Alpenglow – a horizontal reddish glow near the opposite of the sun when it is just below the horizon. Unlike sunrise or sunset, the light that causes alpenglow is reflected off airborne droplets or particles. True alpenglow is not direct sunlight and is only visible after sunset or before sunrise.
Backpack – (n) a pack large enough for overnight essentials such as tent, sleeping bag, food; (v) to backpack implies hiking with the larger pack to a site where camp is set.
Bouldering – a form of hiking or rock climbing performed on larger boulders and rock formations without the use of ropes. Also a mix of Class 2 and Class 3 climbing.
Cairn – a mound of stones used as a landmark or indication of route direction.
Car camp – when possible to drive to a trailhead and spend overnight either in a tent near the car or in the car. Avoids backpacking.
Chimney – a steep narrow, rocky crevice by which a rock face can be climbed
Cliff band – a sequence of connected cliffs that present a barrier to other than technical climbing.
Clothing Layers – for climbing, layered clothing increases heat retention between layers and is a flexible approach to comfort in a variety of weather conditions. The first layer is typically a thin shirt of perspiration-wicking material. Final layer would be a rainproof pullover.
Col – lowest point on a mountain ridge between two peaks, also can be referred to as a notch.
Convection – rising air mass, often used interchangeably with thunderstorms, although they are just one form of convection that is visible in the form of towering cumulus clouds if moist convection. Dry convection shows no clouds.
Crampons – a spiked traction device attached to footwear for ice and snow climbing. The underfoot spikes are an inch deep, plus or minus and usually include points sticking out from the toes for ice climbing.
Crux – the most challenging part of a climb
Dihedral – has a few definitions, but in climbing it means the walls of a narrow gully that flare up at the same, steep angle on both sides and is difficult to pass.
Exposure – climbers speak of exposure as the feeling of vertigo that may accompany being on the edge of steep drop-off as well as the actual physical risk associated. To be in a precarious position in which the terrain is so steep that arresting a fall would be impossible.
False Summit – a sub-peak that appears to be the summit of a mountain but upon reaching, the real summit is higher. False summits can have effects on climbers’ psychological state inducing feelings of dashed hopes.
Fourteener – a mountain whose summit elevation is between 14,000 – 14,999’. In the continental U.S. there are 58 fourteeners in Colorado (which is all of them in the Rocky Mountains), 9 in California and 1 in Washington.
Gendarme – a pinnacle of rock on a mountain ridge that make passage on the ridge more challenging, usually forcing the climber to circumvent on a steep, loose slope at its base, hence it “guards” the ridge. The word means “police” in French.
Glissade – to butt-slide down a snowfield usually while using an ice axe as a brake. The technique is not without peril especially if there are rocks at the base.
Graupel – “small beads, denser than snow and low viscosity making fresh layers unstable on slopes; thinner layers can act as ball bearings …”
Gully – created by running water sharply eroding a hillside causing an upward sloping ditch, often loaded with loose material, i.e. a “loose gully.”
Harness – a device made of strong webbing typically with a padded waist belt and two leg-loops, connected in front and back to secure a rope to a climber.
Hypothermia – Low body temperature caused by cold ambient temperature, more likely when having become wet. Hypothermia is the most common cause of death in the wilderness.
Ledge – a narrow surface or edge projecting from a cliff
Marbles – small, marble-sized rocks that when underfoot on a hike or climb create very slippery conditions, especially in a gully or on rock surfaces.
Micro-spikes – usually pull-on traction devices resulting in ¼ – ½” metal spikes protruding down from the soles of boots to give stability on snow surfaces. These have no effect on soft or deep snow.
Notch – see Col
Pitch – derives from rock climbing requiring a rope between two belays but also used to describe a loosely defined segment of a climb or scramble.
POPS – probability of precipitation
Post-holing – when hiking in snow, as the snow softens with increasing temperatures it gets to the point where it can’t bear human weight and the hiker sinks in with each step, sometimes right up to the crotch or even the waist. Moving in those conditions is arduous.
Rappel – Means of descending steep terrain in which a climber descends along an anchored rope typically via harness and friction device. Statistically speaking rappelling is among climbing’s most dangerous activities due to dependency on the rope/harness/anchor system.
Ridge – a) on a mountain: long, narrow chain of rock forming a continuous elevated crest usually with the terrain dropping down on either side; b) as a weather term: elongated area of high pressure, usually associated with clear weather.
Saddle – a low point between two high points, usually wider than a col or notch.
Scrambling – climbing a rock face using hands for balance and pulling up without rope or other climbing gear.
Scree – a collection of broken rock fragments at the base of cliffs or valley shoulders that has accumulated through periodic rock fall.
Shoulders – high points on both sides of a valley
Spikes – a generic term referring to Crampons or micro-spikes, either worn on the boot soles.
Stocks – small intrusive igneous rock bodies
Storm cell – an air mass containing up and down drafts and moves and reacts as a single entity functioning as the smallest unit of a storm-producing system.
Switchbacks – a path or road up a hill or mountains with 180 degree bends back and forth to reduce the incline of ascending a steep route.
Tailing – mine dumps of materials left over after separating rough ore; in the Rockies they usually appear as orange scree below a mine opening.
Talus – Steep, loose piles of rock formed by constant erosion. While not technically challenging, talus can be exhausting and risks landslides.
Tarn – high mountain lake usually filled with snow melt.
Thirteener – a mountain whose summit is at 13,000 – 13,999’
Thunderstorm – also known as an electrical storm, is a storm with lightning and thunder. These occur with deepening cumulonimbus clouds caused by rapid upward movement of warm, moist air or sometimes traveling along a front.
Trailhead – the point at which a hiking trail begins.
Trough – area of low atmospheric pressure; opposite of ridge; usually accompanied by precipitation, cloudiness and some wind; a Shortwave trough is a mid-to-high level disturbance causing upward motion ahead of it, contributing to thunderstorm development.
Tree line – the altitude beyond which trees don’t tolerate the environmental conditions (combination of cold or snow lasts too long into summer). Approaching tree line the trees will be sparse and stunted. In the Rockies, the temperature drops about 4 degrees for each 1000’ of elevation gain and tree line is approximately 11,700’ – 11,900’
Verglas – thin coating of glaze ice on rock which often will shut down climbing.