Aiguille Vancouver Hiking Glossary
Aiguille: a tall, narrow, characteristically distinct spire of rock. From the French word for "needle". Used extensively as part of the names for many peaks in the French Alps. Around Whistler in the alpine you will find several distinct aiguilles. Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park could be called an aiguille, however its long and prominent history has given it another descriptive term of "tusk". You will find aiguilles on many hikes in British Columbia. The image above is from from the Tantalus Range in Squamish, viewed from Levette Lake. The image below is an aiguille above Wedgemount Lake.
Here is another image of the above Tantalus Range aiguille with a plane flying over. The Tantalus Range is a popular area for fly-in hiking or airplane touring. Black Tusk Helicopter does an excellent tour of the Tantalus Range.
Other hiking trails in Whistler you will encounter aiguilles are on Blackcomb Mountain, the Sproatt Alpine Trail, Black Tusk and around Cirque Lake. Blackcomb Mountain has come alive with beautiful hiking trails in recent years. With the 2008 addition of the Peak to Peak Gondola which connects Blackcomb to Whistler, the demand for mountain trails is higher than ever. A dozen years ago, you would just have had some rough hiking trails to follow, and not many hikers to follow them. Now you have mapboards, trail signs, viewpoint seating areas and six popular, named trails to hike.
The trails are mostly easy and relaxing, however the Decker Loop Trail at the far end of Blackcomb is very challenging and spectacularly scenic. For the most part, you will find yourself winding through a nice alpine forest scattered with enormous fields of erratics leading to one great viewpoint after another.
You can hike for as little as 15 minutes or more than 3 hours, depending on the trail or trails you choose to follow. Blackcomb Lake and Blackcomb Peak that looms far above it are the most popular destinations for hikers and getting there and back can be done in a couple hours. The hiking trails on Blackcomb Mountain begin at the Rendezvous Lodge and are immediately beautiful. Dozens of sightseers will be snapping photos right from the start of the trail. Mapboards along the trails give you an indication of the mountains and lakes you can see in the valley below and beyond. The Blackcomb hiking trails run in a linear route and the different trails are basically sections of one large trail. In short, you hike in one direction, but have the option of making the trail longer or shorter as you go.
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.
Cross-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.
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.
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 comfortable 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 weakest 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 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.
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.