Sunday 30 August 2020

Return to the Mountains: Stage 5 of my Yukon Walk, August 6 to August 30, 1990


After the long crossing of the gentle wooded Yukon Plateau (see this post) I returned to the mountains on a section of my Yukon walk that had the most spectacular scenery but also some of the toughest terrain I've ever crossed. There were no towns north of Dawson City and just one hotel at Eagle Plains so I'd arranged food drops at two maintenance camps on the Dempster Highway, the only road, as I expected to be walking for at least another month. With autumn approaching and knowing I would soon be in the Arctic I had sent a down pullover, thick sweater, warm mitts, gaiters and thick wool socks to Dawson. My pack would be heavier but I would need them all before the finish.

North of Dawson I was looking forward to reaching spectacular Tombstone Mountain and its equally magnificent neighbours. Reaching it was tough though. Easy walking on dirt forest roads gave way to a desperate struggle through dense alder and willow thickets. At one point it took two hours to thrash two miles. Further hard walking in more dense brush and across boulder fields led into the heart of the mountains. Paradise! I camped at Talus Lake, looking across the shining water to Tombstone Mountain itself. 

The four days I spent in the Tombstone area were the highlights of the whole walk. I could have spent many weeks there. But I needed to reach my supply points and keep heading north. The landscape of the rest of the Ogilvie Mountains was still impressive and mountainous, though nothing like the Tombstone Range. The walking was often still tough too as I ploughed through muskeg swamps and black spruce forest. 

Two wildlife episodes stand out from this part of the walk. The first was seeing a grizzly bear and watching it foraging as I passed by on the other side of the valley. Magnificent and exhilarating! Later on I was watching the Ogilvie River when I sensed movement and turned to see two wolves. They were scavenging rubbish left by a horse packing party who had camped nearby. 

Then there was the night of the Northern Lights when I spent  an hour lying on my back oblivious to the cold ground watching great waves of green light sweeping the sky, by far the best display of the aurora I've ever seen.

Twenty days out from Dawson I reached Eagle Plains and settled into the hotel for a rest day. Ahead I could see the Richardson Mountains in the Arctic, the final stretch of my walk. Autumn was here and the first snow might occur anytime soon. 

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, Nikkor 24mm,and Sigma 70-210 lenses, plus 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. Fantastic landscape! And I love the autumn colours. Had the mosquitos already died by that time?

  2. Mostly. A few appeared at sheltered sites.