Klondike Rush for Gold Virtual Museum of Canada

Chilkoot Trail
Perhaps the most enduring image of the Klondike gold rush is that of a chain of humanity plodding its way up the snow-covered Chilkoot Pass, each individual bent double under the weight of packs and boxes, straining to reach the mountain's height.
Chilkoot Pass
Chain of stampeders climbing to the summit of the Chilkoot Pass, 1898 Dawson City Museum & Historical Society (1998.34.24.1)

The Chilkoot Trail and its sister, the White Pass, were the most commonly used routes to the Klondike. Beginning at Dyea, the Chilkoot Trail wound 25 kilometres (15 miles) along wagon roads and forest paths, growing steadily higher until it reached Sheep Camp at the bottom of the pass. The pass itself was not particularly difficult on its own, but to 20,000 inexperienced stampeders each ferrying a ton of supplies it might as well have been Mount Everest.

Many stampeders reached Sheep Camp and, upon viewing the human spectacle on the mountain, gave up and sold their outfits, returning home. Those who made the 1,000 metre (3,000 feet) climb had to repeat the task up to 40 times in order to pack their entire outfit over the pass. After each climb, stampeders cached their load at the top of the pass, near the North-West Mounted Police outpost at the Canadian border, and returned for the next load, often simply sliding down the snow-covered slope. Many hired packers at high prices to lighten the burden. The local Chilkat First Nations people were known as accomplished packers and were generally able to carry about 45 kilograms (100 pounds) at a time. One Chilkat packer was said to have carried a 160 kilogram (350 pounds) barrel over the pass.

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