Monday, 29 June 2020

On my Yukon walk I reached Whitehorse June 29, 1990.


Ten days after setting out on the Chilkoot Trail from SE Alaska into Canada (see this post) I arrived in Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon and by far the largest town in the Territory.


From the Chilkoot Pass I descended to Lake Bennett, where in the winter and spring of 1897/98 thousands of gold seekers built ramshackle boats while they waited for the ice to break so they could float down the Yukon river to the Klondike goldfields. I continued on foot to the little vilage of Carcross, my first supply point. Collecting the first mail and supplies is always significant on a long walk. It means it really has begun.


Between Carcross and Whitehorse is a range of mountains, outliers of the Coast Range I'd crossed on the Chilkoot Pass. Knowing that beyond Whitehorse I'd be traversing the vast forests of the Yukon Plateau and it would probably be over a month before I could climb above the trees again I planned a route over these mountains, climbing 1773 metre Caribou Mountain and 2020 metre Mount Lorne. Appropriately I saw my first caribou of the trip, a cow and a calf, near the first summit.


Both mountains had rocky sections where some exciting scrambling was required. With my big pack this required care. The views were superb with wilderness stretching out all around. The weather was mixed with showers, sunshine, and a cold wind. I felt exhilarated and excited to be there.


My route beyond Whitehorse was sketchy, the outline depending on where I could reupply and whether I could cross some rivers, the detail depending on the terrain. I might find abandoned trails but some of the time I'd be going cross-country.


There are few places in the Yukon with post offices or shops - indeed, there are few places in the Yukon at all. Only one lay on my planned route between Whitehorse and Dawson in the Yukon, a walk of 600-650km through difficult terrain that looked like taking a month or more. However in Whitehorse I was able to arrange for a tour boat, the Youcon Kat, to take supplies to the abandoned settlement of Fort Selkirk. This split my route into three - I'd only need to carry ten days of supplies at a time. I hoped this would work okay.

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.

2 comments:

  1. I used your book as a reference when I was planning my own route from Dawson towards fort McPherson. I think we both had a similar assessment of the tombstone mountains, which had some of the worst bushwhacking I've ever experienced.

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    1. Yes, by far the worst bushwhacking I've encountered. I remember you were horrified at the weight I carried. I am now horrified at the weight I carried!

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