It’s a Kluane backpacking classic. Approximately 130 kilometres long, the route took us seven days. We travelled each day but still had time in the afternoons and evenings to explore around camp. The route follows abandoned and overgrown mining roads, creek beds, wolf and grizzly paths and more wildlife trails and more creek beds.
The Donjek Glacier, spilling out of the Icefield Ranges is a sight made all the more magnificent given the wilderness one must traverse in order to reach its toe. And once there it is difficult to walk away from such a place, a wall of blue ice sparkling in the sunshine – if you’re lucky enough to get a sunny day.
Kluane’s backcountry is usually cold, often wet. We, however, got lucky and found ourselves hiking the Donjek during a heat wave – what would be considered a heat wave in the Yukon at least. Every day was 27C with clear blue skies. Creek crossings, usually dreaded because they are often glacier fed and numbingly cold, were enjoyable. We lingered in the creeks, trying to cool down. Heat like this in the Yukon mountains is rare and we relished every moment of it.
There were plenty of very fresh signs of grizzlies but other than one head popping out of the willows for a brief moment, we saw none. A wolf, however and many sheep, mountain goats and moose were spotted. Voles and arctic ground squirrels were quite abundant.
Few backpackers hike the Donjek Route. Its length, difficulty and lack of a trail keeps most Kluane visitors away but this only means that those with the experience, time and tenacity will most likely not see any other humans during their time here. And that solitude is something we yearn for. It is one of the things that keeps us coming back.