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Pilots Peak (Mt Vines) Hike – Tombstone, Yukon
On my way back from Inuvik, I started to look for hikes to do on the way. It is true that in theory, one can stop anywhere along the Dempster highway and embark on a hike, as long as one can find a place to park. But without really knowing the area, I preferred to stick to the hikes described in my book.
After hesitating a moment, and after missing the start of some routes, I opted for Pilots Peak (Mount Vines) at Km 107 of the Dempster Highway, at the northern edge of the Tombstone Park. Parking is easy as there is access to the river that dates from the construction of the road, the length is reasonable and difficulty within reach 🙂
My goal was to reach the summit at midnight to see the midnight sun over the area. I arrived too early at the trail head, so I waited in the car for a good time to start hiking. It was during this time that I read the description of the route more in details and I realized one must cross the river on foot … but not on a bridge, feet in the water. It is said in the book, that depending on the level of the river, it may be necessary to take a boat (you need to have it with you of course). At this location the river is very wide but shallow apparently.
I hesitated a little, but I was already there so I thought I’d give it a try. I went to take a look at the river and she seemed rather low. You could see small islands everywhere, a lot of rocks, and snow patches.
At 9pm, I started hiking. It took me 30 minutes to cross the river and I had twice the water up to the knees. Fortunately, the current was not too strong. Then, it takes about 35min to cross a tussock plains, to reach a mini forest along a stream. Going up the stream, the slope is gentle and we come to a hill covered with shrubs and tussock. Reaching the top of the hill takes another 1:30. You are then at the foot of the peak and this is where I wondered how I was going to be able to get to the top!
But already the view is awesome! It overlooks the whole valley where I arrived from and the one on the other side of the hill.
I confess that I almost stopped there and be content with that view … but the desire to go beyond my limits, physically and/or mentally, and probably a bit of self-esteem, motivated me to continue.
At to 1/3 of the climb, it became increasingly steep and rocky. It was getting really difficult to keep a good balance with my backpack. So I let my backpack and my hiking sticks on the ground, took only the minimum in my pockets and I continued. I had to help me with my hands for most of the rest of the climb. And finally, the top! My timing was pretty good: I arrived just after midnight 🙂 And the effort was well worth it! The view is breathtaking, 360 degree of mountain chains, rivers and lakes as far as you can see. I have rarely seen anything as impressive!
There are 2 parts to the summit: the first, where you arrive from, is a set of rock formation, large friable block which you might climbed or just walk around; the second is a little higher and is simply round and covered with stone, but it’s from the latter that you have the 360 ° view of the surroundings.
I stayed there to observe a moment, I even made a little nap, but I was a bit afraid from the descent, so I did not stay longer. In the end, it was easier than I thought, and I quickly reached my backpack and went back to the car … the river, still took me 30 min, feet in the water, to cross;)
Once in the car, I changed my clothes to finally have dry feet! Since I was only 35 km from the campsite Tombstone, I finished the road to sleep there.
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- Track length: 5 km (one way)
- Duration: 3h30
- Vertical ascent: 690 m
- Departure altitude: 980 m
- Max Altitude: 1650 m
- Maximum slope: 13°
- GPS Data (GPX track log) to download: Pilots_Peak-(Mt_Vines)-WayUp.gpx, Pilots_Peak-(Mt_Vines)-Return.gpx