Ascent of Mount Maichen on 2020-01-02

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Thursday, January 2, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Maichen
    Location:Canada-Yukon Territory
    Elevation:3022 ft / 921 m

Ascent Trip Report

Dec 31 – Jan 5, 2019, Eric and Katie

2700 miles driving

Dec 31 – Seattle to Prince George, BC
Jan 1 – Prince George to Muncho Lake, BC
Jan 2 – Muncho Lake BC to Watson Lake, YT
Jan 3 – Watson Lake to Smithers, BC
Jan 4 – Smithers to Mt Begbie
Jan 5 – Back to Seattle

My flight arrived from Quito Monday afternoon from a mountaineering trip, and after quickly repacking we left Seattle Tuesday morning with the goal of seeing the northern lights in the Yukon, Canada. I’d seen the northern lights before on a few climbing trips to the northwest territories, but this would be Katie’s first time.We drove up 97 through 100 mile house and Williams Lake as a snowstorm hit, making the roads rough and the going slow. After 12 hours of driving we spent the night in a hotel in Prince George.

The next morning we continued to Dawson Creek and started on the Alaska-Canada highway. Matthew and I had biked this route in 2008 and it looked a lot different in the winter. That night we got to a pullout just before Muncho Lake and car camped. I looked outside that night for the northern lights, but unfortunately it was snowing and cloudy.

We continued north and stopped at the Liard Hot Springs in northern BC. The air temperature was in the lower teens but the water was very warm. Unlike the times I’d been there in the summer, this time we had the whole place to ourselves. It was fun going back and forth rolling in the snow to soaking in the hot spring. After an hour we got back to the road, passing a lot of buffalo on the side. That far north the roads are just compact snow and ice. It’s too cold to use salt.

By early afternoon we reached the Yukon, then soon after Watson Lake. There was just enough daylight left for me to make a quick hike up Mt Maichen, a ski hill outside of town. There were great views of the surrounding lakes from the top. We ate at a diner in town, then drove west to a road pulloff for the night.

We camped in the car, then at midnight we got out and watched the northern lights. It was only forecast to be level 2 out of 9, (link to aurora forecast page) but I thought they were still pretty impressive. They started out as big green rings in the sky, then changed to shimmering curtains with pinks and purples showing. I later looked up the recorded temperature in Watson Lake and it got to about -30F that night in town. Probably similar where we were nearby.

In the morning we drove down the Cassiar Highway. It was challenging driving as snow was falling all day, and I’m glad we had the clearance of the forester to get through the deep snow. I don’t think a car could have made it. That night we made it to Smithers, BC, to meet up with some friends. The next day we made it to a pullout near Mt Bigbie, south of 100 mile house, and Sunday afternoon we returned to Seattle.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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