Back in 2003, inspired by the reports of ski traverses in this area, I became enamoured with the idea of a hiking route from the Haines road in BC to the Yukons Wheaton River valley.At the time, Google Earth or other such satellite image based route planning aids weren't readily available, so my research was confined to anecdotes, 1:50,000s and ground-truthing various portions of this route. I had heard of others starting and/or finishing their ski trips at Kelsall lake on the Haines road, but summer experiences in the area had convinced me that the bushwhacking in the vicinity would more miserable than not. In the end, a route was pieced together from the very headwaters of the Tatshenshini river where it crosses the highway, along the BC side of the Coast range to the headwaters of the Kusawa and Chilkat rivers, to the headwaters of the Takhini river, then to the upper Primrose river (on the maps labelled Silt Lake) finally ending at the Wheaton river in The Yukon. Its an in-obvious route, deviating from the winter route to avoid glacier travel, yet still staying as high as possible to enjoy the alpine travel and avoid as much bush travel as possible.
In 2003, 4 of us and 3 dogs started up the Wheaton river horse trail in early August to attempt this crossing from the West end. The upper Wheaton river had a wildfire though it back in the late '90s, and at the time of our trip, the burn was relatively fresh with not much fallen debris. In 4 days, we made it into the upper reaches of the West fork of the upper Takhini river. The final day bashing up the Takhini as well as route uncertainty and dwindling food convinced us to retrace our route back to the Wheaton, tails between our legs. It wasn't a wasted trip however, as much was learned with respect to old animal and horse trails and where best to access them.
The following summer of 2004, Michelle, Malcom Campbell and I were dropped off on the Haines road near where it crosses the Tatshenshini river (more of a creek at this point). We had incredible weather save for one short storm in the pass from the upper Chilkat river to the upper Takhini. We made it to the upper Takhini valley in 6 days of glorious, sunny alpine wandering. Unfortunately, our dog Tua decided to cut her leg open on a sharp Granite sliver while descending down to the upper Takhini, where Michelle (a paramedic) put in 20 stitches. It was a bad enough injury that we had to carry the dog down the Alder and Willow choked West arm of the Takhini, up the East arm, over the high pass to Silt Lake, and down to Primrose lake in two and one half days to try and get there to meet a floatplane that we knew was bringing in acquaintances to hike in the area. We literally ran the last kilometre as the plane was landing on the lake. We managed to catch the back haul to Whitehorse to get the dog to the vet for antibiotics but it cut short the full trip out by two days.
The idea that we didn't actually complete the whole thing rankled, even though we had physically traversed the whole route in different trips, so in July 2013 we drove over to the Haines road to hike it. Again. Well, it rained all the way to the Haines pass with the rainfall in the area so heavy, and forecast to remain so, that we turned around and headed home. The weather did relent after a few days, and to salvage some sort of trip, we flew to Little Duff lake and hiked out to Primrose lake. Shortly after this trip I had heard about another groups successful traverses of the route earlier that summer. See Colin Abbotts great write up here . In subsequent conversations with him, he also hadn't heard of anyone else hiking the route (social media not being as active then as now). Of note, while they ended up on the same route that we had used previously (its pretty much the only choice), they elected to start at Kelsall lake. Their images of the vegetation made me glad we had opted for the upper Tat start. They experienced awful weather, but carried on regardless. But they're tough as nails so that helps.
In the intervening years, I've explored many of the sections of the route on various trips, but I'd yet to have completed it in one push, and while its no Ultima Thule, it still was on the must-do list.
Enter 2021, and a group of us: Mandy McClung, Karen McColl, Michelle and myself, were looking for a good summer trip. I suggested we do this one. Or at least try the bastard. Again. So once again we sallied forth to the Haines road for a drop off. This time, with no monsoon-like conditions.
Day 1: Haines road to upper Tatshenshini. Under lowering skies, we left the road and headed up the Tatshenshini river, which is more of a large creek at the point. Some Alder/Willow patches near the highway, but mostly nice alpine strolling. There is a pleasant tarn near the pass at the head of the valley that makes for an idyllic camp.
|Alpine lake at head of Tatshenshini|
|Upper Blanchard river 2021|
|Faerie meadow camp 2021|
|Headwaters of the Chilkat 2013|
|From the pass over to the Takhini 2013|
|Crossing into the Takhini 2013|
|Looking into the West fork of the upper Takhini 2021|
|Gravel knoll camp 2013|
|Embracing the upper Takhini 2013|
|Old hunting trail upper Takhini 2013|
|Wading the upper Takhini 2013|
|Upper Takhini 2013|
|Granite ledge camp, upper Takhini 2013|
|East fork horse trail 2021|
|East fork upper Takhini 2021|
|Hunters camp 2021|
|North end of Silt Lake 2013 with Primrose beyond|
|Silt lake with Mt Foster to South|
|Primrose lake 2021|
|Upper Wheaton horse trail 2021|
|Upper Wheaton horse trail 2021|
|Esker camp at the head of the Wheaton|