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Backshore - Vancouver Hiking Terms

Backshore                                                                Vancouver Hiking Terms

Backshore: the area of the shoreline acted upon by waves only during severe storms.  The West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island runs 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.  This image(below) is an example of a backshore along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.

Backshore on the West Coast Trail

The image below shows the result of centuries of backshore erosion at Mystic Beach on the Juan de Fuca Trail in Victoria.

Mystic Falls on the Juan de Fuca Trail

Mystic Falls on the Juan de Fuca Trail.  Backshore erosion continues to cut at the soft, sedimentary layers of the cliff.

Backshore Along the Juan de Fuca Trail

Caves created by continuous backshore erosion near Mystic Falls.  With the frequent rainy weather on the coast of Vancouver Island, these backshore caves provide shelter.  Along the West Coast Trail these types of caves are often the preferred locations to spend the night.  The Juan de Fuca Trail is an incredible part of Vancouver Island.  Wild and beautiful, and accessible.  All along the 47km length there are convenient access points.  It's wild, and beautiful, and varied, and deep in the wild rainforest of the coast.  From the beautiful flowers of Victoria to the wild and majestic forest of the Juan de Fuca Trail, the drive just to get to it is beautiful.

Backshore Cave at Mystic Falls

There are four main trailheads for the Juan de Fuca trail.  From Victoria China Beach is 70km, Sombrio Beach 95km, Parkinson Creek 100km and Botanical Beach 110km.  The trail can of course be hiked from either end or in parts.  Starting at Botanical Beach and timing the tides correctly allows for a great way to start the trek as you can see the first five or so kilometres at the wonderful beach level.  With the various access points to the Juan de Fuca Trail, you can do several day trips and never walk the same section twice.  All the sections are quite distinct from the rest.  Some trails are wild and overgrown, others are focussed on amazing tidal pools, and still other sections are centred around wide, sweeping beaches.  You can even find good surfing at Sombrio Beach.

Glossary of Hiking Terms                                    Vancouver Hiking Trails

Col - Vancouver Hiking TermsCol: 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.

Aerial Video of a Cornice

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.Aerial Video of Crevasses - Vancouver Hiking

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.

Crevasse Aerial Video

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.

Drumlin - Vancouver Hiking TermsCulvert: 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 - Vancouver Hiking TermsErratic 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 Firn - Vancouver Hiking Termscrevasses.  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.

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