Hiking 60 kilometers! Within three days! With heavy backpacks! Humans get really weird ideas! Why it was actually worth it anyways I now wanna report.
For the Kluane National Park, we chose a real heavyweight. A hike over three days, that would bring us far into the park into a glacier valley. To the camp, it was nothing less than 22,5 kilometers, what meant, that we had to carry our heavy camping equipment all that way. An additional weight granted the massive bear barrel, that every park visitor had to use to store his food. So on the first day, we let ourselves register at the visitor center, bought a bear spray in Destruction Bay and prepared our trip on the parking lot. At 2:30 PM we started from our car. “22,5 kilometers, that should be possible. And only a hundred meters of elevation gain, so basically nothing…” we thought at the beginning. Only as we reached the first marker of 2,3 kilometers after quite a while of walking we realized how hard this would get.
The first creek on our way, the Sheep Creek, we luckily could cross over two logs, so we didn’t get wet. But the Bouillon Creek, which we had to cross after 7,5 kilometers, got us wet and cold feet. We brought some extra pairs of shoes for the river crossings, so we got a better grip on the unpredictable riverbed and didn’t get too cold. By the time we found our rhythm and trotted on and on. We actually haven’t had any energy left, but we didn’t give up. On the 17,5 kilometers marker, we read the trail description again, which, to our horror, announced the hardest part of the trail.
But we fought and fought our way up the slopes and then down again and finally arrived at the campsite next to the Canada Creek. The goal was in sight for a long time before, but the valley was so huge, that every hill which appeared to be really close was actually pretty far away.
The storm, which blew out of the valley didn’t make things easier. Big amounts of whirled dust created real sandstorms moving over the glacial forefield. But we did it!
At half past nine, we arrived there at the campsite, cooked some dinner and the just went to bed. We couldn’t even think of the hike we still had planned for the next day and we also didn’t set an alarm either.
We slept until half past eleven on the next morning. Usually, the plan would have been to go up to the Observation Mountain on the second day, but that would’ve meant to hike another 19 kilometers with an elevation gain of 1200 meters. Additionally, there would’ve been tons of snow up there, too. Unimaginable to do that after our exertions on the day before. We decided to catch a view of the huge Kaskawulsh Glacier anyways, so we changed our destination to one of the side moraines next to the foot of the Observation Mountain.
So we crossed the Canada Creek and made our way towards the glacier. At this point, the valley surprised us again with its unbelievably huge extent. We had to cover a distance of another seven kilometers to reach the foot of the moraine, far more than we expected before when we saw it from our campsite. The terrain was a lot more difficult than on the day before and only after a short while our legs got heavy again. On the half height of the moraine, we then gave up. The view was already very good and the weather turned a bit bad, so we wouldn’t have seen that much more from the top of the moraine.
Also, it was just common sense to keep some resources for the next day, where we still had to walk back the 22,5 kilometers. On our way back we changed our route and slid down the slopes of the moraines to make our way back directly over the glacial forefield. This decision really led to another highlight on that day. We got the possibility to walk directly next to the end of the glacier so there was a huge wall of ice next to us. We even found an ice cave that was lit in an amazing blue light as the light fell through the ice.
Absolutely stunning! The cave was big, but all in all, it was only a microscopic part of the whole glacier. I was filled with deep respect! And I was proud that I made it there! Happy and inspired we arrived at the camp again.
The next day, as you can probably imagine, was the blank horror. From the first step on our legs were heavy, it was tweaking everywhere and all our extremities hurt painfully. The nerves were raw! We trotted like being remote controlled, shouted “Eyoh, Eyoh!” From time to time to avoid surprising bears and made our way from waypoint to waypoint. At least the wind blew in our direction now.
In the late afternoon, we arrived at our van. We really did it! We went beyond our physical borders and didn’t give up. That we haven’t seen a bear on our trip was only incidental now, because the experiences at the glacier and the insight about the true force of nature will stay in our minds forever.