above the lake.
Overlord Glacier pictured below is another retreation glacier in Garibaldi Park. Overlord is easily viewed from Russet Lake which sits between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains in Garibaldi Park. Click the image below for an aerial video of this amazing glacier as well as Adit Lakes, the Fissile and Russet Lake.
This viewpoint to see Overlord Glacier is reached by hiking from Whistler Village up the Singing Pass trail or by riding the Whistler Gondola and the Peak Express up to the summit of Whistler Mountain and hiking in.
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.
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.
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.
Cirque: a glacier-carved bowl or amphitheatre in the mountains. To form, the glacier must be a combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds. Thick snow, protected in this way, grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Eventually a magnificently circular lake is formed with steep sloping sides all around. Cirque Lake in Whistler is a wonderful example of a cirque lake. Cirque Glacier: formed in bowl-shaped depressions on the side of mountains.
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 terrain 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.