Region: Kathleen Lake – Kluane National Park of Canada, Yukon, Canada
Return Trip: 10km (6 mi), 4-6 hours
Trailhead Location: Old mining road near the parking area at Kathleen Lake.
Elevation Gain: 548m (1800′)
Skill Level: Difficult
Hazards: Grizzly bears, black bears, moose, avalanches, rock slides, loose rock, narrow trail on cliff side
In June of 2014, my wife and I were fortunate enough to be able to make our way up to the Yukon for a few weeks. We had planned a few hikes for our time up there, the first being the King’s Throne Trail. Yep. Hiking up a mountain. Go big or go home, right?
King’s Throne towers above the beautiful, blue waters of Kathleen Lake. Both are located within the boundaries of Kluane National Park of Canada.
Having already hiked several kilometers of the Cottonwood Trail (following the mountain’s base) the afternoon before, we knew what to expect along the trail at this lower elevation; mosquitoes. Not just your run of the mill little blood suckers, but the gigantic, mutant variety that spawn only up in the Yukon. Huge, hungry swarms of them. Luckily we came equipped with mesh head nets. These were such a cheap investment and they turned out to be money extremely well spent.
With mosquito head nets in place, bear spray latched on to my belt and bear bells on our packs, we set off down the old mining road alongside Kathleen Lake.
While hiking down this first stretch, we came across a few older grizzly bear paw prints imbedded in the mud. By this point, we had already launched into several choruses of “Hey bear! Hey bear!” with a little jingle jingle from the bells and some clapping. We were now repeating our performance for the bears a little more often. Better to warn any bears we’re coming, then happen to sneak up on an unsuspecting mama bear. That would definitely not end well…for us.
The trail is fairly easy in the lower elevation, so we made good time here. As the trail started to rise up higher and higher along the mountain, it suddenly became more rocky. At the same time, we noticed that the trail had become quite steep in areas. This is where we started hitting the first of many switchbacks. Since we were concentrating on climbing up some steep trail bits, we didn’t stop to take photos until we were almost up out of the trees.
I have a special memory about this area of the trail because it was pretty damned scary; both on the way up and then down again. One particular spot here seemed to have fallen victim to a couple of rock slides. In effect, the already narrow trail (about 10″ wide here) had been cut away in two places creating two 4 foot gaps. Luckily, there was a tiny section of trail still in tact sitting all lonely and stubborn between the two affected areas of trail. Let’s call this small trail portion “Trail Island”. To reach the proper trail once again, you had to take a giant step across the first 4 foot section of nothingness and have your foot hit the 14 inch section of “Trail Island”. After managing to bring both feet over onto “Trail Island”, you then had to balance yourself and once again take a giant step across the second 4 foot gap in the trail. I can tell you from experience that when you’re a size 12 shoe, trying to not only fit my two feet onto a space of about 14″x6″, but also trying to balance my body weight and gear all at the same time is sort of a challenge. I guess it’s a good thing I had a mountain to partially balance my weight on. The other thing that my wife and I can be thankful for in this situation is that we both have long legs. It definitely worked to our advantage. This was one of those times where a certain cliché phrase popped into my mind…”Don’t look down!”. Great, thanks for the useful tip brain.
The owner of the B&B across the Haines Highway (where we were staying) had warned us that there was the potential for avalanches, as the snow was still thawing out and melting down from the peak at this time of year. We decided it would be best to heed his warning, so we didn’t hike all the way up to the peak. We reached our destination at the “seat” of King’s Throne. Man, what an insanely amazing view. It was unreal and truly breathtaking.
We sat up there for a while just taking it all in. It was quite the accomplishment. We decided to eat our victory snack – good old Clif bars – and washed them down with some water. We didn’t have anywhere else to be but up there. It was such a great feeling. After some time had passed, we eventually decided that we should start heading back down from our quiet, little spot at the top of the world.
Our time spent on the King’s Throne trail is something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives. It’s just one of those incredibly awesome things. It was difficult and a little scary at times, but the payoff was priceless. It was not only about the incredible views that were presented to us from our vantage point up at the top, but also the immense satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that we got from being able to push ourselves and overcome the difficulties of such a hike. The Yukon is a special kind of place that keeps calling you back for more. I know that both my wife and I will be heading back up there the very next chance we get.
Thanks to my wife for being patient and grabbing some great action shots along the trail. 🙂
Copyright © 2015, Ben Aerssen. All rights reserved.