Tarn Vancouver Hiking Terms
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.
The images above and below are from Panorama Ridge. Panorama Ridge is easily one of the most amazing hikes in Garibaldi Park. The 15 kilometre hike from the trailhead at Rubble Creek to Panorama Ridge takes you through beautiful and deep forests, across countless idyllic streams, through meadows filled with flowers, and past dozens of jaw dropping viewpoints. The amazing views start once you reach Taylor Meadows and get even more spectacular as the trail progresses.
Once you arrive at Panorama Ridge and its phenomenal vantage point, high above Garibaldi Park, you will stare in wonder. Mesmerized first by Garibaldi Lake, far below you and looking unnaturally blue, the lake looks amazing surrounded by green, untouched wilderness and snow capped mountains. Click the image below to see an aerial video of Wedgemount Lake and the little tarn above it.
If you were to search your whole life for an absolutely amazing, astoundingly perfect, alpine hiking paradise, you'd have trouble finding a place as great as Wedgemount Lake in Garibaldi Park. To start with, the lake is breathtaking. Every angle you look at it and every hour of the day it alters its appearance dramatically. From its wonderful turquoise, marble-like appearance reflecting bronze mountains at sunrise and sunset. To its startlingly vivid appearance in the darkness of night. Reflecting stars are as clear looking down on the lake as they are looking up at the sky.
Glossary of Hiking Terms Vancouver Hiking Terms
Accumulation Zone: the area where snow accumulations exceeds melt, located above the firn line. Snowfall accumulates faster than melting, evaporation and sublimation removes it. Glaciers can be shown simply as having two zones. The accumulation zone and the ablation zone. Separated by the glacier equilibrium line, these two zones comprise the areas of net annual gain and net annual loss of snow/ice. The accumulation zone stretches from the higher elevations and pushes down, eventually reaching the ablation zone near the terminus of the glacier where the net loss of snow/ice exceeds the gain. The Wedgemount Glacier in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler is an ideal place to see an accumulation zone up close. From across Wedgemount Lake you can see the overall picture of both the accumulation zone and ablation zone of a glacier. The Wedgemount Glacier is also relatively easy and safe to examine closely and hike onto. The left side of the glacier is frequented in the summer and fall months by hikers on their way to Wedge Mountain and Mount Weart.
Aiguille: a tall, narrow, characteristically distinct spire of rock. From the French word for "needle". Used extensively as part of the names for many peaks in the French Alps. Around Whistler in the alpine you will find several distinct aiguilles. Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park could be called an aiguille, however its long and prominent history has given it another descriptive term of "tusk". You will find aiguilles on many hikes in British Columbia.
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. The backshore route along the West Coast Trail is often as subtle as a sandy beach edged by a slightly higher border of grass and forest. Other areas of the trail the backshore is a vertical, solid rock cliff with crashing waves cutting into it far below.
Bar: A ridge of sand or gravel in shallow water built by waves and currents. Tsusiat Falls along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island has an excellent example of a bar. An enormous and ever changing sand bar created from the waterfall meeting the Pacific Ocean. Often this bar is a dozen metres high and 400 metres long as it runs parallel to the ocean before flowing into it. Similar to a barrier beach, however a bar is more pliable and recent than a barrier beach, which tends to have long-term plant growth on it.
Barrier Beach or Island: a land form parallel to the shoreline, above the normal high water level. Characteristically linear in shape, a barrier beach extends into a body of water. In Garibaldi Provincial Park at Garibaldi Lake there is an excellent example a barrier beach leading toward the Battleship Islands. The West Coast Trail has an ever-moving barrier beach at the famous Tsusiat Falls camping area. The broad falls cascade off a sheer cliff and cut a constantly changing path to the ocean. The barrier beach can only be reached by a precarious log crossing or by wading across the rushing flow of water. A barrier island can be quite beautiful. An excellent example is Sea Lion Haul Out Rock along the West Coast Trail. This enormous, flat topped, solid rock barrier island sits just a few dozen metres from the trail. Hundreds of sea lions make their home here and provide a constant show for passing hikers.
Bench: a flat section in steep terrain. Characteristically narrow, flat or gently sloping with steep or vertical slopes on either side. A bench can be formed by various geological processes. Natural erosion of a landscape often results in a bench being formed out of a hard strip of rock edged by softer, sedimentary rock. The softer rock erodes over time, leaving a narrow strip of rock resulting in a bench. Coastal benches form out of continuous wave erosion of a coastline. Cutting away at a coastline can result in vertical cliffs dozens or hundreds of metres high with a distinct bench form. Often a bench takes the form of a long, flat top ridge. Panorama Ridge in Garibaldi Park is an excellent example of a bench. The Musical Bumps trail on Whistler Mountain is another good example of bench formations. Each "bump" along the Musical Bumps trail is effectively a bench.
Bergschrund or abbreviated schrund: a crevasse that forms from the separation of moving glacier ice from the stagnant ice above. Characterized by a deep cut, horizontal, along a steep slope. Often extending extremely deep, over 100 metres down to bedrock. Extremely dangerous as they are filled in winter by avalanches and gradually open in the summer. The Wedge glacier at Wedgemount Lake is a great and relatively safe way to view bergschrund near Whistler. At the far end of Wedgemount Lake the beautiful glacier window can be seen with water flowing down into the lake. From the scree field below the glacier you can see the crumbling bergschrund separate and fall away from the glacier. Up on the glacier you fill find several crevasses. Many are just a few centimetres wide, though several metres deep. Hiking along the left side of the glacier is relatively safe, however the right size of the glacier is extremely dangerous as the bergschrund vary in width and can be measure only in metres instead of centimetres. Hikers venturing up the glacier are advised to keep far to the left or only at the safe, lower edges near the glacier window.
Bivouac or Bivy: a primitive campsite or simple, flat area where camping is possible. Often used to refer to a very primitive campsite comprised of natural materials found on site such as leaves and branches. Often used interchangeably with the word camp, however, bivouac implies a shorter, quicker and much more basic camp setup. For example, at the Taylor Meadows campground in Garibaldi Park, camping is the appropriately used term to describe sleeping there at night. If instead you plan to sleep on the summit of Black Tusk, bivouacking would be more accurately used. In the warm summer months around Whistler you will find people bivouacking under the stars with just a sleeping bag. The wonderful, wooden tent platforms at Wedgemount Lake are ideal for this.
Bushwhack: a term popularly used in Canada and the United States to refer to hiking off-trail where no trail exists. Literally means 'bush' and 'whack'. To make your own trail through the forest by whacking or cutting your way through. Often used to plot a new trail and trail markers are used to mark various routes until a preferred route is found. In Whistler and Garibaldi Provincial Park, bushwhacking may also refer to an early season trail that is littered with fallen trees from winter storms. Existing trails can also become overgrown and require bushwhacking to navigate through. The Brew Lake trail in Whistler requires some bushwhacking for some of the overgrown trail. A bushwhacker is a term used to describe someone who spends a lot of time in the wilderness.
Buttress: a prominent protrusion of rock on a mountain, often column-shaped, that juts out from a rock or mountain. They are often so distinct as to be named separately from the mountain they protrude from. Buttresses often make a viable bivouacking option on an otherwise steep mountain. Numerous in the mountains surrounding Whistler, the term buttress is frequently heard while hiking, scrambling, ski touring and climbing.
Cairn: a pile of rocks used to indicate a route or a summit. The word cairn originates from the Scottish Gaelic word carn. A cairn can be either large and elaborate or as simple as a small pile of rocks. To be effective a cairn marking a trail has to just be noticeable and obviously man-made. In the alpine areas around Whistler, above the treeline, cairns are the main method of marking a route. In the spring and fall when snow covers alpine trails, cairns mark many routes. An inuksuk(aka inukshuk) is the name for a cairn used by peoples of the Arctic region of North America. Though an inuksuk can take many forms similar to a cairn, it is usually represented by large rocks formed into a human shape. The word inuksuk literally translates from two separate Inuit words, inuk "person" and suk "substitute". The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler used the inuksuk for the logo of the games. Today you will find several giant rock inuksuks in Vancouver and Whistler at various places. In Whistler there is an impressive inuksuk, several metres high a the peak of Whistler Mountain.
Chimney: a gap between two vertical faces of rock or ice. Often a chimney offers the only viable route to the summit of a mountain. An example of this is Black Tusk in Garibaldi Provincial Park in Whistler. The final ascent of Black Tusk requires climbing a near vertical chimney with crumbling rock all around.
Cirque: a glacier-carved bowl or amphitheatre in the mountains. To form, the glacier must be a combination of size, a certain slope and more unexpectedly, a certain angle away from the sun. In the northern hemisphere, this means the glacier must be on the northeast slope of the mountain, away from the suns rays and the prevailing winds. Thick snow, protected in this way, grows thicker into glacial ice, then a process of freeze-thaw called nivation, chews at the lower rocks, hollowing out a deep basin. Eventually a magnificently circular lake is formed with steep sloping sides all around. Cirque Lake in Whistler is a wonderful example of a cirque lake. Cirque Glacier: formed in bowl-shaped depressions on the side of mountains.