Bench Vancouver Hiking Terms
Bench: a flat section in steep terrain. Characteristically narrow, flat or gently sloping with steep or vertical slopes on either side. A bench can be formed by various geological processes. Natural erosion of a landscape often results in a bench being formed out of a hard strip of rock edged by softer, sedimentary rock. The softer rock erodes over time, leaving a narrow strip of rock resulting in a bench. Coastal benches form out of continuous wave erosion of a coastline. Cutting away at a coastline can result in vertical cliffs dozens or hundreds of metres high with a distinct bench form. Often a bench takes the form of a long, flat top ridge. Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park is an excellent example of a bench. The Musical Bumps trail on Whistler Mountain is another good example of bench formations. Each "bump" along the Musical Bumps trail is effectively a bench.
The video below is of Adit Lakes in Garibaldi Park in Whistler. Located above Russet Lake, the two Adit Lakes are characteristic tarns. This video shows the two alpine lakes and the bench that surrounds them on one side.
Below is another aerial video of Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Effectively a bench, Panorama Ridge is surrounded by a bonanza of mountains, glaciers, lakes and tarns.
Panorama Ridge is arguably the most amazing hike in Garibaldi Park. It certainly is in the top 5 of the best hikes in Whistler. Usually accessed by the Rubble Creek (Garibaldi Lake) trailhead, just off the Sea to Sky Highway 30 minutes south of Whistler. The hike to Panorama Ridge is comparatively long at 15k trailhead to ridge, but there is plenty to marvel at along the way. In the summer this area is flower-filled and beautiful in every direction.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Trails
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.
Accumulation Zone: the area where snow accumulations exceeds melt, located above the firn line. Snowfall accumulates faster than melting, evaporation and sublimation 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 closely 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 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.
Arête: 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.
Bivouac or Bivy: a primitive campsite or simple, flat area where camping is possible. Often used to refer to a very primitive campsite comprised of natural materials found on site such as leaves and branches. Often used interchangeably with the word camp, however, bivouac implies a shorter, quicker and much more basic camp setup. For example, at the Taylor Meadows campground in Garibaldi Park, camping is the appropriately used term to describe sleeping there at night. If instead you plan to sleep on the summit of Black Tusk, bivouacking would be more accurately used. In the warm summer months around Whistler you will find people bivouacking under the stars with just a sleeping bag. The wonderful, wooden tent platforms at Wedgemount Lake are ideal for this.
Bushwhack: 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. The Brew Lake trail in Whistler requires some bushwhacking for some of the overgrown trail. A bushwhacker is a term used to describe someone who spends a lot of time in the wilderness.
Buttress: 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.