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Hiking Chilkoot Pass – Our Journey

Posted by on August 23, 2017

So our adventure of hiking Chilkoot Pass is over and we’ve finally recovered. It was such and amazing hike! I wanted to tell you about it and share some pics, but I took so many, I only shared a few here and the rest are on the Facebook page!

Hiking Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

I’ve shared it a couple times on the Facebook page, but wanted to share this here with you too. My cousin (who is the owner/ operator of Doggy Decadents) wrote this about our hike.

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“Back home and relaxing after 6 days out in the wilderness hiking the legendary Chilkoot Trail. I have to say it was one of the coolest, scariest, most exhilarating and exhausting things I have yet to do. It’s definitely up there with when I ran Iron Dog Trail Class back in 2012. To be out there surrounded by the history and artifacts of the Klondike Gold Rush was truly amazing and humbling. Thinking of how many trips back and forth these stampeders had to make to get their ton of goods hauled all the way out there and to the Summit. I did envy the fact that many of them made the trip in the winter and were able to haul their supplies up the frozen river on sleds pulled either by themselves, horses or teams of dogs.

Chilkoot Pass Trail - IdlewildAlaska

I swear that entire trail is designed to kill or seriously injure you if you so much as stumble, slip or step on a loose rock. Seems like there was always the possibility of tumbling down a ravine to the raging river below or slipping on a rock and falling back down the hill of jagged rocks you had just climbed over. As much as you want to enjoy the scenery you are forced to spend much of the time staring at your feet to make sure one of the aforementioned slips or trips doesn’t happen to you.

Hiking Chilkoot Pass, Alaska to Canada - IdlewildAlaska

Our entire journey was blessed with (or cursed with depending on your view) blue skies, blazing sun and 80-90+ degree temperatures. Great for laying out on the beach. Not so great for hiking… My cousin Amanda (who I did this hike with) and I are both sporting some pretty amazing sun burns and awesome tan lines that will be impossible to even out. Then there’s the bugs….. In all the blogs and stories I read and YouTube videos I watched, no one EVER mentioned how bad the bugs were! From biting flies who laughed at your attempts to cover yourself in bug spray to the swarms of mosquitoes that threatened to carry you off. They were a constant source of misery until we were on day 4 heading out of Happy Camp. At which point they seemed to just magically disappear (apparently Canada sends all their bugs to us). Thank GOD Louie (Stacy’s husband) talked me into taking the Thermacell with me. Would fire that up at our tent site and could at least thin them out a little so they weren’t filling your tent every time you tried to get in or out.

Hiking the Golden Stairs, Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

There’s people sitting at the top of the Stairs in this pic…

Chilkoot Pass – The Legendary Golden Stairs

Let’s talk about the Golden Stairs. The horrible, ugly, terrifying Golden Stairs….. After about a 4 mile hike out of Sheep Camp up Long Hill (I kept changing the name of this hill the further we went up from Long Hill, to Never-ending Hill, to Eternal Hill, to Hell Hill), you suddenly come up over a little rise and see rusty piles of artifacts strewn about and realize you have made it to the Scales. Then, you glance up and realize the Valley you have been following has ended and there is nothing ahead but sheer walls. THEN you realize you are looking at the Golden Stairs and you heart sinks a little. Pictures do NOT do it justice! They claim it’s a 45 degree incline, yeah bull crap! Maybe in the winter when there’s a gentle snow slide to go up! This slope looked damn near vertical and it was so unbelievably tall AND nothing but huge boulders!! You could see tiny dots of color on the slope that you then realized were people.

Golden Stairs, Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

We decided to take a bit of a rest at the Scales and have a snack before taking on that climb. After a bit of a break, up we go! As we head across the flat section you can hear water underneath you under the rocks. Not like a slight trickling, but a raging river only feet below you. You keep going trying not to think about the fact that water erodes rocks and that you could possibly collapse into that river at any moment.

Chilkoot Pass - Top of the first false summit looking back down at the Scales - IdlewildAlaska

Top of the first false summit looking back down at the Scales.

It’s around 11am when we start up (if I remember right) and the sun is over the mountains and beating down on us on our right side. The rocks are sharp and starting to get hot so I opt to wear my gloves. There is no “path” up the slope, you just pick you way up whichever way you can find. At one point, we decide to make our way to the far left side because there doesn’t seem to be as many big boulders over there and quickly find ourselves in a loose scree slope. We decide against that (as anyone who has slide down in scree before will understand) and make our way back out to the boulders. There is really no spot to stop for a rest other then maybe leaning your pack back against a boulder and taking some of the weight off your legs and shoulders for a brief minute to catch your breath, but the mosquitos quickly push you on.

Heading toward the 2nd false summit. I think there were 3 or 4... - Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

Heading towards the 2nd false summit. I think there were 3 or 4…

After close to an hour of scrambling, we reached the first false summit. We stopped there for a rest before pushing on. False summit after false summit, we FINALLY made it to the top! We trudged our way a bit further to the ranger station and shelter where we ran into the 2 guys who had started up before us. They looked how we felt, hot, tired, and miserable. We decided to break there for about an hour and rehydrate and inhale some snacks.

Finally! The top of Chilkoot Pass looking back into Alaska before crossing into Canada. - IdlewildAlaska

Finally! The top of Chilkoot Pass looking back into Alaska before crossing into Canada.

The Ranger who was there informed us that her thermometer was reading 115F in the sun and 91F in the shade! We found out later that she made the 2 groups that came up behind us stay there for the night. One member of the one group was suffering from severe heat exhaustion and the other group made the Summit so late in the day she didn’t want them pushing on another 4 miles to Happy Camp. We also found out later that several hikers had to be rescued off the mountain due to heat stroke. We are probably some of the very few that have experienced those kind of temperatures going up the mountain.

Top of Chilkoot Pass, looking into Canada - IdlewildAlaska

Top of Chilkoot Pass, looking into Canada

For whatever reason leaving the Summit, I thought we only had 2 more miles to go before Happy Camp. I knew it was more but maybe the heat was messing with my brain because I left there with “only 2 more miles left!” going through my head. After about 2 miles, I realized my mistake. At this point we had the sun directly behind us and just beating down on us. There are no trees this high and no place to find shade. We would find ourselves pressed up against rocky outcropping trying to get as much of ourselves in the shade as we could for a few minutes of rest.

Hiking the Chilkoot Trail - IdlewildAlaska

Thankfully we came across a small, cold pool of water that offered some shade as I was starting to get light headed and seeing black spots in my vision. We filled our water bladders and kept going after a quick 15 minute rest. We were exhausted yet desperate to reach camp, but the trail just kept endlessly stretching before us. Everyone says it’s downhill after the Summit. This is a lie! You are always going uphill, then down, then up again! It’s some sort of cruel joke! When Happy Camp came into view I could have cried. We had been on the trail that day over 11 hours and were just done… I had to force myself to eat dinner that night because all I wanted to do was lay down and sleep.

Hiking the Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

Leaving Happy Camp

When we left Happy the next morning, we left just behind another group of hikers- Russ, Trudy, and Heidi. Russ was concerned about us hiking by ourselves because we had been warned of a bear hanging out in the next stretch of trail. So they ended up adopting us into their group and we hiked with them the remainder of the trip. They are all from Alaska, so we shared hunting stories and any animal we saw we talked about the best recipes to use to cook said animal. (You find yourself talking about food a lot on long hikes like these. Lol)

Hiking the Gorge - Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

When we arrived at Lindeman City, it was around 80 degrees (in the shade!). We dropped our packs in a camping spot, threw our food in a bear box, and headed straight into the lake. Yes, INTO! Glacier-fed Lake and it felt AMAZING! I did the best I could to scrub 4 days worth of sweat, dirt, bug spray and sun screen off myself. Russ, Heidi and Trudy then joined us and had shampoo so I was able to even wash my hair! The Rangers had a dock nearby for their boat they take across the lake, so after swimming we laid on the dock and dried out. It was wonderful!

Hiking Chilkoot Pass Trail - IdlewildAlaska

 

The next day it was off to Bennett and the end of the trail. Of course it was another cloudless, hot sunny day and at one point we were hiking through sand and it felt like we were in the friggin’ desert! When Bennett came into view I was almost in tears. Not because I was overcome with emotion that I had done it. But because we were done!!! No more putting on a heavy pack and hiking!

Bennett Lake, Chilkoot Pass - IdlewildAlaska

Our train wasn’t until 3pm the next day, so pretty much everyone just went swimming and sat around in the shade and talked about the glorious food we were going to eat when we got back to civilization. When the train arrived the next day everyone cheered! It was a sight for sore eyes. They loaded all us smelly hikers in separate rail cars from the tourists and it was a 1 hour 45 minute train right through White Pass. Hopped of the train and straight to the airport to catch our plane back to Juneau. We took showers and ordered and devoured some Dominos pizza and cheesy bread and slept in a real bed for the first time in 6 days.”

White Pass Yukon Train - IdlewildAlaska

It was such an amazing trip in so many ways. We’ll be talking about many amazing memories for many years to come! I’ve got sooooo many more pics to share! Hop on over to my Facebook Page to see all 300+ of them!

Want to read another perspective? Paul and Dee were fellow hikers that we got to know the last couple days at Bennett Lake. They blog over at 2 More Miles, which is all about all the awesome through-hikes they do!

Hiking Chilkoot Pass - Read all about our hike from Skagway, AK to Bennett Lake, BC, Canada - IdlewildAlaska

 


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7 Responses to Hiking Chilkoot Pass – Our Journey

  1. kelly

    Wow ! Absolutely beautiful, looks like it was a challenging hike , such beautiful scenery .

    Thanks for sharing !!

  2. Deborah

    Thank you for sharing your adventures!

  3. Diane Chandler

    Love love your pictures… only because I was too dam hot and exhausted to take our own. We were one of the two groups that stayed at the summit due to my ex getting severe heat stroke. He ended up getting a boat assist out of Lindeman to Bennett but Danielle and I perseveered and made it through to the end. Definitely a life changing experience. Wonder how Paul’s ankle faired as he twisted it pretty bad. 🙂

  4. Sue

    You guys are my heroes. Sounds like a harrowing trip but very beautiful.

  5. Peter Salmond

    Did the Chilkoot Pass five times in all, it brought back many memories as I read your story. Last time I did it, it was with our daughter at her graduation, my wife and our 9 year old son. They all did so very well, I was so proud of them.

  6. Laura

    This was an amazing accomplishment, one very few people will ever try. Congratulations and keep on hiking! I hope you try to publish your account in the Alaska magazine.

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