One last fire by the Lowe River. Ben and I spotted a nice gravel bar at the base of Keystone Canyon just up the road from our house. The three of us built a fire ring, gathered driftwood from last springs floods and cooked quesadillas with beans over the open fire sharing one of the homebrews Robyn and I brewed for Ben and Tasha’s wedding just over a year ago. The following night after a morning tour in The Pass with Benny up Moonlight Basin we cruised to town to snag Robyn from her last day of work and headed to the Fat Mermaid for dinner and reflection. The beers were delicious… almost too delicious and despite arriving 20 minutes before our flight the guy at the front desk had to radio the pilot from the runway to come snag Ben. The plane whipped around and taxied right to us on the tarmac. Talk about curbside service!
Our last morning with the Carter’s was full of all sorts of emotions, but rooted in there somewhere was the firm belief that we would keep in contact and that our paths were sure to cross again soon. This made things easier, and before we knew it we were turning out of 10 mile for the last time, headed up Thompson Pass and gazing out over the mountain tops which appeared so familiar and welcoming.
Passing Glennallen and on through the Tok Cut-off we were beginning to feel that maybe this wasn’t just another weekend trip. Passing frozen Midway Lake we spotted 6 caribou crossing the ice. The snowpack thinned and before we knew it the 50” base in Valdez had dwindled to pockets on north aspects here and there. We passed mountain goats near Slana and Mentasta Lake and were struck by the beauty of the landscape. We setup our first camp about 30 miles from the Yukon border with a great view out toward the 16,000 ft Wrangell Mountains in the distance. That night owls hooted and critters yipped and howled (wolves?). Up for a morning ride, we had the road to ourselves. Not a single car broke the warm sun and silence.
Crossing into the Yukon I can’t help but think “The Yukon? Really? I am really driving down through the Yukon to even get to the top of BC? We are way the f@*^$ up here!”
And man are there a lot of mountains in this part of the continent. Leaving the Chugach in Valdez, right into the Wrangell’s and on to the St. Elias Range, they just keep coming. Arriving at Kluane Lake we found a stellar campsite along the still frozen shoreline, set up camp and collected driftwood for that night’s fire. Not 20 steps from our camp sat the first climb of our trip! A nice sized boulder with one dominant line and a few variations all of which in the VB to V2 range. Robyn laced up first and completed our first climb! We called it “Let it Begin – V1”. Our camp was situated on a forested peninsula jutting out into Kluane Lake. Large views off into the interior to our east were in stark contrast to the snowy St. Elias range to our west. The St. Elias are the highest range in Canada including Mt. Logan at 19,545 ft and 6 other peaks over 16,000 ft. The lower southern slopes were dotted with white sheep and led right to our camp at the semi-arid shoreline of the lake.
This morning we are headed into Whitehorse to pick up some food, a guidebook to the local climbing and to stop off at a coffee shop for some soft couches, and check in with some local contacts. From there we hope to make it to the base of the White Mountain climbing area east of town. All we know to this point is that White Mountain is a small crag with about 20 sport climbs on good limestone near the road. This will mark the true start to our climbing for the trip and we are super stoked! We will check in with you all again soon, the Yukon awaits.