Countdown to the Chilkoot

This time and day next month, I will be camped out at the Chilkoot trailhead in Dyea, Alaska.

I have cranked up my training and am now hiking several hours a day. My job keeps me on my feet and moving all day, so the length of my shift determines the length of my hike and how strenuous it will be. Tonight was the first time I added a proper pack, weighing in at 25lbs, half of what I was told to prepare for on the Chilkoot. I spent two hours hiking about eight kilometres, including getting halfway up to Crocus Bluff, which is some pretty darn steep terrain!

An average day on the trail will be 10.6 kilometres, with the longest and most difficult day being that of the summit climb. My goal for the next four weeks is to keep climbing the dome with a progressively heavier pack. A few days before I’m set to leave for Whitehorse, the hiking group will be going all the way to the top and I was invited to do the climb with my full Chilkoot pack. The guide as well as a gal at the visitors’ centre who have done the Chilkoot before, say that if I can get to the top of the dome with my pack I will be able to deem myself ready.

Right now, my pack is filled with nonsense–sheets, towels, a 4L jug of water, and cans of food. When I increase to 30lbs, I will start to add my proper Chilkoot gear. My goal is to leave here with full supplies and a pack weighing no more than 20lbs seeing as I will need to add a tent, sleeping pad, cooking gear, and food when I meet up with the group in July. I won’t be able to control how heavy that stuff is, so the only way I can ensure myself a pack weighing less than 50lbs is to bring as little myself. We’ll see how realistic that 20lbs goal is. I backpacked around Scotland for a month in ’98 (um, the more recent ’98, not the ’98 of the Gold Rush! 😀 ) with a pack weighing 30lbs and I was ready for all weather.

Speaking of packs, I’ve gone back and forth over which one to bring with me and have decided that although it is a bit small, I’m going to aim for the same pack I took to Scotland. It’s moulded to my body by this point, sturdy, and lightweight. It was suggested we bring packs with an internal frame so that all our gear could be packed into the bag, but I cannot get used to the weight distribution of such a pack. So, a dry run at getting the pack filled is necessary in case I have to go emergency pack shopping in Whitehorse.

Looking at our itinerary tonight, it does not send shivers down my spine the way that it did back in February, so I’d say I’m making progress!

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  • There is supposed to be an awesome train run in the area as well that is worth the trip. Are you including that in the venture? I saw a piece on in on PBS. It looked breathtaking!!

  • You must mean the White Pass Railway. I will have ridden it by this time in a month. 🙂 We’re taking the train to Skagway!

  • I envy you Rae! On the Yellowhead on the way back from Edmonton last week we passed the turnoff to Highway 43. For a moment I had a strong desire to turn North an join you up there! Someday…. Maybe after I get Mexico out of my system…

  • Mexico won’t happen for me until I get the North out of my system. It’s getting into my blood…

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