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Posts Tagged ‘krummholz’

A 'Spectre of Brocken' is seen in the Tatra mountains in Zakopane, Poland, in October 2010. Photo courtesy of EPA/Grzegorz Momot

Just this week, I saw a great blog from REI called “10 Weird Outdoor Words.” In their list was one of my favorite terms — “crepuscular.” It means an animal that’s active at dawn or dusk (as opposed to nocturnal or diurnal).  Anywho, I loved the blog and decided to come up with 10 More Weird Outdoor Words for today’s blog post.

Spectre of brocken — This is a phenomenon that belongs as much on the sci-fi channel as anywhere else. The spectre of brocken is created when the sun is positioned up and behind a hiker and the hiker’s shadow is cast downward onto a cloud (so the hiker must be above a cloud; example: on a ridgeline) and the water particles in the cloud create a prismatic (rainbow) halo around the shadow of the person. This is clearly an easier thing to see a photo of than to describe. The ghostly phenomenon is rare and can inspire an interesting mixture of awe and fear in a person who views it.

Crepuscular rays

Crepuscular rays — (Say it like crepe + muscular without the “m”) Since the REI blog already took “crepuscular” away from me, I thought an interesting phenomenon to discuss would be crepuscular rays. Have you ever seen dark rays extending up from the horizon at sunset or sunrise? Those little babies are crepuscular rays, and are created when the setting or rising sun shines through low clouds on the horizon and casts their shadow upward.

Glissade —(Gliss-ahhd) This is a word that I like because it sounds exactly like the action that it signifies. The verb means, “to slide down a slope covered in loose debris or snow on your feet without skis or other aids.” Say it out loud, “glissssssade.” It slides off your tongue, and you can see why we co-opted this French term to mean sliding down a mountainside.

Scree — If I ever write a fantasy novel, I think I’d call the monster or dragon or whatever a Scree. It just sounds like a big, bad, pseudo-avian dragon or something. The term actually refers to an accumulation of loose rocks or debris on a slope.  When my husband and I climbed Mount St. Helens last year, we saw a lot of volcanic scree. As a matter of fact, we got a running start and glissaded down some volcanic scree. It was like surfing on pea-gravel.

Krummholz — (crumb-holts) The Germans are always coming up with such lovely words. You know when people say something is crummy? That phrase comes from the German word Krumm (crooked or inferior). Holz means wood. Krummholz is crooked wood. In mountaineering, krummholz is a generic term for any of the half-grown crooked trees that have managed to take root and eke out a living around the tree-line of a mountain.

Coprolite — (cop-pro-light) Because sometimes you just need to sound more erudite than if you were to use the phrase “fossilized poop.”

Orogeny — (or-o-genie) Do NOT type this word into your iPhone and send it, lest the Autocorrect feature guess that you mean a different word. This geologic term refers to tectonic movements like faults, folds and uplift, which lead to the formation of mountains.

Earthshine — You’ve got your sunshine and your moonshine — did you think that the earth couldn’t get in on that game? Earthshine is just what it sounds like: the glow of the reflection of the sun from the surface of the earth back into space. If you’ve ever looked up and seen the outline of the unlit side of the moon, that’s the illumination of earthshine.

Bivouac — (biv-wack) The term refers to a temporary camp devoid of shelter, usually overnight. You could throw your sleeping bag in your backyard and take a snooze and voilà — bivouac. But seriously, bivouac is often a last resort. Shelter is good.

Peloton — (pey-la-ton) Unsurprisingly, I had to get a cycling term in here. The word peloton literally means “ball” in French, but in cycling refers to the main group of racers riding in a close-spaced pack. If you’ve watched any coverage of the Tour de France or other big bike races, you’ll hear this term fairly regularly, and now, because of this blog, you’ll know what it means.

Original Post November 25, 2011

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