Hiking Glossary

Like any past time, hiking has a vocabulary all to its own. What follows are some terms and definitions that we use, some of which are specific to New England. For you hikers out there, if we missed one, let us know!

alpine zone The area above treeline.
aiguille A tall, narrow spire of rock.
bare-boot To hike (especially in winter) without use of crampons, showshoes, skis, or other traction aids.
backcountry camping Camping without making use of tentsites previously designated by the landowner. Permitted, with many restrictions, in some parks.
bivouac 1. Any temporary encampment 2. an encampment without tents. 3. a temporary or ad-hoc shelter.
blaze 1. A mark used to identify a trail, eg a spot of paint on a tree or rock. 2. To scout and mark a new trail.
book time An estimate of the time required to hike a trail, as reported in the Appalachian Mountain Club’s White Mountain Guide.
bushwhack To hike off-trail, especially through underbrush.
break trail In winter, to hike in the lead position, forcing one’s way through snow. It is far easier to walk in the tracks of someone else who has already “broken” the trail.
cairn A pile of stones, used to mark a trail. Easier to spot in fog and snow than a blaze.
camp To spend the night in a temporary shelter, eg a tent or lean-to.
car-camp To camp in a tentsite located beside an automobile. Permits one to use tents (not to mention coolers, barbecue grills, televisions, etc) one couldn’t carry on one’s back.
chimney A gap between two vertical faces of rock or ice.
col 1. A high pass. 2. A ridge between two higher peaks.
crampon A set of metal spikes to be strapped to one’s boot, to prevent slipping on ice.
GPS Global Positioning System. A satellite-based radio navigation system sponsored by the US military. Handheld receivers are sometimes used by hikers.
highpoint The point of highest elevation in a given area. “Highpointing” is the sport of hiking (or driving) to as many highpoints as possible.
krummholz The dwarfish, bonsai-esque trees that grow at the treeline.
lean-to A shelter consisting of a roof and at most three walls.
needle A pointed spire of rock.
notch A New England word for pass.
orienteering The art of navigation using map and compass. Sometimes engaged in as a competitive sport.
pass Relatively low point on a ridge or in a mountain chain, allowing travel from one valley to another.
peak A point higher than all adjacent points.
peak bagging The sport of hiking as many noteworthy peaks on a given list or area as possible.
post-hole The hole left behind when your foot sinks into deep snow.
prominence 1. The quality of rising above or projecting beyond one’s neighbors. 2. A peak or outcrop. 3. A measure of how far a peak rises above its neighbors: the minimum vertical distance one must descend in order to travel (on the ground) from a peak to any higher peak.
scree Small loose stones covering a slope.
summit The highest point of a mountain. A single mountain can have multiple peaks, but only one summit.
talus A sloping jumble of boulders at the base of a cliff.
tent A temporary shelter consisting of cloth and supported by least one pole or ho
tentsite A location for pitching a tent.
treeline or timberline Loosely speaking, the elevation above which trees won’t grow. For purposes of restrictions on camping, fires, etc in the White Mountain National Forest, the elevation above which trees are no more than eight feet tall.
walk-in camping Camping at site that can only be reached on foot.
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1 Comment

One thought on “Hiking Glossary

  1. Photo guy

    Need to add ‘mono-rail’ :]

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