Issue: 2016-10-06, PHOTO: by Chris Hanlin
There’s a mountain. Climb it, because it’s there
As Tom unpacked he took inventory: sub-Arctic self-erecting tent, sleeping bag, water/bear proof ruck sack full of high protein granola and astronaut food, zinc for the nose, GPS, selfie stick.
He hadn’t been camping in years, since his last fall in the Yukon 20 years ago.
But here he was, back again.
Roughing it for the last decade meant a red cedar cottage on the Sunshine Coast that he and his wife frequented, where rusticity meant the hot tub that took an hour to heat up and the clothes dryer was too loud.
He had planned on coming out and catching a couple pike, maybe a whitefish or two, but the vistas brought him back to his early climbing days, actually, he’d never been a climber, but one time…
Rewind to 1995, on a fall trip to the lake for some pike fishing. Tom crammed into the back seat of his friends black 4-speed Camaro and they hit the highway in convoy with a bagged out baby blue, high-revving Chevy S10.
McRae gas station, as always, the last ditch grocery store and the final outpost where the gang pooled their change together like the rag tag band in Stand By Me and mustered up enough for a bag of beef jerky, a couple hot rods, a big bag of salt and vinegar chips and five Jolt Colas.
Like most great adventures, it was an impromptu sojourn into the wilderness once bush party season had begun to die down. A simple “let’s do it” in an idle moment was all it took in those days.
After a milk run to everyone’s houses for a fridge raid, the boys filled a cooler with whatever rations they could muster. Everyone took a turn running in real quick and, as the saying goes, great minds think alike.
Multiple condiments and copious amounts of toilet paper, tin foil, butter, half a bag of apples, half a bag of PC decadent chocolate chip cookies, frozen fish sticks, a half-eaten bag of Hostess sour cream and onion chips (which didn’t make it to the top of the South Access) and another full roll of tin foil. Fishing rods, a tackle box full of tangled leaders and rusted Red Devils and Pixies, an old triangle-style tent, and pillows and blankets peeled right off their beds. The trunk was stuffed and they were ready to go.
Once they got their gear unpacked, they realized there was only one tent, a tight fit for the band of brothers. All Yukon youth have slept crammed in their fair share of cars, so they didn’t even bother. They were missing the poles for the back section of the tent anyway.
The fishing was great as always and by midday their arms were sore from all the catching and their noses were pink from the fall sun. After eating some pike and apples, they settled around the fire for a good night of music and relaxing. The next day, they looked for a new adventure.
A great joke might start like this. One day Glen Danzig, Kirk Cameron, Kurt Cobain, A.C Slater and Brandon Walsh, with a Chow Chow who never wore a leash in his life, climbed a mountain because it was there. Sometimes angling the Yukon’s bounty can be a little monotonous, not because the fish aren’t biting, but because you can only catch so many before your arms get tired.
The gang grew bored of the lake and found a non-descript peak to ascend. With a Fujifilm disposable camera, salt and vinegar chips, a flat of Labatt Ice and a ghetto blaster in tow they started the ascent. As they sat atop the peak, the B side of Megadeth’s Youthanasia on tape ended and they drank it all in, what being a Yukoner was all about; sitting on top of Heavy Metal Mountain.
Some teenagers pulled into the site near Tom and out jumped Bieber, Macklemore, Ed Sheeran and Drake with a Labradoodle with no leash. He couldn’t help but overhear one say, “We should climb a mountain, bro.”
Tom smiled at the new generation. Don’t over plan, get that trip in. Eat a tin foil butter basted pike cooked in the coals of a campfire. Drink the cheap brews, get one last soaker in and listen to heavy metal on the top of a mountain.