What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 5

In part 4 of my Chilkoot Trail blog series, I told my story of our climb from Sheep Camp to the Chilkoot Pass. This section was the most arduous of the hike and one of the most physical, emotional and mental challenges I have ever had to go through.

This blog post will focus on our hike from the summit to Happy Camp.

Having finally arrived at the top of the Chilkoot Pass at approximately 4 pm, we stopped at the Parks Canada warming cabin and warden station where we were finally able to eat a hot meal, change out of our drenched clothing, warm up and rest for a little while.

We had arrived very late as we still had another 8.4 kms (4.0 miles) before we could lay our very sore bodies down at our next camp. I would have opted to camp at the shelter for the night, but there were signs prohibiting camping. We had also spoken to a park ranger earlier in the afternoon and had informed him of our health conditions, but that our plan was to reach Happy Camp that night. We wanted to avoid any international search parties sent out if we didn’t arrive.

EPSON MFP imageSomewhat rested, we headed out (it was now snowing and still howling) and started descending. I was very surprised at the number of snowfields that remained this late in the summer season. We didn’t have the right equipment to hike on snow and ice, so consequently we slipped and slid down the snowfields, but we miraculously all stayed upright. I found hiking down the mountain very challenging because of the snow, ice, and a shift in body weight to negotiate the descent. All of these factors added a lot of pressure on our legs, knees and ankles.

We finally arrived at Happy Camp at 11:30 pm, completing a 14-hour hike (minus an hour or so) with a 25-pound pack. All we wanted to do was to get out of our wet clothes and eat a hot meal. Unfortunately the propane was out, so a hot meal or warming ourselves near a heater was out of the question.

After resting a little, then changing into whatever we could find that was less wet, we found the strength and courage to face the weather to set up our humble accommodations for the night. Due to the very strong winds, we decided it would be safer to stay in one tent. I am thankful we did, as the wind was so strong that it pushed the sides of our tent up rolling us into the centre.

Needless to say the hike over the summit from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp was quite frightening, but I was grateful that we were safe and had succeeded in climbing the Chilkoot Pass – a day I would always remember. As I tried to relax from the challenging day, I started thinking about the decision we would have to make tomorrow which would impact the rest of our trip.

To be continued…


So what did I learn?

  • Allow others to support you when you require it; then you support them in their time of need.
  • Dig deep within yourself and find the strength you need to put one foot in front of the other – others are counting on you.
  • When you can’t lead for whatever reason – that’s okay, others will step up to the challenge.
  • Allow others to shine and lead.
  • I am strong, resilient and determined.
  • I realized I did not know much about first aid or pain management. So as a leader if you’re lacking required knowledge or an important skill, commit to doing something about it.