Hoary Marmot Vancouver Hiking Terms
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..
Found almost everywhere in the alpine of Whistler, marmots are usually heard before being seen. The oddly abrupt, whistle sound erupts from fields of boulders when you enter their territory. Most marmots keep a safe distance from humans, but the more habituated marmots will let you approach quite close.
Cheakamus Lake is a wonderfully relaxing way to get in the wilderness easily and quickly from Whistler Village. The trail begins on the far side of Whistler Mountain, 8 kilometres from the Sea to Sky Highway at Cheakamus Crossing across from Function Junction. This 8 kilometre stretch of logging road is fairly bumpy and potholed, but does have the benefit of allowing you to drive the elevation gain instead of hiking it.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Trails
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.
Glissade: descending down a snow slope on foot, partly sliding. A quick alternative to simply hiking down a snow slope.
Hanging Glacier: separating portions of glaciers, hanging on ridgelines or cliffs. Extremely dangerous, hanging glaciers are frequently the cause of death of mountaineers.
Headwall: a steep section of rock or cliff. In a glacial cirque it is it's highest cliff.
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.
Ice Mill: a hole in the glacier formed by swirling water on the surface. These can be large enough for a human to slip into.
Icefalls: a jumble of crisscross crevasses and large ice towers that are normally found where a glacier flows over a slope with a gradient change of 25 degrees or more.
Krummholz: low-stunted trees found in the alpine. From the German “twisted wood”. Continuous exposure to hostile, alpine weather causes trees to form in bizarre and stunted ways. Many types of trees have formed into bizarre krummholz trees including spruce, mountain pine, balsam fir, subalpine fir, limber pine and lodgepole pine. The lodgepole pine is commonly found in the alpine regions around Whistler.
Longitudinal Crevasses: form parallel to the flow of a glacier. These are normally found where a glacier widens.
Massif: a cluster of mountains. A section of a planet's crust that is demarcated by faults or flexures.
Moat: is a wall formed at the head of a glacier. Formed from heat reflected from the valley wall.
Moraine (lateral): formed on the sides of a glacier. Moraine (medial): the middle of a glacier. Also formed as two glaciers come together or as a glacier moves around a central peak. Moraine (terminal): formed at the terminus of a glacier. Moraine (ground): the rocky debris extending out from the terminus of a glacier.
Nunatuk: a rock projection protruding through permanent ice or snow. Their distinct appearance in an otherwise barren landscape often makes them identifiable landmarks. Nunatuks are usually crumbling masses of angular rock as they are subject to severe freeze/thaw periods. There is a very prominent nunatuk near the glacier window of the Wedge Glacier. The glacier has been retreating in the past few years, so this massive nunatuk marks the terminus of the glacier now.
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.
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.