Glacier Window Vancouver Hiking Terms
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. The glacier window shown here is located above Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler.
Click the image below to see an aerial video of the Wedge Glacier at Wedgemount Lake in Whistler. Wedgemount Lake is one of the most spectacular hikes in Garibaldi Park. Though it is a relentlessly exhausting, steep hike, it is mercifully short at only 7 kilometres (one way). The elevation gain in that short distance is over 1200 metres which makes it a much steeper hike than most other Whistler hiking trails. Compared with other Whistler hikes, Wedgemount Lake is half the roundtrip distance of either Black Tusk or Panorama Ridge, for example, at 13.5k and 15k respectively (one way).
Wedgemount Lake itself is a magnificent destination for a day hike or spectacular overnight beneath the dazzling mountain peaks and stars. Many sleep under the stars on one of the many beautiful tent platforms that dot the landscape. Solidly built, wooden tent platforms are everywhere you look at Wedgemount Lake. Strategically positioned, these platforms manage to maintain an amazingly secluded feel despite their numbers. In all Wedgemount Lake has 20 of these tent areas. Most are wooden, but several down by the lake shore are gravel, yet every bit as nice.
At a fast hiking pace you can reach Wedgemount Lake from the trailhead in just an hour and a half but at a leisurely or backpack laden pace you will likely take over two hours. The trail is well marked and well used. The steepness of the trail doesn't require any technical skill, however that last kilometre before the lake you will be scrambling on all fours quite a bit.
The elevation gain makes a tremendous difference when carrying a heavy backpack and unprepared for the exertion. There is hardly a section of the trail that is not steeply uphill. The first 15 minutes takes you into the deep forest and then across Wedgemount Creek. This crashing creek can be heard from quite a distance and gives you a hint of the steepness of the trail to come.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Trails
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.
Hoary Marmot: the cute, invariably pudgy, twenty plus pound ground squirrels that have evolved to live quite happily in the hostile alpine areas of much of the world. In the northwest of North America, marmots have a distinct grey in their hair, a hoary colour, so have been named hoary marmots. They manage to survive quite happily in the alpine, largely by hibernating for 8 months of the year and largely for having a surprisingly varied array of food in such an inhospitable environment. They live off of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, and roots and flowers. And live quite well it seems, as they always look chubby, which has one great drawback. They are sought after by bears and wolves. They have a wonderful defense system though. They are constantly on watch and whistle loudly at the first sign of danger, alerting the colony. The prevalence of these "whistlers" as they came to be locally called, in the early days of London Mountain resulted in it's name being changed to Whistler Mountain in the 60's. Hiking on Whistler, Blackcomb or Wedgemount Lake in the summer will almost guarantee an encounter with a chubby, jolly little whistler marmot.
Old Man's Beard(Usnea): The lichen seen hanging from tree branches in much of British Columbia. It hangs from tree bark and tree branches looking like greenish-grey hair. A form of lichen, usnea can be found world-wide. There are currently over 85 known species of usnea.
Piedmont Glacier: formed by one or more valley glaciers spreading out into a large area.
Post Holing: difficult travel through deep snow where feet sink. A common occurrence while hiking in and around Whistler in the spring and early summer months. The alpine trails are often covered in snow well into June and some trails into July. It is not unusual to see hikers in Whistler starting a trail in 25c weather in June with snowshoes strapped to their packs. Post holing can be very frustrating and arduous. The hard crust on top of the snow can sometimes support the weight of footsteps, however, often it is not, and one's foot will plunge deep into the snow.
Pressure Ridges: wavelike ridges that form on a glacier normally after a glacier has flowed over icefalls. Pressure ridges are a beautiful and hostile looking feature of glaciers that, when approached, become menacingly huge and dangerous.
Pyramidal Peak: a mountaintop that has been carved by glaciation into a distinct, sharp horn-like shape. The Matterhorn in the Alps is a well know example of this striking phenomenon.
Retreation Glacier: a deteriorating glacier; annual melt of entire glacier exceeds the flow of the ice. Glaciers around Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park are retreation glaciers owing to the past few decades of warming temperatures.
Scree: from the Norse “skridha”, landslide. The small, loose stones covering a slope. Also called talus, the French word for slope. Scree is mainly formed from the annual freeze/thaw periods of spring and fall, where water seeps into cracks in the rock and expands when freezing.
Seracs: large pinnacles or columns of ice that are normally found in icefalls or on hanging glaciers.
Snow Bridge: a structure of snow that fills in an opening such as a crevasse or a creek. Often formed by a snow drift which begins as a cornice and grows into a snow bridge. In the summer, what was a small creek crossing, in the winter will be an often precarious snow bridge. Though, not terribly dangerous, this often encountered type may drop you in an instant, thigh deep in freezing creek, and armpit deep in snow.
Surging Glacier: annual flow of the ice exceeds the melt; the movement is measurable over a period of time.
Talus: a sloping jumble of boulders at the base of a cliff.
Tarn: a small alpine lake. The word tarn originates from the Norse word tjorn which translates to English as pond. In the United Kingdom, tarn is widely used to refer to any small lake or pond. In British Columbia however, tarn is used specifically for small mountain lakes. Around Whistler tarns number in the hundreds and many are so small and/or hidden as to remain unnamed. Russet Lake in Garibaldi Provincial Park could be called a tarn, however its relatively large size dominates the area and the term lake seems more appropriate. The nearby Adit Lakes are more accurately called tarns as they are small, shallow and sit in an alpine zone, buried in snow most of the year.
Traverse: crossing a slope at the same elevation.
Valley Glacier: A glacier that resides and flows in a valley. Many glaciers around Whistler and in Garibaldi Provincial Park are valley glaciers. The Wedge Glacier above Wedgemount Lake flows down the valley from Wedge Mountain. When you reach Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Provincial Park, valley glaciers dominate the view along with the unnaturally brilliant Garibaldi Lake below.