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Bar - Vancouver Hiking Terms

Hiking Gear Rentals

Bar                                                                            Vancouver Hiking Terms

Bar: A ridge of sand or gravel in shallow water built by waves and currents.  Tsusiat Falls along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island has an excellent example of a bar.  An enormous and ever changing sand bar created from the waterfall meeting the Pacific Ocean.  Often this bar is a dozen metres high and 400 metres long as it runs parallel to the ocean before flowing into it.  Similar to a barrier beach, however a bar is more pliable and recent than a barrier beach, which tends to have long-term plant growth on it.

Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail

The ever-changing bar created by Tsusiat Falls on the West Coast Trail.  Every spring reveals a radically changed bar at Tsusiat Falls.  Winter storms batter the shore and obliterate the established bar from the previous year.  Though following roughly the same route every year, the bar here can be shallow or deep, winding or straight as it makes its way to the ocean.

Bar - Tsusiat Falls

The West Coast Trail is incredible.  Everything about it is amazing.  From its wildly, incomprehensibly enormous trees to it's endless jaw dropping views.  And it's tough.  Very tough.  It is a trail that shouldn't exist.  Trails always form out of the easiest route worn down over the years.  This trail was formed out of necessity.  And the route is the only route.  Hemmed in by steep cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other, the route evolved where it shouldn't have.  Always wet, always up and down, thousands of creeks and canyons.  Even with all the construction of suspension bridges and ladders it's brutal.  And yearly, winter storms blast down impossibly enormous trees.  It's difficulty can be measured by its relatively short distance of 75km yet it takes 4-7 days to complete.  This is for two wonderful, spectacular and telling reasons.  First it is a jigsaw of a trail, up and down over endless chasms tangled with rainforest.

West Coast Trail Caves

It just takes a long time to snake through.  The second reason is just too good to be true.  It's so beautiful.  Wildly beautiful.  And this is a phenomenon that the West Coast Trail is alive with.  It's unbelievably beautiful at every glance.  Everywhere you look.  This alone would secure this hike as one of the worlds best.  But there is another thing that combined with its beauty, makes it what it is.  West Coast Trail.  This is a phenomenon that is seldom understood or explainable.  It's tough.  The trail is brutal.  It's invariably raining.  So you are always wet.  This makes you soggy and crabby.  Tired and exhausted.  The treacherous trail in this wet is muddy, slippery and requires your full attention at every step.  This mesmerizes you as you hike.  You focus completely on your next step and your mind relaxes into a meditative state.  This is when it happens.  You look up, catch a glance of what's around you. And it's marvelous.  This is it.  The West Coast Trail is a perfect combination of brutal difficulty and spectacular wildness and beauty.

Bear on the West Coast Trail

The West Coast Trail, originally called the Dominion Life Saving Trail was built out of necessity because of the enormous number of shipwrecks that gave this stretch of ocean from Tofino to Victoria the brutal name, The Graveyard of the Pacific.  With at least 484 shipwrecks, this trail formed to facilitate survivors walking to Victoria and rescuers hiking to help them.  It inevitably became a recreational hike in the last few decades.  It's difficulty, once it's worst trait, now it's defining feature.  It lies within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve which represents and protects three beautiful, coastal lowland forests.  Long Beach, the Broken Group Islands, and the West Coast Trail.

Glossary of Hiking Terms                                   Vancouver Hiking Trails

Ablation Zone - Vancouver Hiking TermsAblation 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.

Aerial View of Ablation Zone - Overlord Glacier

Accumulation Zone: the area where snow accumulations exceeds melt, located above the firn line.  Snowfall accumulates faster than melting, evaporation and Accumulation Zone - Vancouver Hiking Termssublimation removes it.  Glaciers can be shown simply as having two zones.  The accumulation zone and the ablation zone.  Separated by the glacier equilibrium line, these two zones comprise the areas of net annual gain and net annual loss of snow/ice.  The accumulation zone stretches from the higher elevations and pushes down, eventually reaching the ablation zone near the terminus of the glacier where the net loss of snow/ice exceeds the gain.  The Wedgemount Glacier in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler is an ideal place to see an accumulation zone up close.  From across Wedgemount Lake you can see the overall picture of both the accumulation zone and ablation zone of a glacier.  The Wedgemount Glacier is also relatively easy and safe to examine Aiguille - Vancouver Hiking Termsclosely and hike onto.  The left side of the glacier is frequented in the summer and fall months by hikers on their way to Wedge Mountain and Mount Weart.

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.

Alpine Zone - Vancouver Hiking TermsAlpine Zone or Alpine Tundra: the area above the treeline, often characterized by stunted, sparse forests of krummholz and pristine, turquoise lakes.  The Sproatt alpine is an excellent example of an alpine zone in Whistler.  Dozens of alpine lakes, rugged and rocky terrain and hardy krummholz trees everywhere you look.  The hostile, cold and windy climate in the alpine zones around Whistler make tree growth difficult.  Added to that, the alpine areas are snow covered the majority of the year.  Other good places to explore alpine zones in Whistler are Wedgemount Lake, Blackcomb Mountain, Whistler Mountain, Black Tusk and Callaghan Lake.

Aerial View of Wedgemount Lake in Whistler

Arete - Vancouver Hiking TermsArête: a thin ridge of rock formed by two glaciers parallel to each other. Sometimes formed from two cirques meeting. From the French for edge or ridge.  Around Whistler and in Garibaldi Provincial Park you will see dozens of excellent examples.  Below Russet Lake in Whistler, the glacier at the bottom of the valley, below the lake has a wonderful example of an arête.  The far side of Mount Price, near Garibaldi Lake also has an enormous arête.  The Wedge-Weart Col beyond Wedgemount Lake is a prominent arête to the summit of Wedge Mountain.

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.

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