Class Terrain Rating System Vancouver Hiking Terms
Class 1,2,3,4,5 Terrain Rating System: a rating system to define hiking, scrambling and climbing terrain levels of difficulty. Separated into 5 levels of difficulty ranging from class 1 to class 5. Class 1 is easy hiking, to class 5 terrain, very difficult terrain requiring ropes.
Class 1 Terrain: is defined as a well established trail with little or no steep sections. Class 1 trails are easy to navigate and you would have difficulty getting lost or encountering problems such as dangerous falls or rock slides. A class 1 trail in Whistler would range from the very easy Lost Lake trails in Whistler Village to the more adventurous Cheakamus Lake trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park. Both trails are easy, relaxing, and pose few potential dangers and challenges. The Garibaldi Lake trail(pictured below) is a good example of class 1 terrain.
Class 2 Terrain: is defined as terrain that may require basic routefinding skills over scree slopes and somewhat steep terrain where you may need your hands for balance or safety. The last couple kilometres to Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park(pictured below) is considered class 2 terrain with the occasional short sections of class 3 terrain.
Class 3 Terrain: is defined by steep terrain requiring the use of hand and foot holds, however, not steep enough to require ropes to navigate safely. The final chimney to Black Tusk(pictured below) would be considered a difficult class 3 section, close to class 4 in difficulty. The final section of the Wedgemount Lake trail in Whistler is a characteristic class 3 terrain.
Class 4 Terrain: is defined as very steep terrain which rope belays are recommended. Though experienced climbers will find class 4 terrain relatively easy and safe to navigate, novices to climbing will find class 4 terrain difficult, frightening and dangerous. The Lions in North Vancouver(pictured below) requires climbing a short section of class 4 terrain to reach the summit.
Class 5 Terrain: technical climbing terrain. Rope required by most climbers. If you are looking at a vertical rock wall, you are effectively looking at class 5 terrain. A typical gym climbing wall is replica of a class 5 terrain rock wall. The vertical face of The Chief(pictured below) is an example of a class 5 terrain.
The Chief is the mammoth rock face that towers over Squamish. Though hardly believable from looking at, the summit is an easy two hour hike. In fact there are three peaks, South (First), Centre (Second), and North (Third). Each accessible from the single trailhead. Growing in popularity as the newest brother to the Grouse Grind in Vancouver because there are quite a few stairs and considerable elevation gain. 540 metres in 1.5k. (The Grouse Grind is 853 metres in 2.9k).
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.
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.
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.