The journey over the Chilkoot Pass requires good hiking boots and fitness. I had neither, so I had to give it a try. By Patrick Kane
“If you git injured or can’t make it up the pass, it’ll cost you ’bout 1,600 U.S. dollars to chopper you atta there,” twangs our morning host, Ranger Rain. She’s a petite and ultra-friendly Skagway resident, aptly named to greet soaked backpackers visiting this Alaskan rainforest town. “Last week, there was so much floodin’, one guy took off all his clothes and tried to walk waist-deep in the water, but turned back,” she says. “This hike is tough!”
Aside from the prospect of dunking my manhood in the glacier-waters of the Northern mountains, I’m as ready for the Chilkoot as I care to be: I haven’t smoked a cigarette in nearly a week and I even jogged for 20 minutes once or twice. I’m a schlub, in other words. To compensate for my lack of preparation, I’d picked up some food and about a grand worth of gear, becoming the latest sucker to join the eco-scenesters who haul around massive packs, headlamps, gaiters, merino-wool socks and “hydration systems.” Yep, I’m the virtual poster-boy of mountaineering.
Ranger Rain wraps up her lecture and asks if we have questions. “So, how far are we going today?” I ask, beads of sweat already forming on my brow.
“It’s about 17 kilometers to Sheep Camp,” she says.
“Oh crap,” I whisper.
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