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Nunatuk - Victoria Hiking Terms

Nunatuk                                                                       Victoria Hiking Terms

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.

Nunatuk on Wedge Glacier

Click the image below to see an aerial video of Wedgemount Lake, Wedge Glacier, Parkhurst and Weart mountains.  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.

Weart Mountain and Wedge Mountain

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.

Aerial View of Wedgemount Lake

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.  For more information, maps and directions to Wedgemount Lake and the amazing Wedge Glacier, click here...

Glossary of Hiking Terms                                       Victoria Hiking Terms

  • Bushwhack - Victoria Hiking TermsBushwhack: 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.
  • Buttress - Victoria Hiking TermsButtress: 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.

  • Cairns and Inuksuks: a pile of rocks used to indicate a route or a summit.  The word cairn originates from the Scottish Cairn - Victoria Hiking TermsGaelic 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 Chimney - Victoria Hiking Termsfrom 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 Glacier: formed in bowl-shaped depressions on the side of mountains.

  • Cirque - Victoria Hiking TermsCirque: 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.

  • Class - Victoria Hiking TermsClass 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 Col - Victoria Hiking Termsbelays 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.

  • Col: a ridge between two higher peaks, a mountain pass or saddle.  More specifically is the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks.  Sometimes called a saddle or notch.  The Wedge-Weart Col is a popular destination at the summit of the Wedge Glacier in Garibaldi Park.

  • Cornice - Victoria Hiking TermsCornice: 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.

  • Couloir: a narrow gully often hemmed in by sheer cliff walls. From the French word meaning passage or corridor.  Often a couloir  is a fissure or vertical crevasse in a mountain.  Couloirs are Crevasse - Victoria Hiking Termsoften partially filled with scree and when covered in snow form a dramatically beautiful, near vertical channel in mountains.  Couloirs are well loved by extreme skiers and snowboarders and feature in most extreme skiing/snowboarding movies.

  • Crevasse: is a split or crack in the glacier surface, often with near vertical walls.  Crevasses form out of the constant movement of a glacier over irregular terrain.  Crevasses are both revered for their dramatic beauty and feared for their inherent danger.  Crevasses are often dozens of metres deep and less than a metre wide.  The fear of slipping into one of these ever-narrowing chasms is well founded.  When learning about safe glacier travel and roping techniques, extracting someone from a crevasse is a huge part of the training.  Crevasses are sometimes hidden by recent snow and thus instantly plunging through a a snow bridge is a constant worry during glacier travel.

  • Drumlin - Victoria Hiking TermsCross-ditch: a ditch that carries water from one side of a road to the other, deeper than a waterbar.  Though useful in directing water across roads, natural cross-ditches form on logging roads and can become so deep as to become serious obstacles to vehicles.

  • Culvert: a device used to channel water under a road or embankment.  Many hiking trails in BC have culverts to direct water under, rather than over hiking trails to prevent erosion.

  • Diagonal Crevasses: form at an angle to the flow of a glacier.  These are normally found along the edges where a glacier ends.

  • Erratic - Victoria Hiking TermsDrumlin: a ridge or hill formed from glacial debris.  From the Gaelic “ridge”.  Large drumlins often mark the final edges or border of a glaciers path.  Drumlin's are generally about 1 to 2 kilometres long and between 100 and 500 metres wide.  Most drumlins are less than 50 metres high.

  • Erratic or Glacier Erratic: is a piece of rock that has been carried by glacial ice, often hundreds of kilometres. Characteristic of their massive size and improbable looking placement.  Erratics are frequently seen around Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park.  Either as bizarre curiosities or a place to relax in the sun.  On a sunny day, a large sun-facing erratic will often be warm and sometimes even hot, providing a Firn - Victoria Hiking Termscomfortable and surreal place to rest.
  • Firn: compacted, granular snow that has been accumulated from past seasons.  Firn is the building blocks of the ice that makes the glacier.  Firn is the intermediate stage between snow and glacial ice. Firn Line: separates the accumulation and ablation zones.  As you approach this area, you may see strips of snow in the ice.  Be cautious, as these could be snow bridges remaining over crevasses.  Snow bridges will be Gendarme - Victoria Hiking Termsweakest lower on the glacier as you enter the accumulation zone.  The firn line changes annually.
  • Gendarme: a pinnacle sticking up out of a ridge. A steep sided rock formation along a ridge, “guarding” the summit.  From the French ”man-at-arms”.

  • 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 Glacier Window - Victoria Hiking Termsinside 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.

  • Glissade: descending down a snow slope on foot, partly sliding.  A quick alternative to simply hiking down a snow slope.

  • Pyramidal Peak: a mountaintop that has been carved by glaciation into a distinct, sharp horn-like shape. The Matterhorn in the Alps is a well know example of this striking phenomenon.
  • Retreation Glacier - Victoria Hiking TermsRetreation 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.

  • Scree: from the Norse “skridha”, landslide.  The small, loose stones covering a slope. Also called talus, the French word for slope. Scree is mainly formed from the annual freeze/thaw periods of spring and fall, where water seeps into cracks in the rock and expands when freezing.
  • Scree - Victoria Hiking TermsSeracs: large pinnacles or columns of ice that are normally found in icefalls or on hanging glaciers.
  • Snow Bridge: a structure of snow that fills in an opening such as a crevasse or a creek. Often formed by a snow drift which begins as a cornice and grows into a snow bridge. In the summer, what was a small creek crossing, in the winter will be an often precarious snow bridge. Though, not terribly dangerous, this often encountered type may drop you in an instant, thigh deep in freezing creek, and armpit deep in snow.

  • Tarn - Victoria Hiking TermsTarn: a small alpine lake.  The word tarn originates from the Norse word tjorn which translates to English as pond.  In the United Kingdom, tarn is widely used to refer to any small lake or pond.  In British Columbia however, tarn is used specifically for small mountain lakes.  Around Whistler tarns number in the hundreds and many are so small and/or hidden as to remain unnamed.  Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park could be called a tarn, however its relatively large size dominates the area and the term lake seems more appropriate.  The nearby Adit Lakes are more accurately called tarns as they are small, shallow and sit in an alpine zone, buried in snow most of the year.

  • Valley Glacier - Victoria Hiking TermsTransverse Crevasses: form perpendicular to the flow of a glacier.  These are normally found where a glacier flows over a slope with a gradient change of 30 degrees or more.

  • Valley Glacier: A glacier that resides and flows in a valley.  Many glaciers around Whistler and in Garibaldi Provincial Park are valley glaciers.  The Wedge Glacier above Wedgemount Lake flows down the valley from Wedge Mountain.  When you reach Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park, valley glaciers dominate the view along with the unnaturally brilliant Garibaldi Lake below.

  • Waterbar: a ditch that carries water from one side of a road to the other.

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