Ablation Zone Vancouver Hiking Terms
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.
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.
Another famously stunning glacier in Garibaldi Park is Overlord Glacier(pictured below). Hiking from Whistler Village up the Singing Pass Trail (14k) to Russet Lake gives you a great vantage point to this marvellous monster. The adventurous head down the valley just 2 kilometres to see Overlord Glacier up close. Click the image here to see an aerial video of Adit Lakes, Overlord Glacier, The Fissile and Russet Lake.
The glaciers around Whistler have been receding quite dramatically in recent years. The Wedge Glacier ended at the shores of Wedgemount Lake just two decades ago. Old pictures of the lake show a massive wall of blue ice at the far shore of the lake. Now you can measure the ablation zone well over a couple hundred metres up the valley.
Russet Lake(pictured above) is a fantastic alpine lake that lays at the base of the Fissile. The Fissile is the strikingly bronze coloured mountain so visible from Whistler Village. From the Village look into the distance at the Peak to Peak hanging between Whistler and Blackcomb and you will see the Fissile. Its pyramid shape in the distance perfectly separates the two mountains. Though Russet Lake is not terribly impressive in terms of size or colour, the valley around it is remarkably beautiful. The colours change from moment to moment in and extraordinary way.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Trails
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: 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 often 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.
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.
Drumlin: 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.
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.
Glissade: descending down a snow slope on foot, partly sliding. A quick alternative to simply hiking down a snow slope.
Hanging Glacier: separating portions of glaciers, hanging on ridgelines or cliffs. Extremely dangerous, hanging glaciers are frequently the cause of death of mountaineers.
Headwall: a steep section of rock or cliff. In a glacial cirque it is it's highest cliff.
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 states. 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.
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. And 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.
Icefalls: 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.