What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership


Hundreds of miners climb the Chilkoot Trail.

This year, I had the pleasure of spending the Christmas holidays with my sister and her family in Whitehorse, Yukon. I have visited Whitehorse many times and I am always in awe of this City – the beauty and ruggedness of the land; its hardy and adventuresome people, and its amazing history.

Reminders of the Klondike Gold Rush are everywhere. I always ask myself, what was it really like during the Gold Rush with thousands of people uprooting their lives and travelling long distances with great hopes and dreams of striking it rich?

The strength, determination, perseverance, and just plain stubbornness it took for those miners to cross the rugged terrain to stake their claim was quite an incredible feat. I know that first hand as I hiked the Chilkoot Trail in 2006 without the required ton of goods and equipment.

You may have seen one of the famous pictures of the Gold Rush era – that of a long line of men transporting their belongings over the summit of the Chilkoot Pass. It would take hours for someone to get back in line should they have the misfortune of falling out of line.


Chilkoot Trail Mail – Click for a full map.

Why am I talking about this? Well, during my visit this past Christmas, I had a chance to reminisce with my sister and a friend about our hike of the historical Chilkoot Trail – a 53 km (33 mile) of rugged Northern wilderness that tested thousands of gold-hungry dreamers.

We shared laughter and stories while watching a video that I had shot during our journey for the first time. We looked at photos of our excited and nervous faces at the beginning of our trip, our exhausted faces and bodies at the end of each day, and the rugged beauty of this very special environment.

The footage and the photos reminded me of some of the emotions I felt gazing upon some of the most beautiful, rugged, and pristine environments in Northern Canada – humble in the face of my own insignificance, and very much in awe of Mother Nature – her strength, power and beauty. It wasn’t lost on me, however, that this was serious business. We were not at a theme park where a customer service representative was just next door. We could get in serious trouble fast and would be at the mercy of the mountain.

We also talked about what we learned about ourselves – the need to summon up the strength and courage to keep putting one step in front of the other despite the pain we felt, for example.

I know for a fact that I learned a lot about myself on this journey – things that have helped me enormously in facing other big challenges in my life.

So in this new year of 2015, I thought I would look back at this challenging journey and write about   some of the greatest lessons I learned on the mountain and the impact it had on me.

I greatly look forward to reminiscing with you about my journey on the Chilkoot Trail in this new blog series.

Marielle Gauthier supports individuals to live their extraordinary lives by facilitating positive change.

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