Hiking Border Ridge in the White Pass

With a 90-minute hike up Summit Creek having gone well last Tuesday, I decided to give a more challenging hike a try the next day. The area I’ve come to call Border Ridge has no trail and rarely sees hikers. It’s high alpine – a land of bare granite, sparse vegetation, and spectacular views. Perfect for what I wanted.

It was almost noon when I finally parked the Tracker at the Km 24 milepost sign, right at the actual Canada/USA border, and started up. One of the border monuments can be seen in the first photo. To read about the incredible task of surveying the border and placing the original monuments, see The thin line between Alaska and Canada, by Ned Rozell.

The actual Canada/USA border in the White Pass
The access route I use is a very steep rock slide that is mostly covered with heather and other plants, making it dog-friendly. Tucker and Bella love this area, too, and were very excited. The tour buses below are stopped at the “Welcome to Alaska” sign. Just past that point, I saw a beer can, and stuck it in my pack. It had clearly been there for years, as the moss under it was dead. It amazes me that people will leave trash in places like this, but as I was writing this I read an article in the Smithsonian Magazine that said volunteers collected 3 tons of garbage from Mount Everest earlier this year. So people with no respect are everywhere 🙁

Hiking above the Welcome to Alaska sign on the South Klondike Highway
One of things that the dogs and I love about Border Ridge is the amount of water – there are clear snow-melt ponds everywhere, and most of them last all through the short summer. Some like the one in the next photo are in particularly dramatic granite-enclosed locations.

Dramatic pond in the White Pass
Walking north past the first of the high points, at 3,563 feet.

Bella was certain that something was living in the summit cairn (and she was probably right – a pika would be my guess) 🙂

My shelty/husky Bella in the White Pass
One of the places on the ridge that particularly intrigues me is this little pond. Its granite surround is so perfect. This was by far the lowest I’ve seen the water level – perhaps I’ve not seen it this late in the season. When the water is deeper, though, it’s very cold.

A small high-alpine pond in the White Pass
Clouds suddenly moved in, accompanied by a very cold wind, so I had to add a layer. I wonder if an earthquake caused that crack in the granite between me and Tucker. I need to check previous photos, as I don’t recall noticing it before.

Hiking along a crack in the granite in the White Pass
I need to spend some time with an alpine plants identification guide. I’m awful with names, but I do like to know more about them, particularly the berries and other possible edibles. I wonder which ones would make a healthy tea (if any), for example.

Alpine plants in the White Pass

Alpine plants in the White Pass

The next photo shows the same pond, with the summit cairn at the top. The “grain” of the ridge is clear here – it makes navigation interesting, going along and across the many little ridges and finding a way around the many cliffs.

Granite ridges in the White Pass
The view from the north end of Border Ridge, with Summit Lake, and Summit Creek Hill the mountain to the left.

A high view of the White Pass
If you also wonder about such patterns, Google “why does ground dry and crack into patterns?” There are some pretty interesting articles 🙂

Why does ground dry and crack into patterns?
At the northwest corner of the ridge I was able to get a photo of much of the International Falls trail, where we hike regularly. The parking area and trailhead are to the lower right.

High view of the International Falls trail
My next target was border monument #118, marked by the red arrow in the next photo. Fresh snow on the peaks to the left leave no doubt that the end of the season is drawing close.

A distant view of border monument #118 in the White Pass
A closer look at border monument #118, which sits at 3,585 feet according to my inReach. It had now been an hour and 20 minutes since we left the highway.

Border monument #118 in the White Pass
Some details…

Border monument #118 in the White Pass
I was getting tired, so from there we headed back towards the highway, stopping only to take a couple more photos of the Fall changes in vegetation. We got back to the car right at 2:00.

The weather on Wednesday had been somewhat better than forecast, but Thursday morning was chilly and damp, as expected. It had been an excellent trip and I was okay with heading home.

I shot one final photo to show you what trees near the White Pass summit are like. This is one of the healthiest of them, having lucked into a small area with a fairly substantial soil deposit. It’s probably much older than I am, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s over 100 years old.

We headed back to Whitehorse just after 10:30.


Hiking Border Ridge in the White Pass — 6 Comments

  1. re: berry ID. they are called either moss berries (referring to the appearance of the plant that looks like moss but isn’t) or crowberries due to the black color. in latin Empitrum nigrum. they are edible and a favourite food of bears (i have a good story that illustrates that.) said to be sweet in late summer. i find them to seedy and bland.

  2. Murray,
    That’s some change to see in the water level of that rectangular pool. I remember from pictures from last year and years prior a water level up to the visible waterline.

  3. Fascinating country. A great view in any direction. And some of the pics certainly convey the sense of impending winter. Shorts and t-shirts be damned!

  4. Hi Murray, what a great trip! I also loved the trip you did from White Pass Border over to the railroad tracks where the train comes through just past the tunnel from Dead Horse Gulch? I think it is right in the same area as this trip? You were on the way to the old bridge and Dead Horse Gulch when you turned around as it was getting late in the day? I think it’s right in the area of the Trail of 88? I would love to see that area. I have looked at it closely on Google Earth. You sent me a video of you in that area with the waterfalls. That whole area is so beautiful, it’s good to see you back there! I love that people don’t really cover that area very much? It is so wide open with no one around. If you ever repeat that hike I would love to see it. Would you ever think it would be safe to cross through that railroad tunnel on foot to get to the other side of the old bridge at Dead horse Gulch or is it to long? Can you hear the train coming a long way off, is there a daily train timetable? The whole area is on my bucket list to backpack in and camp for a few days to really be able to explore it. I would love to see the Trail of 88 in August, September with no snow to see any artifacts that are there. If you have any photos or videos from that area I think we would all love to see them! I am very sorry what has happened to you with your fall and brain injury. Now trying now to get your life back the way you have always known it. I read your full account of it and the issues you are now dealing with. As it is Thanksgiving today here in the USA, I am living in Orlando, Florida. I am grateful you are still with us and making your recovery. Keep moving ahead and putting up the fight. Thanks for all you trips and articles and post here on you site. I Love It! Take Care and get better very soon Murray. Thank You TIM LANEY

  5. I just read the article “The thin line between Alaska and Canada”. Very informative and historical! Thanks Murray