Kluane Base Camp
Kluane (clue-on-e), the Southern Tutchone word for "Lake with many Fish", is a rugged and magnificent wilderness area in Canada's Yukon, characterized by high mountains, icefields, and glaciers. It has been recognized by UNESCO as part of the largest non-polar icefield in the world with some of the world's longest and most spectacular glaciers. As such it is has been designated a world heritage site by UNESCO. The area is home to abundant wildlife, including Grizzly Bears and Dall Sheep. We begin this tour with day hikes as we prepare ourselves for the more committed, expedition up Ä'äy Chù, or Slim's River, with a middle day hike up Observation Mountain for the spectacular view of the glacier.
Activity Level Moderately Tough
Group Size Medium
Dates and Prices
*Our dates are confirmed with Parks.Book Now
- Day 1 Pick up and travel to Kluane National Park
After you've had breakfast in Whitehorse, we will pick you up and start our drive to Haines Junction. The Parks Canada Interpretive center in Haines Jct is full of history and information and where we will pick up our permits and receive our Park orientation. If time / weather allows we may also do a short half-day hike on either the Auriol trail or what the locals call Pink Mountain. Accommodation tonight will depend on the local campground status based on bear activity at this time of year. An alternative might be the Wanderer's Inn Hostel with shared bunk rooms.
- Day 2 Day hike to King's Throne
Today we do a "warm up" hike up the King's Throne. The trail has a couple of possible destinations. The climb to the cirque has an elevation gain of approx. 550m and is 10km round trip. Climbing the unmarked route to the summit is 1440m of total climbing and a total of 16km round trip. Views from either location are stunning, overlooking Kathleen Lake and the surrounding peaks of this part of Kluane National Park.
- Day 3 To the top of Sheep Mountain
Moving camp location once more we will travel to Kluane Lake and take our second day-hike up either the official Sheep Creek trail (430m gain) or the Thachäl Dhäl ridge route (880m gain) to the summit of Sheep Mountain. Views are stunning from anywhere on the ridge: Kluane Lake, the Ruby Range, the highway corridor, Mt. Wallace, Kluane Plateau, Outpost Mountain, the Sheep-Bullion Plateau and Red Castle Ridge.
- Day 4 Still in the vicinity
We remain in the area and take another day hike before preparing for the expedition over the next five days.
- Day 5 Journey along Ä'äy Chù, or Slim's River
Time to shoulder the "big" backpack today as we start our journey along Ä'äy Chù (Slim's River) East. This 46km round trip journey along Slim Creek will allow us access to Observation Mountain and its spectacular views of the Kaskawulsh glacier. While elevation gain is not a factor on today's hike; weather and water level play a key role as there are several creek crossings. Sometimes these crossings are an easy, uneventful part of the journey and at others they will require excellent teamwork and the ability to handle really cold toes!! Camp tonight is between 14-15kms along the valley.
- Day 6 Setting the stage for Observation Mountain
Today we cover the final 10.5km's towards Canada Creek our staging area for our climb up Observation Mountain tomorrow. There is a small amount (100m) of elevation gain near the end of the day. When the water level is lower, people have been known to hike along the riverbed. Remember that the English name of the river (Slim's) refers to a horse that sank and was killed in the dangerous 'quick mud', so it's best to watch where you step! Interestingly the Slim's Creek area of Kluane National Park is still active geologically. As recently as 2015 a landslide likely caused by earthquake activity blocked Vulcan creek (a tributary of Slim's Creek) and formed a brand-new lake!
- Day 7 Observation Mountain and Kaskawulsh Glacier
The practice hikes up the King's Throne and Thachäl Dhäl ridge were in preparation for today's ascent up Observation Mountain. A full ascent is a 19km round trip with 1291m of elevation gain! The good news is that the amazing views of the Kaskawulsh glacier don't require reaching the summit to enjoy! The Kaskawulsh glacier is a vast sea of ice covering more than 39,000 square kms. In some areas it is up to 6.5 kms wide. Interestingly the outflow of the glacier is recently famous for being the only modern documented occurrence of "river piracy". The glacier has retreated so much in recent years that it's meltwater abruptly switched direction. Instead of flowing into the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea, the water has changed course and now flows south toward the Kaskawulsh River, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean.
- Day 8 Back out to Bullion Creek
Today we will start are hike back out of the Slim's River valley. Our goal tonight is approximately km 6 near Bullion Creek.
- Day 9 Out of the valley and on to Whitehorse
We will attempt Bullion Creek early in the morning when the water will be lower and hike our last 6kms out of the valley. After driving back to Whitehorse for a well-deserved shower we will meet up for dinner and share stories from our adventure in Kluane National Park!
A complete itinerary along with maps, clothing and equipment list, will be issued upon registration.
Day 0: Arrival in Whitehorse
inclusions and exclusions at a glance
- Transportation from the point of origin and return
- Snacks/beverages on the expedition
- All meals while on the backpacking portion**
- Meal preparation
- All Camping/backcountry fees
- Exceptional guides for entire journey
- Cooking gear/camp stoves/water filtration
- Tents & tarps
- Emergency radio/satellite phone/major first aid supplies
- We can provide sleeping bags, sleeping pads, backpacks, poles for rent
- Transportation to point of origin, transfers, personal equipment, accommodation and food other than included in the itinerary.
- Gratuities are not included. Our guides make every effort to ensure your holiday is all you expected and more. Recognition of a job well done is always appreciated; $10-20/day per guide is recommended.
SEA to SKY will pick up for all expeditions that originate in Whitehorse. Should any problems or miscommunication arise, please email our office and we will forward you the guide team's contact info. (cell number and email address).
GETTING TO WHITEHORSE
Air Canada has daily flights to Whitehorse. Air North has scheduled flights from Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Vancouver. Please check with your travel agent for details.
Whitehorse Pick up & Hotels
The following represent a cross section of available accommodation in Whitehorse. Former clients have stayed at these and have indicated a satisfaction with them. The asterisk [* ] means a budget and clean accommodation. The Yukon Inn has agreed to discount their rate for our clients. Indicate that you will be doing a trip with us and you should receive a preferred rate.
Best Western Gold Rush Inn
High Country Inn
Midnight Sun B&B
[*] Beez Kneez Hostel
[*]Hide on Jeckell Hostel
[*] Family Hotel
This is a rugged hike for some portions. The best boots for this kind of backpacking are solid-able to take rough talus slopes, water proof, and with a full, stiff shank for ankle support. If you get new boots, it is important to break them in before your trip to ensure that they are comfortable and to minimize the risk of blisters. It is also a good idea to bring a pair of comfortable sandals or water shoes for wearing around camp and for crossing streams or other bodies of water.
For a six-day backpacking trip in varied terrain, you will want a backpack with a capacity of at least 65-85 liters, depending on the size of your gear and the type of trip you are taking.
Some key features to look for in a backpack for this type of trip include:
Comfort: Look for a backpack with a comfortable and well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps, as well as a good ventilation system to prevent your back from getting too hot and sweaty.
Durability: Choose a backpack made from strong and durable materials, such as ripstop nylon, to withstand the rigors of the trail.
Weather resistance: Consider a backpack with a waterproof or water-resistant cover or built-in rain cover to protect your gear from the elements.
Load-carrying ability: Look for a backpack with a sturdy frame and good load-carrying capacity to support the weight of your gear.
Organization: Choose a backpack with plenty of pockets, compartments, and attachment points to help you keep your gear organized and easily accessible.
Size: Make sure the backpack fits you well and is the right size for your body and your gear.
It is also a good idea to try on a few different backpacks and load them with weight to get a feel for how they carry before making your final decision.
Hiking poles can be a helpful tool for a rugged backpacking trip, as they can provide additional support and stability on rough or uneven terrain. They can also help to reduce the impact on your joints and muscles by distributing some of the load to your upper body.
However, whether or not to use hiking poles is ultimately a personal decision, and it may depend on factors such as your physical abilities, the terrain you will be hiking on, and your personal preference. Some people find that hiking poles help them to maintain balance and reduce fatigue, while others prefer to hike without them.
If you do decide to use hiking poles, it is important to choose a pair that is comfortable, lightweight, and adjustable to your height. It is also a good idea to practice using them before your trip to get a feel for how they work and to ensure that you are using them correctly.
Tips, or gratuities, are not mandatory. However, please consider what service is actually being given to you. While you might think that the company should just pay the guides better, it is not so simple. We do work in a competitive market, and pay rates are a function of the trip prices. If we could double prices, we would pay guides significantly better. At Sea to Sky, we have some of the better pay rates in the industry, and we are always pushing our competitors to increase pay rates for guides, but there is only so much we can do. Guides are seasonal workers. They shift off of their summer season to winter activities, or fill in with retail work, which is usually little more than minimum wage, often to periods of no work between seasonal jobs. It is a hard job, and wearing on the body.
The guides carry most of the group gear, so they have heavier loads than you have, all for you, because they would not be carrying much of the extras on a personal trip. Your guides are teaching you, helping you through challenges, cooking for you and serving you your meals, providing a safety envelope for you, and if you have a really good guide, they are filling you up with a deeper experience of being in the place you are visiting by telling you about the flora, fauna and history of the place.
So, how much should you tip your guides?
If you ate every meal out in a day, at a good, but low-cost restaurant, you would probably tip between $10 and $15 per day. If you were travelling and visiting a city and ate all your meals out, this is about how much you would tip for the day, low end. I would submit that the guides are feeding you all three meals in a day, AND serving you in so many more ways. That makes $10-$15 a day a minimum consideration, really. 10% to 15% of a trip price has been another rule of thumb that has been used. If your trip price is $2000, then $200 to $300 split between the guides is reasonable, and falls within that standard. Like most humans, guides are motivated when they are recognized and valued.
Your circumstances matter. If you are a student and clearly struggled to put together the cost of the trip, or have other circumstances that limit your ability to tip, guides understand and honour your appreciation, no matter what the size. However, if you have a large income or high net worth and means, a small tip might be a slap in the face. If you have means and you clearly and vocally appreciated the guides and all they did, and then leave a $50 tip after a 7 to 9 day trip, that amount would probably be insulting. If you have a fairly large income or net worth, you likely spend it on higher end restaurants, and maybe higher cost wine, drinks or desserts. You might even give a $50 tip for a dinner meal out-for ONE meal, so just consider your ability to tip and the level of service you received over the whole trip.
The largest tip any of our guides has received from one person is $1,500.00 for a 9-day trip. This was highly unusual, and was because we went way out of the way to replace her boots in the middle of the trail because her boots were falling apart, and this was on top of paying for the boots and their transport out to the trail. That was extraordinary service, and an extraordinary tip. On average, guides usually receive about $75 to $125 from each guest for each guide.
At Sea to Sky, we also split the tips between the lead and assistant guides, and proportionally with any drivers. We have a strong culture of teamwork and both the lead and assistant guides play essential roles for you, so we ensure both share equally in the tips for the trip. Tips are not shared or taken by owners and managers not on your trip, unless you send it separately and specify it is for service before or after a trip.
For any wilderness adventure, "layering" is one of the most critical concepts.
Layering clothing can have several advantages:
Temperature regulation: Layering allows you to adjust your level of warmth by adding or removing layers as needed. This can be especially useful in unpredictable weather or in environments with fluctuating temperatures.
Comfort: Layering can help you stay comfortable in a range of temperatures and activities. For example, if you're going for a hike, you can wear a base layer to wick sweat away from your skin, a mid layer for insulation, and a outer layer to protect against wind and rain.
Versatility: Layering allows you to mix and match different pieces of clothing to create different looks and adapt to different situations.
Style: Layering can add depth and interest to your outfit, allowing you to express your personal style and create a polished look.
Protection: Layering can also provide protection against the elements, such as wind, rain, and cold temperatures.