The Hiker's Glossary

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The Hiker's Glossary

Post by DarthStiller »

Ok, so back in 2005 (one year before I discovered HAZ), I was at the airport looking for a good read on the plane and found the Aug. 2005 copy of Backpacker. In it, there was a hysterical humor bit called "The Unofficial, Unabridged, Slick-talking, Fast-Walking Hiker's Glossary". I've been meaning one day to somehow post it on HAZ. There doesn't appear to be an online version (making the easy way out not an option), and for a while I lost the magazine.

However, recently I found it again and have decided to go thru the trouble of re-typing the entire article, because I think it's that funny and this seems like the best forum that it will be most appreciated. Enjoy....

The Unofficial, Unabridged, Slick-talking, Fast-Walking Hiker's Glossary

Alpine start (n)
1. Predawn departure from camp in order to bag a summit before snowmelt becomes problematic. 2. Torture inflicted by mountain guides who know that the size of their tip is directly proportional to the degree of suffering clients endure. 3. Controversial technique for extricating oneself from a one-night stand.

Arete (n)
Fancy French term for a narrow or pointy spot on a ridge, typically used by climbers who've never been up one. Patriotic alternative: freedom vista.

Bag (v)
To claim a summit, river, or climbing route, often as part of a collection. Typically followed by a series of loud, grating cell-phone calls.

Bail (v)
To turn tail and retreat in the face of hardship. Typically followed by melodramatic, annoying storytelling.

Basecamp (n)
In mountaineering legend, a cold, inhospitable Himalayan redoubt where heroes stage for death-defying summit bids. In reality, a cold, inhospitable Himalayan rockpile crowded with tents, trash, and outhouses, where self-aggrandizing interlopers compose overwrought journals on solar-powered laptops for upload via satellite to a breathless audience of 13.

Basecamp manager (n)
Penultimate career move for former batboys, third-string place-kickers, and other hangers-on whose athleticism and charisma pose no risk to the celebrity of the real climbers. Typically an entree to a position in homeland or shopping-mall security.

Batman and Robin (n)
There's nothing dynamic about this hiking duo, which fearlessly patrols our trails in matching softshells and headlamps, lockstep pace, and endless banter about the relative merits of spring-loaded trekking poles.

Bear bag (n)
Food sack hung with rope from a branch to protect supplies from bruins. Known in California as a Yosemite pinata.

Bear bells (n)
Supposed safety device rung by unknowing Glacier hikers to alert bears to mealtime.

Bergschrund (n)
By the time you need to know, it's probably too late. <See also crevasse.>

Beta (n)
Hopelessly cool synonym for "information". Alas, it's not very cool to ask fellow climbers for "information" when you're trying to flash some gnarly boulder problem in J-Tree.

Bivy sack (n)
Wilderness equivalent of a straightjacket, only more costly.

Black-blazer (n)
Cretinous local who removes or paints over trail markers.

Bleeder (n)
Trail that begins in promising shape but inexplicably vanishes.

Blue bag (n)
Plastic sack used to pack out human waste on Rainier and other big peaks. So technically, yes, it is possible to blue-bag the summit.

Blue-blazer (n)
Cretinous thru-hiker who short-cuts the main trail by using connectors and bypasses.

Bomber (n)
Mid-90's superlative used to describe ruggedly built gear, especially tents. Joins "swag", "duds", and "extreme" as least cool words in outdoor vocabulary.

Boulder (v)
To climb and climb and climb and not get very high.

Braid (n)
Channel in a glacial river. Often in multiples, usually deceptively deep, always freakin' cold.

Brand wh0re (n)
You logo-loving tarts know who (and what) you are.

Cairn (n)
Not French, but equally mispronounced. But then, who cares? It's just a pile of rocks.

Cardboard hiker (n)
Milquetoast who retreats at the first in of rain, tossing diversionary excuses to cover his retreat.

Cat hole (n)
God bless the wonderful folks at for caring enought to devote 1,108 words to proper waste-disposal techniques. But here's the bottom line: dis a hole. Not near water. Not near camp. Six inches deep. And forget plastic trowels. They break.

Cheese grater (n)
Rough slab of porous rock, often limestone, that separates skin from an accelerating leg or face.

Chum privy (n)
An outhouse without the house.

Cosmetics (n)
Carmex, bug repellent, and sunscreen. As in, "Did you pack the cosmetics?"

Cotton (n)
Much-maligned fabric in need of Charlton Heston makeover before pro-poly lobbyists and their legislative henchmen institute background checks and waiting periods. (New campaign: Cotton doesn't kill, people who misuse cotton kill.)

Crampons (n)
Metal spikes used by climbers to ascend bergschrunds and couloirs after an alpine start. As a rule, climber like strap-ons.

Crevasse (n)
Ironically elegant French term for deadly glacial fissures that have inspire many a bestseller. Patriotic alternative: freedom crack.

Declination (n)
The transitional state between precisely knowing one's location and being utterly, hopelessly lost. Usually the result of declining, once too often, to consult the compass.

Dipper, Big and Little (n)
The only constellations we can ever remember, even after packing those lame star charts.

Disco Legs (n)
Shaky limbs caused by climbing, hiking, or dancing beyond the endurance of your muscles. Easier to manage in a nightclub than at 12,000 feet.

Duck (n)
Another name for a pile of rocks if you don't want to sound French trying to pronounce "cairn".

Ed Veisturs (n)
In lieu of sayhing anything insightful about Ed, let's just salute his sponsors. That's what Ed would want us to do. So here goes: Mount Hardwear, Jansport, Princeton Tec, Outdoor Research, Brunton, Timberland, and Leki. And hey, don't forget Rolex - Ed loves his Rolex.

Elvis (n)
What you call your buddy with disco legs. As in, "Another switchback and Elvis is headed for Heartbreak Hotel."

Epic (n)
Homer's Odyssey. Unless yours beats his, just call it sporty.

Eskimo roll (n)
1. Fancy kayak maneuver proacticed by paddlers who can't stay upright. 2. Hip new sushi option made with bear grass and raw whale blubber.

Fake (v)
Failure to rendezvous at a predetermined trailhead or campsite. Typically stated: "Dude, don't fake on me."

False summit (n)
A peak that lies about its height.

Fastpacker (n)
Anyone who passes you on the trail. Alternately, an annoying partner who only needs 10 minutes to break camp for an alpine start.

First ascent (n)
A much-coveted prize in mountaineering. Surpassed only by the more noteworthy first descent.

Flash (v)
A memorable first ascent made famous by women in New Orleans, typically during Mardi Gras.

Ford (v)
To cross a river without aid of a bridge, boat, or, ironically, a Ford Explorer.

Gaiters (n)
How did the French sneak all these words in? Might we suggest freedom leggings?

Geocaching (v)
The unfortunate result of owning a GPS and having nowhere to go.

Glissade (v)
D@mn those snail eaters. Freedom butt slide?

Global Positioning System (n)
Cutting-edge technology that makes navigation a cinch. Lost? Just push the "go back" button, and the system repositions the Earth to put you back on your doorstep.

Gore-Tex (n)
Popular waterproof/breathable material made with a micro-thin membrane of pure gold.

Gorp (n)
The original trail snack, now paired with juice boxes in nursery schools across America.

Guy line (n)
Tenuous yarn attempted by men to secure female hiking partners while browsing at REI.

Intervention (n)
Drastic action taken by ultralight zealots who think your pack is too heavy. Best defense? Fend them off with your full-length toothbrush.

Into Thin Air (n)
Critically panned made-for-TV move starring Peter Horton.

J-stroke (n)
Term canoeists use to make their sport sound technical.

J-Tree (n)
Nickname for California hotspot. Tourists use it to make their Joshua Tree dayhike sound technical.

LNT (n)
1. An environmental movement dedicated to minimizing human impact in the wilderness. 2. An environmental movement dedicated to minimizing the joys of camping. 3. An environmental movement obsessed with bowel movements.

Mating zipper (n)
Compatible fasteners that allow two sleeping bags to be merged into a somewhat larger love shack. The idea always sounds romantic in the showroom.

Moat (n)
A gap between snow and ice. Something hikers have been complaining about since the Middle Ages.

Mouse trapeze (n)
String hung inside a shelter to deter mice from getting at food. And no, there's no such thing as a bear trapeze.

Mung (n)
Slang among NOLS participants for an intestinal illness. It's unclear why they thing it's cool to have their own word for the runs.

Nordic walking (n)
Scandinavian fitness phenomenon that seems similar to walking aroudn one's neighborhood with trekking poles but is somehow far more complicated than that.

Parapente (n)
Either a cool Euro spelling for plain ol' paragliding, or an entirely different, more extreme sport that involves gliding from one wilderness peak to another. Perhaps the good folks in the ER can help you sort out the definition.

Pepper spray (n)
An intense, Tabasco-like seasoning preferred by discriminating grizzlies.

PFD (n)
Hep-sounding alternative to a life jacket, though equally constricting and dumb-looking.

Pit zips (n)
Zippers in the armpits of a jacket designed to improve ventilation. The innovation sounds better than it smells.

Poacher (n)
Someone who nabs a campsite without a permit and then repents by cooking eggs.

Portage (v)
Fancy French term for carrying a canoe rather than floating in it. Oddly enough, it's the element of paddling that backpackers complain most bitterly about. Who says hikers can't be ironic?

Post-hole (v)
To punch through deep snow with each step, transforming a seemingly straightforward climb onto into something you can whine about for hours.

PUDS (n)
Snippy acronym for pointless ups and downs. Used to describe a slog up and down mountains only to end up at about the same elevation you started. Also known as "hiking".

Quad (n)
Insider's name for a standar topo map from the U.S. Geological Survey. Alternatively, name of a large leg muscle that cramps up when map is misread.

Ralston (v, slang)
To become completely cut off from civilization.

Rappel (v)
To intentionally descend a rope by sliding doown an anchored line. Called cratering when done unintentionally.

REI (v)
Return Every Item

Rest step (n)
To pause for a second with each stride, momentarily shifting weight from leg muschles to leg bones. Essential technique for scaling 8,000-meter peaks - and for deflecting attention from poor fitness on local mountains.

Roadless rule (n)
Embattled federal mandate intended to block development in national forests. Supported generally by tree huggers who also snivel about clean air, assault weapons, and global warming.

Rock garden (n)
A section of river populated with stony obstacles. For many kayakers, a logical place to practice the Eskimo roll.

Serac (n)
The president of France, as stated by hikers with a lisp.

Sherpa (v)
To carry another's gear, as in, "I Sherpaed both of our packs the entire morning." Often accompanied by ego boost not commensurate with actual feat.

Singletrack (n)
Trail wide enough for one mountain biker. Also refers to the general intellectual capacity of said hammerhead who barrels recklessly through, forcing you to lurch into understory.

Slackpacking (n)
Packing only a few pounds of essentials that suffice until you're met by outside support each night. See synonyms at "barebacking" and "all-around lame-@ss mo-fo."

Stealth camping (n)
Fancy term for car camping without paying proper fees. Typically require alpine start to succeed.

Swag (n)
The goal of an elite outdoor athlete who has reached the point where actually paydays are no longer a possibilty. For scholars of pretension, bonus points are awarded if spelled or pronounced "schwag".

Tarn (n)
A cold mountain lake or pond created by glacial movement, as stated by hikers infatuated with an entire canon of overheated mountaineering tales.

Three-hour tour (n)
A dayhike that looks all too easy at the trailhead until, well, the weather started getting rough, and the tiny ship was... anyway, you get the picture.

Topo (n)
Seriously, if you need this defined, you picked up the wrong magazine. Did you mean to pull out that copy of Better Homes and Gardens?

Tourons (n)
Soft, rotund creatures often found in RV ecosystems that migrate seasonally and are frequently spotted on the first mile or so of a trail, asking annoying question about how far it is to the waterfall.

Trail angels (n)
People who do good things for others on the trail, even though - in a compelling Jungian twist - they're often not actually hikers themselves. It's as if they have a displaced...ah, screw it. What did Carl Jung know about hiking?

Trail magic (n)
Unexpected hiking pleasures, e.g. a driver stopping to hand out an icy Coke when you're completely thrashed. Desert hikers, see synonyms under "mirage".

Trail runners (n)
People who, obviously addled by endorphins in mid-marathon, detoured onto a trail and are now weaving around you and scaring away the wildlife.

Turnpike (n)
Overused trail for getting hikers to more scenic backcountry. Often wide, always crowded. Syn.: Herd path.

Turtling (v)
To fall backwards onto one's backpack at an angle that makes it exceedingly difficult to right oneself. Always funny when it happens to someone else.

Ultralighter (n)
A liberated soul who carries the absolute minimum, and mooches the absolute maximum.

Vestibule (n)
Sheltered storage area adjacent to tent interior. Notable because it's just a d@mn fun word to say, no matter how often you say it.

Vitamin I (n)
Ibuprofen - an essential during the first week of a long-distance hike.

Void (n)
Seemingly bottomless crevasse or pit onto which you may project whatever reality you choose...or just pee.

Walk-up (n)
A summit that can be reached without technical climbing skills, like Whitney. Also refers to a sixth-floor downtown apartment which, with a load of groceries and mail and your bike to carry up all at one, can make Whitney seem like, well, cake.

Waypoint (n)
Trademarked name for the map cards inserted in this magazine, proving once again (in case you didn't get it yet) that we really, really, really think GPS is cool.

Yo-yoer (n)
A thru-hiker who reaches trail's end only to turn around and hike back to the beginning. See "trust-fund recipient."

Yogi-ing (v)
The art of extracting food and supplies from strangers without begging. Most gloriously accomplished at picnic grounds during family reunions or church gatherings after recounting adventures in a dramatic and wildly embellished fashion. (See also ultralighter.)

Last edited by DarthStiller on May 04 2012 6:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by Espi »

Ultralighter (n)
A liberated soul who carries the absolute minimum, and mooches the absolute maximum.
I find this funny cause I am not and my friend is. And guess what happens?
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by azbackpackr »

There are some funny ones. Interesting too, from the date, when Bill O'Reilly of FoxNews was trying to get everyone to boycott French products--as though very many of us actually ever BUY anything made in France to begin with! I liked "Herd Path" for the Bright Angel Trail.
There is a point of no return unremarked at the time in most lives. Graham Greene The Comedians
A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by DarthStiller »

Espi wrote:I find this funny cause I am not and my friend is. And guess what happens?
There are a few that apply to some HAZ members....... :whistle:
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by big_load »

An old climber at Backpacker had some nice alternate definitions:

Ice Axe - Sucking chest wound tool
Crampon - Rope splicing tool
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by Al_HikesAZ »

Ralston - that's just wrong :sk:
Anybody can make a hike harder. The real skill comes in making the hike easier.
life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. Andy Rooney
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by PatrickL »

Funny read. :lol: Thanks for posting.
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Re: The Hiker's Glossary

Post by Trishness »

Very funny! :D

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds" Ed Abbey
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