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Glossary of Glacier Terminology

Northeast-looking photograph of a symmetrical, unnamed U-shaped valley cut into the crystalline rocks of the Coast Mountains, Tracy Arm, Tracy Arm-Ford's Terror Wilderness, Tongass National Forest, Alaska. The valley walls are >1,000 ft high and the valley is ~1/3 mile wide.

Hanging Valley

A former tributary glacier valley that is incised into the upper part of a U-shaped glacier valley, higher than the floor of the main valley. Hanging valley streams often enter the main valley as waterfalls.

North-looking oblique aerial photograph of a pair of nested cirques and hanging valleys, located above the surface of the thinning and retreating Bering Glacier. A hanging glacier connects the upper valley to the lower valley. A larger glacier flows out of the lower valley, but glacier retreat during the late 20th century has left its terminus hundreds of feet above the main valley. Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, Chugach Mountains, Alaska.


The current part of geologic time. The Holocene epoch began ~12,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch.

Northeast-looking photograph showing a well-formed sharp-peaked horn on the Juneau Icefield, Tongass National Forest, Alaska. Bergschrunds delineate the heads of the two glaciers located on the southeast and southwest sides of the horn. Note the arete ridge on the west side of the horn.


A pointed, mountain peak, typically pyramidal in shape, bounded by the walls of three or more cirques. Headward erosion has cut prominent faces and ridges into the peak. When a peak has four symmetrical faces, it is called a Matterhorn.

North-looking oblique aerial photograph showing an asymmetrical unnamed horn located in the Chugach Mountains, near Cordova Peak, Chugach National Forest, Alaska. Note the hanging glacier on its near side.

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Page Last Modified: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 11:18:59 PM