White mountain sits SE of Whitehorse about 50 miles part way down a backroad to the small town of Atlin. Atlin Lake is the largest natural lake in British Columbia and stretches north-south for over 90 miles.
After a nice breakfast, an afternoon coffee and errands in Whitehorse we were back on the road arriving at White Mountain around 5 PM. We found a road cut that got us off the main road a few hundred yards and followed a game trail into a meadow overlooking Little Atlin Lake. Quickly throwing up our tent we coasted down the road another quarter mile to the first sport crag of our trip, newly purchased guidebook in hand and with two years up pent up climbing fuel to burn.
White mountain is basically a giant limestone hill with endless potential. Despite this potential the crag we arrived at is currently the “… most developed sport crag in the Yukon boasting 16 routes.” Some of the limestone walls towering above our camp could make the Verdon Gorge blush but apparently the Yukon is sans developers. It’s not like I am running around developing crags myself, but if I was living in Whitehorse with this kind of potential you would bet I would look into it.
The crag was about 15m high in most places and gave Robyn and I a chance to experience limestone for the first time. Although short the routes were stout and seemed to require a third eye to know where they were going at times. This was the perfect first crag for us. Pumpy short climbs that snapped us back into sport climbing reality testing the resilience of both our minds and forearms. All in all we spent one afternoon and one morning at the wall climbing 5 routes grades 5.8 to 5.10b. Maybe we were just getting the hang of it, or maybe it’s because the sun peaked out for just a bit to warm the frozen rock, but the last two climbs we got on were our favorites – both 5.10b routes with crimpy techy moves. With clouds building and no promise of afternoon sun to warm the remaining routes we decided to pack up and continue on toward Watson Lake and the distant mirage of Liard Hot Springs.
Dismantling our meadow camp an older guy came rambling up our roadcut in his pickup, a furry headed dog with hair for eyes panting in the backseat. He assured us he would only be a minute and began collecting stones from the gravel pit, which we later found out were to cover the grave of his 15-year-old recently deceased dog. He was somber but seemed to enjoy light conversation, mostly about Alaska, guiding, and how he had built a cabin and lived in it along a stream somewhere 100 miles NW of Anchorage. He had worked last summer building the road we were parked on and lamented working 10 hour days 7 days a week. He now preferred his lower wage job as a groomer and lifty at the Sima Ski Resort near Whitehorse. After selecting his final stones and pausing in silence he said, ”Yah know? The quartzite in these rocks shines pure white in the sun…” his voice laden with a wispy sense of reflection and satisfaction He then quietly loaded up his truck and drove away.