Jan 11, 2014 at 1:04 pm #1312008
This is my first post on BPL. Until now, I have been a simple ghost haunting the forums of BPL to find ways to cut weight while backpacking. I first stumbled on the site last spring as I was preparing for a 10 day hike in Kluane National Park.
As someone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors my primary focus with gear has always been function and multi-purposefullness, if that's a word. Living in northern Canada has meant that bushcraft has been my primary focus in regards to skill acquisition over the years. However, I have found that lightweight backpacking blends well with bushcraft as both, at their core, tend to emphasize simplicity, resourcefulness, and skill over needing x number of items to survive outdoors. I learned a lot the first few months of perusing BPL forums and the on-going contributions of various members here helped me dial in my gear and added to my confidence out in the bush.
However, it didn't take too long for me to begin to sour on the BPL forums. After the initial thrill of getting my base weight cut and learning how to make good gear lists I started to view the forums as an extension of our consumer driven society, where the acquisition of gear seemed more important than the act of being outdoors. The final straw for me came sometime, if I remember correctly, around late August, early September of 2013. My girlfriend and I just came back from a day of hiking with our dog. Tired, full (after a tasty salmon dinner) and content I stopped in on the BPL forums to see if there were any interesting threads. One of the members had posted a note stating that there was supposed to be a meteor shower that evening and he may have even posted some pictures to go along with the thread. I was excited to read it, as I generally am with posts that appeal to my interests. But I also found it strange and rather ironic. Here, on a site that purported to be about backpacking, which in my mind is specifically about spending time in nature, a post about enjoying the stars on a clear fall night seemed out of place amidst discussions about cuben-fiber tarps, tents, underwear and stuff sacks. Then and there I vowed to cut ties to a site that he become an almost daily aspect of my internet viewing.
In retrospect, it was wrong of me to bail. Despite my annoyance with the never ending conversations about which windshirt is the lightest and most breathable and discussions about how to spend more money to drop an ounce, I know there are lots of people, both regular contributors as well as silent stalkers who use this forum as motivation to continue their own exploration of the world they live in and as a platform to share their passion for the outdoors. Besides, I learned a lot from the members of BPL as I was preparing for our trip to Kluane. And it'd be a shame not to share some pictures with those who might be interested.
*DISCLAIMER – This was not a lightweight backpacking trip. Though my girlfriend and I were able to cut our base weight to around 16lbs each, the rest of the group were traditional backpackers. We ended up getting saddled with lots of extra gear. The organizer of the trip, a 70 year old lady, has spent 25 years wandering around Kluane National Park with a heavy backpack and I can't blame her for being content with what has worked for her.
KLUANE NATIONAL PARK – July 28th to August 6th, 2013
Rough route description – Big Horn Lake – Kluane Glacier – Donjek Glacier – Atlas Pass to Duke River – Copper Joe Creek to Highway
We chartered a float plane and flew from Kluane Lake to Big Horn Lake, the starting point for our trek. The views from the plane were in itself worth the trip.
We spent our first night camped near the warden's cabin at Big Horn Lake. The next morning we headed off into the netherlands with the goal of reaching the toe of the Kluane Glacier. We were a group of six – five women and myself. Despite the occasional longing for a man to chat with it was pretty inspiring to see five strong women tackle the rugged trek.
Here you can see the Kluane Glacier in the background. In areas where the Donjek river ran along the left bank we were forced to bushwhack through sections of willow, alder thickets, and spruce. It was slow and laborious work.
A view from our campsite on the Donjek River.
At the toe of the Kluane Glacier there were several glacier pools. Despite the cold water we couldn't resist a swim.
We only saw one grizzly bear on the trip, but they were never far away. The only 'trails' that we were fortunate enough to follow were usually game trails. The bears were active and root diggings and berry patches were ripe with scat.
After our making it to the Kluane Glacier we backtracked and began our trek to the Donjek Glacier. We passed by the warden's cabin at Big Horn Lake, did an early morning cross of Big Horn Creek and made our way along the banks of the Donjek River to the glacier. Here is our first glimpse of the Donjek Glacier:
Spot the hiker: This picture gives a good sense of the scale of Kluane. My girlfriend Allison needs a rest. Apparently we have some work to do to cut some weight!
The Donjek Glacier in all of its glory. The toe of the glacier is approximately 7km long.
Apologies for the disturbing photo of my nether-regions, but my first order of business upon reaching the glacier was to cool off. Followed shortly by a glass of whiskey with ice from the Donjek Glacier.
After a night of sleeping along side the glacier and listening to it calve and moan we began the bushwhack to Atlas Creek. We travelled up Atlas Creek, over Atlas Pass, and dropped down to the Duke River
By the time we made it to the bottom of Atlas Pass we were beat. We decided to make camp at the bottom of the pass and wait to tackle it the next morning. Our neighbours for the evening were a group of Dall sheep who made mountain passes look much easier than they were.
Here is a picture of the group making our way up Atlas Pass and then coming back down the other side.
Once down on the Duke river we followed it south, crossed Grizzly Creek and then crossed the Duke to reach Copper Joe Creek. The water levels were high on the Duke and it required careful traversing.
Our last night at camp along the Duke River was quiet. A sense of nostalgia had already kicked in and our trip wasn't even complete.
After reaching Copper Joe creek we had a look back at some of the land we had travelled. In the picture we are looking back at Grizzly valley. The vastness of Kluane National Park leaves the imagine adrift with possibilities. A lifetime of exploring these mountain ranges would still leave many stones unturned.
Tired, dirty, but smiling Allison and I posed for one of the few pictures we have of us together. We were on our way out of Kluane, but as we rounded the corner and spotted the highway, and along with it our first glimpses of civilization for 10 days, we were already discussing which valley's would need more exploration when we come back next year.
Jan 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm #2062492
Nice trip. Kluane is awesome!
Thanks for posting.Jan 11, 2014 at 1:51 pm #2062499
@davidpcvsamoaLocale: East Bay, CA
That's a great trip report and first post. Thank you for sharing your experience. Trip reports like this keep me coming back.Jan 11, 2014 at 1:54 pm #2062500
@cooldripLocale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
Those are amazing photos. More please! And who cares if the trip wasn't light, ultralight, whatever. I'm more interested in what you saw and how it made you and your trip mates feel than what you carried. And as far as the trip leader goes, if she's packing heavy into that place, more power to her! Especially after she's spent 25 years hiking there, she knows exactly what she's doing.
Stick around Travis, there seems to be a renaissance afoot here. A number of the longtime members are of a similar mind to you, and ultimately these forums are what we, the members, make them. I will say that for a first time post, you're off to quite a start!
There will always be gear talk, and I agree it's mostly rehashing the same subjects. At the same time, I can think of a number of folks whose backcountry experience was enhanced by all the gear talk. Even a few folks who can still get into the woods because they lightened up, and a lot of folks who complete hikes and see things they never thought possible. This is what it's all about my friend. You may make what seems a simple, minimal contribution to you, but for another sets in motion a chain of learning events that results in them taking a trip like yours to Kluane. That's a pretty easy way to have a major positive impact on someone!
ScottJan 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm #2062511
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
Do you have to worry about Grizzlies? Bear spray, bells, firearm, just good hygiene?Jan 11, 2014 at 3:09 pm #2062513
@leighbLocale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
Wow, thanks for sharing!Jan 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm #2062530
Thanks for the positive feedback. I'm going to try to contribute a little here and there from this point forward. It's not such a bad crew on BPL!
You make some good points. I do realize the importance that gear can play in making trips more comfortable for people, as well as getting them out to places they otherwise would not go.
I also forget sometimes that not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a place where going out for a hike is as simple as stepping off your front porch and strapping on your snowshoes (in the winter of course). Gear talk can be a great way for those who live in urban centres to stay focused and to plan for trips when they don't have the opportunity to get out as often as they might like. As long as the final goal is being OUTSIDE, it's all good as far as I'm concerned!
Grizzly bears are a constant theme up here in the Yukon. We live in a cabin on Lake Laberge and last year my girlfriend and I ran into a grizzly bear approximately 2km's from our cabin on one of our little day trails. We had a can of bear spray on us and when we saw the bear (who was eating berries about 150 metres off the trail) we simply walked calmly past him while speaking in the same tone that you would to a dog, "It's okay bear, just passing through bear." He watched us walk past and then continued in his quest for berries.
The general rule of thumb (as far as I'm concerned) is to always have a can of bear spray on your person when you are out from Spring to late fall. That's pretty much standard for anywhere you go in the Yukon. On the Kluane trip we were probably never farther than a few KM's away from a bear at any given point. They were down from the alpine and were foraging for berries right in the areas we were hiking.
Since it is such an isolated area, grizzly bears have not been habituated to humans, and tend to stay clear as much as possible. We saw one large blonde grizzly down by the Donjek river on the trip. It was approximately 1km away from us. We spotted him and he spotted us. Though the power of seeing a large grizzly bear close by when you are days away from help cannot be understated, we watched him through the binoculars and he continued on foraging for food, paying us little attention.
Our group carried 3 cans of bear spray between the six of us. Anytime anyone stepped away from the group they'd always take the bear spray with them. I also had a small bear banger set with 3 extra cartridges. I find it a nice security if a bear comes around camp and you want to encourage it to leave without letting it get close enough to require the bear spray. Guns are not allowed in Kluane National Park. Surprisingly (living at a cabin and all) I don't even own a gun and find that 'bear aware' behaviour (ie: remaining calm, making noise in thick bush to avoid surprising the bears, etc) along with bear spray and a bear banger are more than sufficient.
We are also careful to make sure that our cook site is stationed at least a few hundred metres away from our camp and that anything with ANY odour stays out of the tents at night. Bear canisters are required in Kluane, though my feelings on them are mixed.
We never had any problems on the trip, nor have I had any major issues since moving up to the Yukon. Let's hope it stays that way!
PS – I recommend anyone with an interest in grizzly bears to watch 'Edge of Eden' about a man who lives with grizzly bears in Kamchatka, Russia. I've found it to be a valuable tool with which I've framed how I personally deal with being out in grizzly bear country.
TravisJan 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm #2062531
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I've been backpacking a few times in Canada and U.S. Rockies and have pretty much just ignored the issue, but now that I know more, I lean towards not going to Grizzly areas.
I should get bear spray.
and passportJan 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm #2062537
– -K.T.- –Participant
Excellent! Thanks for posting so many photos. Beautiful country.Jan 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm #2062574
@meldLocale: The here and now.
Is the Lake Laberge where you live the place where Sam McGhee was cremated?Jan 11, 2014 at 7:57 pm #2062576
Wow! You outdid most trip reports. Looks like a great trip and the photos make me want to pack up and leave tonight. Welcome to BPLJan 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm #2062578
@stephen-mLocale: Way up North
I am surprised Roger did not censor your "Au Natural" picture. :-)
Great trip report.Jan 11, 2014 at 8:33 pm #2062593
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
– Robert Service
Yes indeed Marc, it is the Lake Laberge from the poem. In Canada, a lot of us had to read Robert Service poems at some time or other in school. Whenever I have friends from outside of the Yukon who aren't familiar with the territory, I make sure to reference "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and that always seems to bring them context. Haha.Jan 11, 2014 at 8:48 pm #2062598
@meldLocale: The here and now.
On one of my first backpacking trips in Boy Scouts this poem was recited around the campfire. I've remembered it ever since. Great place where you live.Jan 13, 2014 at 10:29 am #2062994
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
I keep a bookmark for the BPL Post-Trip Reports for regular viewing. Good stuff like this TR here has kept me coming back for years. Nothing wrong with discussing gear or technology if that's your thing though. We all had to learn this stuff one way or another, and these forums are a great resource if you can look past the occasional troll.Jan 13, 2014 at 10:43 am #2062995
@nickbLocale: Los Padres National Forest
Thanks for posting your TR Travis, looks like an incredible walk. Good inspiration for trips to alpine regions for us desert dwellers. Love the color of the glacier pools; I remember being mesmerized by similar water colors on a few trips through New Zealand years ago.
The Post Trip Reports are by far my favorite part of the BPL forums. I admit that over the years as my kit has been dialed in and I have less urge to tinker with it or change/update things, I've become bored of most of the gear talk.
Would love to see the trip reports and trip planning threads become a larger focus of the activity on the forum. Thanks again for your contribution.Jan 13, 2014 at 10:46 am #2062996
…Jan 13, 2014 at 11:23 am #2063005
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Well done Travis.Jan 13, 2014 at 11:57 am #2063015
Thanks for sharing such a beautiful trip. People can argue for hours about their preference of silnylon vs. cuben, but there's no argument but that this is a great trip post. There's not much left to say.Jan 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm #2063024
Very nice trip report with super photos – thanks for taking the time to post.
It does not matter one iota whether your pack was 'lightweight' or not, the fact is that you got out and safely enjoyed yourself in a place most of the rest of us can only imagine in our dreams.
PS I didn't know the Kluane Glacier was in the Netherlands! :-)Jan 14, 2014 at 11:41 am #2063267
Apart from wanting to share my trip with you good folks at BPL, I also hope that a seed is planted for some of you Lower 48er's to put the Yukon on your trip destination list.
If any of you are planning trips up to the Yukon make sure to hit me up with any questions/concerns/logistical issues you may have. My girlfriend and I also have an open-door policy at our cabin so strangers are always welcome…
Cheers, and remember to GO OUTSIDE.Jan 15, 2014 at 6:40 am #2063443
I could read trip reports like this all day.
The gear talk is a double edged sword. It becomes tedious at times but I am truly thankful for what I've learned here. Being able to go from 10 mile days to 20 has really opened up opportunities for me that would have been very difficult (at best) with a 50lb pack.
I've been secretly planning a trip to your neck of the woods but as it will be in the winter and require advanced equipment techniques (and stamina), I continue to read and learn here. Hopefully in three years I'll be ready.
Thanks for sharing this report. I'm adding this park to my bucket list.Jan 16, 2014 at 3:46 am #2063736
@leadfootLocale: Middle Virginia
Travis, was this organized by you or was it thru a guided service company?Jan 16, 2014 at 5:17 am #2063745
"The organizer of the trip, a 70 year old lady, has spent 25 years wandering around Kluane National Park… "Jan 16, 2014 at 7:08 am #2063765
It was organized by an ambitious and passionate 70 year old lady! Her and her husband are from Northern BC and we met them a few years back through some other friends. She doesn't guide or anything, but as she's getting a little too old for extended backcountry trips I think she wanted to do one more big one before she cut it down to smaller trips. After a few nights spending drinking red wine and sharing travel stories I guess she decided we would be fun to have along so she invited us on the trip. It was just my girlfriend and I and a couple of her friends from BC. There are a few companies that organize trips into Kluane, but I have no first-hand experience with any of the guided tours.
Despite the remoteness, I think it's a trip that can be easily managed as long as you have good navigation skills and are prepared for hard walking (ie: no trails, thick bushwhacking, fluctuating river/creek levels, etc.). There were some days when we were averaging little more than 1km/hr due to the thick bush we had to travel through – those were long days. Travel along the river beds and up the creeks for mountain passes were much easier.
And any travel in Kluane requires that you check in with Parks Canada and provide them with your route and expected return dates. If you don't check in at the end of the trip they'll be out looking for ya.
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