Last weekend, some friends and I went for a gorgeous backpacking trip in Kluane National Park and Reserve where we completed the 70km Ä’äy Chù (Slim’s River) West Trail in 3 days. The trail follows a wide valley for 22.5km (14 mile) to a primitive camp at the base of Observation Mountain. From there it’s a steep route to the summit where you can have an incredible view on the enormous Kaskawulsh Glacier and the surrounding snow capped peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains.
The trail has a few creek crossings which require a bit of balancing as there are no bridges or stepping stones. Some of the creeks can be difficult to cross in the afternoon or after it has rained. As each day we started hiking early in the morning, we didn’t have any real difficulties to cross them. A Park Ranger told us that on the previous day two groups of hikers had to turn back on Bullion Creek due to high waters.
Crossing Bullion Creek – Slim’s River West
Memorial to a hiker killed by Grizzly in 1996
Slim’s River West – Kluane National Park
Watching the shores of the Slims River
Mosquitoes were very bad near wetland/marshy areas which makes you hike a little faster to cross the area.
Arctic Cottongrass along the Slims River
A good surprise was waiting for us when we arrived at the base camp, we found a young lynx asleep near the outhouse. I spent 15 amazing minutes watching it hunting down arctic ground squirrels in the area. I managed to take some pictures with my Canon 70-200mm, too bad I didn’t carry my 300mm lens with me to better capture this instant… but my backpack was already overloaded with some other photo equipment and the heavy bear canister provided by Parks Canada!
Canadian Lynx – Slim’s River West
Base camp located at the km 22.5 post
Camping with Mount Maxwell in the background
Slims River and its braided channels with Mount Maxwell in the background
The next day we made our way to Observation Mountain, which is supposed to be a 8 to 10 hours hike depending on the weather conditions. We made it in 13 hours including a two hours break on the open plateau contemplating the amazing Kaskawulsh Glacier.
Climbing up Observation Mountain
Mountainside close up
The enormous Kaskawulsh Glacier and the surrounding snow capped peaks of the Saint Elias Mountains.
Crossing Canada Creek – Slims River West
Grizzly Bear tracks – Slims River West