Scree Vancouver Hiking Terms
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.
Scree slopes are a common obstacle or simply part of the scenery on alpine hiking trails. Wedgemount Lake pictured below is dominated by scree slopes and a massive erratic field around the lake.
The image below is an aerial video of Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Scree slopes dominate the areas above the lake leading up to Joffre Peak as well as the glacier far above the lake.
The Joffre Lakes trail is surprisingly busy most of the summer, which is a testament to how extraordinarily beautiful, and relatively easy the hike is. Unlike Wedgemount Lake, Black Tusk or Cirque Lake, which are to difficult for many hikers, Joffre Lakes is comparatively easy and certainly relaxing. Many hikes in the nearby Garibaldi Park are not family friendly and easy, but Joffre Lakes is. Certainly the scenic drive to the trailhead from Whistler is part of the fun. The image below is an aerial video of the Fissile, Adit Lakes and Russet Lake, all surrounded by scree and scree slopes.
Black Tusk is the extraordinarily iconic and appropriately named mountain that can be seen from almost everywhere in Whistler. The massive black spire of crumbling rock juts out of the earth in an incredibly distinct way that appears like an enormous black tusk plunging out of the ground. Whether you spot it in the distance from the top of Whistler Mountain or from dozens of vantage points along the Sea to Sky Highway, its unmistakable silhouette is hard to miss.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Trails
Col: a ridge between two higher peaks, a mountain pass or saddle. More specifically is the lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks. Sometimes called a saddle or notch. The Wedge-Weart Col is a popular destination at the summit of the Wedge Glacier in Garibaldi Park.
Cornice: a wind deposited wave of snow on a ridge, often overhanging a steep slope or cliff. They are the result of snow building up on the crest of a mountain. Cornices are extremely dangerous to travel on or below. A common refrain of climbers is that if you can see the drop-off of a cornice, you are too close to the edge. Cornices are dangerous for several reasons. They can collapse from hiking across or they can collapse from above. A third danger to consider is the fact that they can often trigger a massive avalanche that extends a considerable distance from its starting point.
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.
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 defence 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.