Tagged with " chilkoot"
Jul 22, 2009 -

Happy Camp to Deep Lake

Oy. My knees were sore when I woke up at Sheep Camp! I inherited ‘bad knees’ from my dad (who had a knee replacement in his mid-50’s). If you want to get technical, the condition is called ‘chondromalacia of the patella’, which means the softening and degeneration of the cartilage under the knee cap. I try to mitigate my knee pain by watching my weight and keeping my legs strong, but there’s only so much I can do. There was no way to hide the fact that every knee bend that morning was excruciating. Otherwise, I felt surprisingly good and raring to go even though I had slept poorly.

We had a fairly leisurely morning at Happy Camp as we were allowed to sleep in until 8 or so. I was up around 7 and journaled as I waited for hot water to be ready for coffee, enjoying the beautiful landscapes.

Just out of Happy Camp we were treated to an extraordinary sighting: a grizzly bear! Mark declared it his best sighting of a grizzly for this trail and possibly of his career. The bear crossed a ridge we were just about to climb, so we waited for several minutes to give it time to get out of the area, then Mark led us up the ridge yelling ‘Hey, bear!’ every few feet. He was obviously tense, but I was relaxed behind him figuring that he would get eaten first. 😀

When we got to the top of the ridge, we were able to look down to the valley below and there stood the grizzly! It was a National Geographic moment, with the grizzly moving about on grass by a stream with a snowy glacier as a backdrop. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get better pictures of the bear, so you’ll just have to trust me that the brown spot in the relevant pictures are of a bear about the size of a small elephant!

The rest of the morning was pleasant and leisurely hiking that felt like a real treat after the previous day! Lunch was had at Deep Lake, a picturesque spot by a fast moving creek.

More about this section of the trail can be found in my ebook about the Chilkoot. 🙂

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British Columbia, Canada, Travel    1 Comment
Jul 22, 2009 -

The Summit to Happy Camp

You would think that after all that climbing the rest of the day would be easy downhill, right? Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, no, the meanest miles never, ever give up. The rest of the journey to Happy Camp was difficult, involving more snow and more rock fields.

The first big challenge is the snow field after Crater Lake. One false step and you will slide right down into the frigid waters! Snow is a terrain I’m good on and I felt very confident as I slowly worked my way down. The guides, however, mistook my caution for fear and were rather ‘encouraging’ and ‘helpful’. I just shrugged it off as I took one crunching step after another, relishing the familiar footing and still savouring the victory that was the summit.

Even though it was still foggy, it was obvious that we had crossed over into another world. The landscapes began to change very quickly, with more and more greenery popping up around the snow and rocks. There were still no trees, however, as we were well above the treeline.

We had a packs off break about an hour from camp and then trudged on eager to reach the hot meal the guides promised us. Just twenty minutes or so out from camp, one of the guests had an unbelievable accident, something this person should have not survived, much less walked out of with only very minor injuries. It took some time to get going again and I am grateful that we were able to. Someone was looking out for this person!

I don’t know if it was the extra rest, the adrenaline, or just good pacing on my part, but I took point after this incident and pretty much bounced all the way to Happy Camp with energy I must have magically conjured up. When I got a first glimpse of camp, I had to stop for a second and make sure it wasn’t a mirage before whooping. The long day wasn’t over yet as there was still quite a bit of difficult terrain to traverse before we entered the confines of Happy Camp and were able to drop our packs on our chosen tent platform.

Happy Camp was very beautiful, set on rocks and surrounded by snow fields, but I found it to be a lot of work. To get to the ‘kitchen’ and outhouses, my tentmate and I had to cross two streams over slippery rocks. But I sure wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. After a solid twelve hours on the trail, Happy Camp was just that, a very happy place to be!

I had carried part of dinner over the pass, so I quickly set up camp and then went down to the kitchen to give the guys my food sack. They made us some yummy teriyaki noodles with cashews, fresh snap peas, and fresh lime juice. I’m normally a bottomless pit on such treks, but this day I was a bottomless bottomless pit! I have no idea how many calories I had burned since the summit, but my three bowls of noodles weren’t gluttony!

Dessert was amusing. Not sure what time we’d be getting into camp, the guides jokingly packed ‘After Eight’ chocolates for us. They had been in the bottom of my pack since day one and were very smooshed. Giggles and laughs ensued as we tried to separate the chocolates and peel off the wrappings, each method more messy than the last.

The hardest day on the Chilkoot Trail was over and as I journaled before bed while sipping on ginger tea I wondered what challenges lay ahead, certain that I could overcome any of them. After all, I had ‘conquered’ the Pass!

Again, more about this section of the trail can be found in my ebook about the Chilkoot. 🙂

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British Columbia, Canada, Travel    4 Comments
Jul 21, 2009 -

Sheep Camp to the Summit

Because of the risk of avalanches later in the day as temperatures rise on the summit, it is recommended that hikers leave camp very early, no later than 6AM. This meant getting up at 4:30. I was surprised to find out that it’s dark at Sheep Camp at 4:30. I haven’t seen much darkness in the past few months!

The morning was damp an a fine rain began to fall just as we finished packing. We all slipped into rain gear and covered our packs then began the long slog to the summit.

This section of the trail is called the Long Hill, a steady ascent through rock fields that was a lot easier than research would have led me to believe. In fact, long slow climbs were never much of an issue for me during this trip; my training worked! We stopped for a brief break at a section of the Long Hill called the Flats and then pushed on to the legendary Scales. This is where packers would drop the miners’ goods, reweigh them, and up their prices for carrying the articles over the pass. Many things were abandoned at this point and a lot of artifacts remain. I would have liked more time to explore this area, but I did get to poke around even as I scrambled to change clothing, have a snack, pee, and try to see the pass for the first time, which I was unable to as it was ‘socked in’, a common occurrence. A sunny day would have been great, but incredibly lucky; Mark only saw the pass clearly once or twice in his twenty or so times over it. We had ‘normal’ weather, not great, but nowhere near a worst case scenario.

The next hour or so was endless…

We crossed a snow field and then started up the field of boulders known as the ‘Golden Staircase.’ I did not feel very confident, so I was happy to let Mark lead me up what he deems to be easiest path, taking much longer than anyone else to climb as we ascended in a zig zag pattern while others climbed directly. He provided guidance with where to step and occasionally offered an arm to get up a particularly tough section, but I otherwise did all the work myself, hauling a 40lb pack up a 45 degree rock cliff. I even took time to turn around and look down. The climb was hard, scary, thrilling, and oh-so-satisfying. I had such a profound feeling of accomplishment when I got up this section that had terrified me so much!

The top of the Golden Staircase isn’t the top of the pass, however. There was another  snow field, another rock field, yet another snow field, and a final rock field before we reached the true summit. The site is marked with a cairn indicating the border into Canada. During the gold rush, there was a Northwest Mounted Police outpost here, where the Mounties made sure that all arrivals into Canada had their requisite tonne of goods before being allowed into the country.

Even here, there was no rest for the weary as there was still a brief climb up to the warm up shelter, over which flew a welcome sight: a Canadian flag! The warden on site provided us all with hot water for drinks, a much appreciated gesture. I was happy to tuck into peanut butter and honey wraps, then sip hot cocoa, feeling smug, elated, and a bit daunted by the fact that six hours had passed since we’d left Sheep Camp and we still had six hours left to go…

Again, more info on this section of the trail can be found in my ebook about the Chilkoot.

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Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Travel, USA    2 Comments