I just got back from a little over a week in the Yukon territory and wanted to share my journey with my devoted readership 😉
This entire trip came about when David randomly found the Icefield Discovery Camp website and we decided we probably needed to spend too much money getting dumped in the middle of a large mountain range with no escape.
David and I landed in Whitehorse, YT late on the 23rd and the next day we were off into the Kluane (pronounced clue-ah-knee) icefields, in the middle of the St. Elias mountains, and right near Mt. Logan. We took a terrifying tiny prop plane that I was fairly convinced I would vomit/die on/in, but it was a lot smoother than I expected and I even made it the whole ~30 minute ride without puking (also: didn’t die) 😀 😀 😀
The plane landed in the snow next to the camp, we gathered our gear out the back, and then our only means of escape was gone. We were greeted with a blinding sun in the sky and blinding reflections from the snow ($55 glacier sunglasses… WORTH EVERY PENNY). The Mt. Logan massif dominates the view to the southwest, and Mt. Queen Mary and the Gnurdelhorn dominate the view to the southeast.
Camp itself consists of a big kitchen tent, a big gear tent, individual mountain tents, and most importantly, the toilet tent (#2 only, #1 doesn’t get its own tent!). We went to work digging out a site for our mountain tent (read: David dug and I watched) and sweat in the bright, bright, briiiiggghhhttt sun.
We didn’t have a set plan for what we would do each day at camp since many of the hikes around camp have crevasse danger and you need to rope up in a team (a team of 2 is not sufficient!). Luckily we were able to tag along with some of the other people at camp and got out on a few day hikes to pikatak nunatak, the weather station nunataks, and Beautiful peak.
The first objective was pikatak nunatak, which is a fairly steep, corniced nunatak in the direction of Mt. Logan. Distance is very deceptive on the icefields since you can see your objective at all times. At first you think it’s very close and you’ll arrive in no time. Then 45 minutes later when it looks no closer, you’re cursing under your breath and thinking perhaps it’s just a mirage.
After moderate complaining, we finally reached the base of the nunatak and our “team leader” Holly began probing for hidden crevasses. We made it up onto the nunatak and began the short but steep climb. Everyone else went up on skis, but I can’t really ski so David and I walked up the nunatak, continuously punching through to our waists in the slushy snow. Woooops. The view of Mt. Logan from pikatak was worth it, though.
The next day we followed the skiing people to Beautiful peak, a peak with a wickedly steep and narrow ridge that you have to shimmy up with one leg on each side, if you choose to climb up. The girls on skis sailed past us as we trudged our way in snowshoes and I began thinking perhaps I SHOULD learn how to ski….
After an hour or so, David realized he forgot ALL OF OUR FOOD and I could blame him for us having to turn around (in reality my back was bothering me, but we can just say everything was his fault). When the ski girls returned after a successful shimmy up the ridge, I was tres tres jealous of their awesome pictures.
The day after that we were socked in for almost the entire day, and much book reading was accomplished (I read Savage Summit… I recommend it!). In the late afternoon the clouds parted a bit and David and a few others took the opportunity to do ski laps on the Gnurdelhorn.
On the last day we snowshoed over to the weather station nunataks and had lovely views of the mountains to the northwest, and again of the ever-present Mt. Logan. In the afternoon, we heard the subtle yet unmistakable sound of the
deathcraft– prop plane and thus were transported out of our icy isolation and back to quasi-civilization.
We spent the next few days hiking/exploring the area around the perimeter of Kluane, but I’ll save that for Part 2! That’s all for now, y’all!