Friday 19 June 2020

On June 19, 1990, I started my walk through the Yukon Territory

On the Chilkoot Pass

On June 19, 1990 I stood on the windswept banks of the Taiya River in SE Alaska. Here, where the river meets the arm of the Pacific Ocean called Taiya Inlet, once stood the town of Dyea, the starting point for thousands of gold seekers heading for the Klondike in 1988. From Dyea they hauled goods and equipment up to the Chilkoot Pass, where they entered Canada, and then went down to Lake Bennett to build boats and float down the Yukon river to the goldfields. 

Turning away from the coast I took my first steps on a walk that would take me 1,000 miles through the Yukon Territory. I knew little about the country ahead as there were few sources of information.

For the first few days though I would be following the 53km (33 mile) Chilkoot Trail, which follows the route of the gold seekers to Lake Bennett. After that there would be no marked trails, indeed, few trails at all. The journey really was into the unknown and I wondered just how feasible it was.

All that lay ahead as I left Dyea and followed the trail into dripping rainforest beside the raging river. High above glacier-clad mountains rose into the clouds. The last of the winter’s snow still lay up there too and I knew I’d be crossing much of it as I climbed to the 1067m (3,525 foot) pass.

Along the Chilkoot Trail there are campsites, some with cabins. As there are bears here (as there would be the whole walk) I used these for cooking and eating and gear storage, so I didn’t have to hang my food. I slept in my tent. 

The weather was mixed, with some heavy rain, brief bursts of sunshine, and gusty winds. The climb to the pass was steep, the terrain a mix of rocks and snow. 

The clouds were streaming across the sky as I looked into Canada for the first time. The journey had begun.

I wrote a book about the walk. It’s long out of print but I expect there are second-hand copies around.

Photographic Note: I carried two SLRs, the Nikon F801 and FM2, plus Nikkor 35-70 zoom, Nikkor 24mm and Sigma 70-210 lenses, and a Cullman tripod. Films were Fujichrome 50 and 100 slide ones. The total weight with padded cases was 4kg. To digitise the slides I photographed them on a lightbox with my Sony a6000 with a Sony E 30mm macro lens.


  1. Very cool. Alaska is wild as can be. I think my fear of grizzlies will probably keep me from exploring there much in the future. Although some would say that the habituated black bears here in the Sierra are even more dangerous.

    1. The chances of even seeing a grizzly are low. In my two long solo treks in grizzly country (Canadian Rockies & the Yukon), totalling 2,600 miles, I only ever saw 4 of them. There are far bigger dangers!

  2. Inspirational Chris. I've sourced two of your out of print books on Amazon, and they're waiting for me back home to read.