Black Tusk

Black Tusk

A unique monolith within the Garibaldi Volcanic Belt visible from the highway and any lofty perch along the Sea to Sky corridor, the Black Tusk is one of B.C.’s most readily distinguishable peaks and arguably the region’s most iconic geoformation.

To people of the Squamish Nation the Tusk is t’ak’t’ak mu’yin tl’a in7in’a’xe7en, “Landing Place of the Thunderbird,” while for the L’íl’wat, it is Q’elqámtensa ti Skenknápa, “Place where the Thunder Rests.” The mountain’s jagged shape and dark colouring are attributed to the Thunderbird’s lightning, or, per another account, the supernatural raptor’s talons strafing the peak.

Celebrated in hiking guides, paintings and numerous commercial names, this distinctive spire is composed of andesite—a form of lava with a slightly higher silica content than basalt. Long thought of as a “volcanic plug”—the remnant solidified lava core of an eroded stratovolcano—recent studies on cooling patterns of the lava have reinterpreted the tusk as a subglacial eruption that was fully contained beneath a Pleistocene ice sheet. In addition to the tusk-like spire that was first climbed in 1912, two rapidly shrinking glaciers flow northward to ~1,800 metres, constellated in summer by rock from the ever-crumbling tower.

 

  • the iconic andesite tusk
  • First Nations mythology
  • the Helm Creek/Rubble Creek crossing

GEOLOGIC CONTEXT:

A distinctive dark, andesite spire formed by volcanic eruptions that occurred beneath a thick Pleistocene ice sheet, never breaching the surface.

HOW TO SEE IT:

Located in the heart of Garibaldi Provincial Park, Black Tusk is visible from roadside vantages, from the top of Whistler Mountain and many other peaks, and is a key hiking, skiing, and flightseeing destination. Two main access points—the Rubble Creek/Garibaldi Lake trail to the south, or the Helm Creek trail to the north accessed via the Cheakamus Lake trailhead—offer substantial hikes on their own (~25 km round-trip). But many choose a car-drop at one or the other trailheads in order to cross from one side to another (~30 km) through the cinder-cone moonscape surrounding Helm Creek

Services:

Parking and washrooms at both trailheads; washrooms at Garibaldi Lake, Taylor Meadows and Helm Creek campsites.

Hazards:

Wilderness backcountry and high-mountain hazards such as rockfall and avalanches; sensitive alpine ecosystems; stay on marked trails; always carry bear spray in the backcountry.

Protection and guardianship are at the heart of the Geopark philosophy. We ask that you treat the land with the same reverence as its original inhabitants, and not remove anything from a site but what you’ve brought to help preserve it for future generations.

Decimal Degrees (DD)

49.975911, -123.042777

Degrees Decimal Minutes (DDM)

49° 58.5547' N   123° 2.5666' W

Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS)

49° 58' 33.2796" N  123° 2' 33.9972" W

What Are Pillars?

The Fire & Ice Aspiring Geopark comprises four main geological pillars referenced in all interpretive material: (M)ountain Building, (G)laciation, (V)olcanism and (C)ollapse.

MOUNTAIN BUILDING

Mountain building can involve several processes that contribute to the formation of mountains, such as the collision of tectonic plates that result in folding, faulting, metamorphism and the creation of subduction zones associated with volcanic activity and igneous intrusion.

GLACIATION

Glaciation refers to landform phenomena associated with the formation, movement and recession of glaciers and ice sheets. In temperate latitudes such as British Columbia, montane glaciation at higher altitudes is the norm while continental glaciation occurred during Ice Ages like the recent Pleistocene.

VOLCANISM

Volcanism is the eruption of subterranean molten rock (magma) and gasses onto the surface of the planet and includes the production of volcanic landforms and the effects of eruptions and flowing lava on pre-existing surface formations.

COLLAPSE

Collapse is a term that refers broadly to both slow processes of destabilization and erosion by wind, water and ice, as well as rapid processes like rockfall and landslides.

Whether acting as primary or secondary forces, one or more of these processes figure in the creation of each geosite.