Friday, June 29, 2018
Start: Sheep Camp
Stop: Happy Camp
Today is THE day. CHILKOOT PASS Day. THE climb. THE Golden Stairs.
I sleep really poorly and I’m not ready to get up when I hear Phil rustling around about 330am. Of course, don’t forget it’s totally light out. I lay there a bit and then figure I better get going. The Park Rangers recommend a 5am departure from Sheep Camp. We hit the trail just before 5am and I drag myself up the mountain. Wish I felt as good as I did yesterday. I’m working hard and sweating out enough salt to supply a small country. This is all fine until we ascend into the misting clouds. And then it’s kinda cold.
I arrive at a creek crossing to find Neon Man and his lady way up hill from the trail. They’re coming back down the hill and Neon Man is trying to cross the stream. I repeatedly attempt to signal Neon’s lady to show her the trail. She finally sees me and then signals to Neon Man who promptly yells something back to her in anger. Phil and I continue on and I can not contain my laughter and amusement from the situation. Neon Man, the all-knowing gent, went and got himself off trail forcing a harder than normal route.
I throw on my rain jacket for warmth at the Scales. I grab some water and take pictures of all the discarded stampede gear. I change my already saturated super-mega plus tampon. Oh boy, I’m soooo not lucky. I guess it’s time for peak flow. I mean, why would life cut me a break at this very moment?
We eventually hit snow and I’m raring to go. I wait for Phil to throw on his microspikes as I slowly head up the incline. Neon Man and his lady also put on their microspikes. Is it Karma? Is it my subconscious still wanting to mess with Neon Man? Anyway, I end up leading Neon and his lady past the left hand turn in the trail. A shout from above lets us know that we are off target in the thick mist. We go back 15 feet and make the left turn. Phil removes his microspikes as I stow my trekking poles and up we go. The Golden Stairs are neither golden nor stairs, and yet we climb with grace. The nearly vertical boulder field is not too tough; you just got to take your time. Or not. The young, strapping German guys fly by, one in sandals. Near the false summit we see our missing ranger and he’s vague but eludes to some internal agency troubles. Just think, he gets to climb this every day.
After the false summit we transition between snow and steep rock fields. I’ve punched my knee into rocks through enough of these transition zones to be wary. Following steps cut into the snow I come up to the smallest snow bridge ever and I’m like, HELL NO. I try to abandon my route onto the nearest boulder which takes a certain body contortion. I’ve almost got it when I start to slide. It happens so fast that the mind can’t really assess and correct. It’s all muscle and instinct and somehow I stop my fall. When atop the boulder I can feel my right shin talking to me. It’s scraped good but not bleeding. To quote SF Giants baseball announcer Mike Krukow, it’s what you call a “shin-burger.” We push on through one transition zone after another. The wind really starts to pull at me so I know I’m getting close to the pass. It’s 9am and then suddenly we’re there. And there’s more discarded stampede gear as well. We spare no time at the pass as it is very cold at this point. We move to the warming hut but it’s just small and warmed by body heat. Hey, where’s the Mounty? I really thought there would be a Mounty! I kinda bolt to the composting toilet and change out yet another saturated tampon. Why oh why does this have to be happening now?
I sit in the warming hut and eat a bar while I fill out a postcard. They will mail it to us a year from now which is so damn cool. Phil is snacking too and then Neon Man and his lady roll in. Neon Man proceeds to eat peanut butter with what may be a ziploc bag. It’s so close to Phil that my mind starts to play out how Neon Man will get the peanut butter all over Phil. I look down and a chunk of my finger nail is missing. It’s a small price to pay to stop myself from falling. Even though I’ve added yet another layer, I’m still freezing cold. In an effort to keep myself warm I bounce on my toes while I sit. Phil asks me if I’m ok and I say yes but that I need to get moving soon.
We abandon the hut and head down from the pass. It’s snow travel for a mile or more but it’s easy going. Even moving slowly already feels better. We’re pretty much hiking flat now and after taking a picture with my sony a6300 I’m putting my hands back into my trekking pole straps when suddenly I’m on the ground. I fall on my trekking poles which my hands are attached to so there’s no way to catch myself. My knee caps and right arm slam into rocks. With my weak ass t-rex hiking arms, I have to push myself and my pack off of the ground. Phil asks if my phone is wet. Sure enough. My phone was in my back pocket and my butt was in a little water on the trail for who knows how long while I struggled. But it’s still on and seems ok so maybe all is well.
Miraculously my knees still work and we hike a bit farther before taking a break. I eat a bar and pop 4 vitamin I’s to preempt the oncoming swelling. I’m feeling pretty good as we role into Happy Camp. We find a sweet, but tilting, platform with a perfect view of the stream/upper Long Lake. There’s a few sprinkles so we set up quickly before moving to the warming hut. It’s another no stove, only heated my human heat kind of hut. Probably because it’s alpine land with very little firewood around. Neon Man arrives hours later and declares “Oh yeah, this is Canada and we have electricity.” Still not sure what he was thinking with that one as there was definitely not electric heat in this hut.
My phone is glitching and vibrating at weird intervals so I decide to let it rest and don’t write my blog. While I hang out I warm water for a peppermint mocha which really hits the spot. I’m so hungry that I go through my food bag and figure out what extra I have. Only 3 hot chocolate packets because I have to save my dinner for later. I heat water for the hot chocolate and then read my book awhile.
With nearly a liter of hot chocolate in me, I have to venture out for the composting toilet. Then I go back to my tent and relax for awhile, just counting the minutes until it’s a reasonable dinner time. Finally it’s time for dinner but the only seats left are next to Neon and his lady. There’s water spilled everywhere on the table (I guess from a previous hiker) so I go and get my microfiber cloth. Luckily not long after I come back and clean up, Neon and lady head out and we are joined by a new couple from British Columbia. Many of us are on the look out for Mike and he rolls in about 5pm. Amazing!
My phone is spasming but still on. It doesn’t really occur to me that it’s death may be imminent. I bliss out on some ipod music and pull my beanie over my eyes as it really starts to dump rain outside.