Bears and Mosquitoes ?
Located NW of Canada, the Yukon Territory is next to Alaska.
Kluane National Park (pronounce Klou-a-nee) occupies the SW corner of the Yukon, and is contiguous with the Wrangell-St Elias NP in Alaska
Mont Logan, highest mountain in Canada (5959 m), is next to the border with the USA.
Point A on the map is the small town of Haines Junction, at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and of the Haines Highway, which border the NP, respectively towards the NW and towards the S.
A few books :
Very few books and guidebooks have been written about that area...
The base :
- ALASKA-YUKON - Moon Handbook (Don Pitcher) : the guidebook which includes the most practical informations about the Yukon. Presentation similar to the Lonely Planet.
- Lonely Planet "Canada" : very few informations.
- The official site of Kluane National Park : http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/yt/kluane/index.aspx, where you will find, among other things, detailed maps and description of trails.
Other books :
- The Duke of the Abruzzi was the first to reach the summit of Mount Saint Elias, in 1897. F. de Filippi told the story of that expedition in a book which was published simultaneously in italian and english, in 1900. The book may still be found... but its price is quite high !
- The (extraordinary !) life of the Duke of the Abruzzi has recently been written by Mirella Tenderini and Michael Shandrick ("The Mountaineers" - Seattle 1997). One chapter is devoted to the ascent of Mount Saint Elias. The other chapters are also extremely interesting : attempt to reach the North Pole, ascent of the Ruwenzori in Africa, attempt to the K2, etc...
- David Roberts wrote the story of the first ascent of Mount Lucania (5226 m), by Bradford Washburn and Bob Bates in 1937 : "Escape from Lucania" (Simon & Schuster 2002). The story of their trip back to Burwash Landing, entirely on foot, is a true epic ! The conditions would not be very different if one attempted to do the same today : things have changed very little...
- Jonathan Waterman re-created the expedition of the Duke of the Abruzzi, leaving Seattle on a sailboat, and approaching Mount Saint Elias from the US West Coast entirely on foot. His book, "A most hostile mountain" (Henry Holt and Company, 1997) tells this story - but he dwells too much on the sailing boat aspect for my taste...
The trip :
- Condor Airline has a direct flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse, twice a week from May 1st to October 31st. The flight lasts 9 hours, and the time difference is also 9 hours. The airline is good, its planes in good condition and its services very acceptable (choose preferably the "Premium Eco" class, more comfortable than "Eco"). If you drive your own car to Frankfurt, don't forget to make an advance reservation of your parking at the airport : the savings are sizable !
- We rented a car in Whitehorse : there is no public transport to the Park. We rented from Norcan/National (pick up the car downtown : free pickup, and lower prices than from the airport).
- We spent the first and last nights in a B&B in Whitehorse : it is a bit less expensive than the motels, but mostly it is an opportunity to meet some local people (there are not many of them...).
- We took our tent with us, and we camped 4 night in the Kathleen Lake campground, 4 nights in the Cottonwood private campground (near Kluane Lake), and 2 nights in the Auriol primitive campsite. In between, we went to a hotel in Haines Junction. The campgrounds are reasonably well equipped (but there is no water in Kathleen Lake ! take along bottles to collect water from the lake : the water is very clean).
The bears ? You will hear much about them... But we saw only one, crossing the road. If you want to camp inside the Park, you have to register (and pay dues) at one of the Visitor Centers. They will loan you a small bear-proof plastic container to store your food. It is recommended (?) to carry a "bear spray", in case a bear would be particularly aggressive...
To take along :
- in 2009, we were allowed to take along two 23 kg bags per person : that should be more than enough.
- a good tent is a good idea : winds may be very strong (but the camping platforms are usually well protected).
- good sleeping bags are also useful : when we were there (2nd half of August), it was quite chilly at night - but it could also be quite hot : the temperature reached 30°C a few days before our arrival !
- clothing should be adequate for a rapidly changing weather.
- we took freeze-dried food from France : the bags are light, and odourless (the bears !).
- we had no problem finding Camping Gaz canisters in a large sport shop in Whitehorse.
- it is best to shop in Whitehorse, but almost anything could be found in Haines Junction (a bit more expensive...).
- take your computer along, if you want to use the Internet : in Haines Junction, the only place where they would lend you a computer are the public library (few business hours, but free) and the Raven hotel (but only if you are a guest).
- if you smoke, bring your cigarettes or tobacco from home : in August 2009, a pack of cigarettes costed 10 €, and a pack of tobacco 20 €. And hide well your tobacco in your luggage : my pipe tobacco was stolen at the airport ! No wonder you won't see many people smoking...
All signs and documents are written in french as well as english (sometimes in german) - but very few people speak french ! But it seems that quite a few people speak german.
Our camping platforms : Cottonwood (left) and Kathleen.
Don't forget to take along a few books !
On the Alaska Highway, only road connecting the continental US and Alaska (via Canada), not much traffic : a car or truck every 15 minutes.
Yes, this huge truck is actually a "RV" : in France, we would call it a camping-car...