What the Chilkoot Trail Taught Me about Leadership – Pt. 6.

Trail signIn part 4 and 5 of my Chilkoot Trail blog series, I told my story of how it took us 14 hours to hike over the summit from Sheep Camp to Happy Camp. We endured miserable weather throughout the day – cold, rainy and very windy.

At times, especially hiking up to and down from the summit I was quite frightened as I was afraid we would either be blown off the mountain or slip careening down the mountain. Luckily, neither happened. We arrived into Happy Camp exhausted, cold, wet and hungry but at least we we’re safe.

In this blog, I am going to talk about the decision we had to make that would impact the rest of our trip.

Morning finally came after a fitful night with pelting rain and gale-force winds that beat the sides of our tent causing it to shake violently. Also keeping me awake was whether or not I could continue due to my physical injury. I was conflicted between wanting to finish the hike and not wanting to cause further and perhaps worse injury.

As we left our tent, we were very thankful that it was still in one piece. We made our way to the communal hall so for breakfast and discuss our plans for the day – who was going to continue and who was going to go home.

It would take us another three days to hike the remaining 13 miles / 20 km to Lake Bennet where we would catch a train back to Skagway and our vehicle. If we missed this train we would have to wait a couple of extra days for the next one. We had to make a decision at this point.

I was honest and said that I was in a lot of pain as my knee and now ankles were very swollen, decreasing my strength and stability. I did not want to slow them down nor put us in a dangerous position where I wouldn’t be physically able to continue.

My sister was also unfortunately feeling the pain of her injury and didn’t want to risk further injury.

So my sister and I talked and we both agreed that our hike ended here at Happy Camp.

Waiting for chopperWe strongly encouraged our hiking partner, Michelle, who was absolutely well enough to continue on, to join another party of women who we’re leaving in a few hours. Michelle flatly refused and said no, that we had made a pact at the beginning of the hike, that we we’re in this together, so she was coming home as well.

The only way off the Chilkoot Trail and out of Happy Camp was by calling an airlift – an expensive helicopter ride. The Parks Canada Warden chartered a helicopter to come and pick us up later that morning.

As much as I felt relieved that I was leaving I was also very disappointed that I wasn’t going to finish the hike. But I knew that was my ego talking and I knew that this was the best decision for me.

In my heart, I knew we had accomplished what we had set out to do – to climb the Chilkoot Pass. I am definitely proud of having been able to accomplish this. And we did get to see the Yukon’s beautiful, rugged and awe-inspiring pristine environment from a unexpected vantage point.

I found some footage of Happy Camp, Yukon and our helicopter ride. Have fun viewing the videos.

So what did I learn?

  • Be proud of what you accomplish even if you don’t quite complete what you set out to do.
  • Don’t let your ego dictate what is right for you – find your courage and voice what you need despite the feelings of failure that your ego is screaming at you.
  • Ask for help when you need it – let others in – you don’t need to do things alone. Human beings are hardwired to want to help out.
  • Don’t leave your friends behind – honour the covenant or agreement made.
  • Encourage others to meet their goals.
  • I am strong, resilient and determined