Krummholz Vancouver Hiking Terms
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. The krummholz tree below is on an island amongst the Battleship Islands along the shore of Garibaldi Lake. This hardy little tree(pictured below) is crushed yearly by metres of snow, yet continues to grow on this beautiful spot.
Krummholz trees in the alpine in Whistler have to suffer the harsh winters as well as the crushing weight of boulders and scree. This group of krummholz trees are holding back boulders on Whistler Mountain.
The alpine hiking trails on Whistler Mountain are the ultimate in luxurious hiking. Little hiking effort gets you amazing views of turquoise lakes, snowy mountain, valleys of flowers, waterfalls and spectacular glaciers. In the summer months, Whistler Mountain is somewhat divided in two. The lower half of the mountain is for biking and the upper half is for hiking, sightseeing, trail running, eating and drinking.
There are a few directions you can start hiking from the Roundhouse Lodge, however, taking the Peak Express(quad chairlift) up to the summit of Whistler Mountain is an amazing place to start. The Peak Express is an exhilarating ride that takes you to the start of Whistler Mountain's best hiking trails. The Half Note Trail, High Note Trail and Mathew's Traverse start here. The High Note Trail in turn leads to the Musical Bumps Trail to Russet Lake and Singing Pass in Garibaldi Provincial Park.
The summit of Whistler Mountai is also a destination of its own. Spectacular views all around from this rocky, alpine summit visible from almost everywhere in Whistler. Black Tusk comes into view as you exit the Peak Express. This amazingly distinct pinnacle of jet-black rock is a local icon and remnant of a not too distant history of volcanism in the area. As you admire its absurdly vertical form, remind yourself that there is almost certainly a few hikers looking back at you from its summit.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Trails
Couloir: a narrow gully often hemmed in by sheer cliff walls. From the French word meaning passage or corridor. Often a couloir is a fissure or vertical crevasse in a mountain. Couloirs are often partially filled with scree and when covered in snow form a dramatically beautiful, near vertical channel in mountains. Couloirs are well loved by extreme skiers and snowboarders and feature in most extreme skiing/snowboarding movies.
Crevasse: is a split or crack in the glacier surface, often with near vertical walls. Crevasses form out of the constant movement of a glacier over irregular terrain. Crevasses are both revered for their dramatic beauty and feared for their inherent danger. Crevasses are often dozens of metres deep and less than a metre wide. The fear of slipping into one of these ever-narrowing chasms is well founded. When learning about safe glacier travel and roping techniques, extracting someone from a crevasse is a huge part of the training. Crevasses are sometimes hidden by recent snow and thus instantly plunging through a a snow bridge is a constant worry during glacier travel.
Cross-ditch: a ditch that carries water from one side of a road to the other, deeper than a waterbar. Though useful in directing water across roads, natural cross-ditches form on logging roads and can become so deep as to become serious obstacles to vehicles.
Culvert: a device used to channel water under a road or embankment. Many hiking trails in BC have culverts to direct water under, rather than over hiking trails to prevent erosion.
Diagonal Crevasses: form at an angle to the flow of a glacier. These are normally found along the edges where a glacier ends.
Drumlin: a ridge or hill formed from glacial debris. From the Gaelic “ridge”. Large drumlins often mark the final edges or border of a glaciers path. Drumlin's are generally about 1 to 2 kilometres long and between 100 and 500 metres wide. Most drumlins are less than 50 metres high.
Erratic or Glacier Erratic: is a piece of rock that has been carried by glacial ice, often hundreds of kilometres. Characteristic of their massive size and improbable looking placement. Erratics are frequently seen around Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park. Either as bizarre curiosities or a place to relax in the sun. On a sunny day, a large sun-facing erratic will often be warm and sometimes even hot, providing a comfortable and surreal place to rest.
Firn: compacted, granular snow that has been accumulated from past seasons. Firn is the building blocks of the ice that makes the glacier. Firn is the intermediate stage between snow and glacial ice. Firn Line: separates the accumulation and ablation zones. As you approach this area, you may see strips of snow in the ice. Be cautious, as these could be snow bridges remaining over crevasses. Snow bridges will be weakest lower on the glacier as you enter the accumulation zone. The firn line changes annually.
Gendarme: a pinnacle sticking up out of a ridge. A steep sided rock formation along a ridge, “guarding” the summit. From the French ”man-at-arms”.
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.
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..
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.