Chilkoot – August 2007

Just before I left Alaska to come back to Vancouver, I hiked the Chilkoot Trail with seven friends. It was a great time, though rather grueling. We hiked about 36 miles in 46 hours, and this included a 3000+ foot elevation gain. The trail itself is 33 miles, but our 36 included 3 miles spent on the railroad tracks at the end, walking to Log Cabin rather than being picked up by the train. I highly recommend being picked up by the train, if you can time it right.

We started after work on Thursday evening, August 30. We hiked 7.5 miles that first night and stayed at Canyon City. The last couple of miles we hiked was after the sun went down, so we kept on making loud noises periodically to alert bears and other animals to our presence. The next day, Friday, we hiked from Canyon City to Deep Camp – 16 miles of hiking. The hike from Canyon City to Sheep Camp was pretty pleasant, but then we started going up Long Hill, which is… long. When you get close to the top of Long Hill, you have to scramble over some boulders. I cut my hand on one, and I think someone else was injured too. There was a park ranger at the Scales who checked that we had permits and that we were feeling well enough to make it up the Golden Stairs and over the top of the pass. After stopping for a rest and some more water at the Scales, we headed up the Golden Stairs.

All the pictures I’ve ever seen of the stairs are in the winter, when it is a steep hill of snow and ice. It was called “stairs” because miners cut steps into the snow and ice, and “golden” because they had to name it something to keep their minds off how grueling it was to carry their supplies to the top over and over. Since this was the end of August, though, there was no snow on the Golden Stairs; it was just a steep hill of boulders that took us about 30 minutes (if I remember right) to climb. Andy, who was hiking the Chilkoot for the third time that summer, told us about an elderly man who was hiking the Chilkoot with his son earlier that year. He stood up to take a look at the top, lost his balance and fell over backward, but he survived.

It had not been foggy all day, but when we got to the top, we were in the low-lying clouds. We had a rest at the Canadian ranger station (since we were now in Canada), and then continued on. We started to go down in elevation, but it was not as steep as the climb up. For about a mile it was mostly boulders and patches of snow. I’ve never been to the north of Scotland, but the part after that reminded me of pictures that I’ve seen of the north of Scotland: rocky and grassy hills, with mountains on either side. We arrived at Happy Camp at about 5 p.m., and met some people who were stopping there for the night, but we had to keep on pushing to get to Deep Lake. We got there at around 7-7:30, exhausted. In all, we hiked 16 miles that day, with a 3000-foot elevation gain in the first half of the day.

The following day we hiked from Deep Lake past Lake Lindeman and Bare Loon Lake, and the last 3 miles or so of hiking were on the railroad tracks to Log Cabin, where our friend Julie picked us up in a van – and she brought us pizza!

Here are some pictures from the ol’ Killchoot, and some from the rest of summer 2007 in Skagway.

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