Hiking to The Three Guardsmen Cirque, Haines Highway

The third of my hikes in the Haines Summit area last week was up an old mining road to a glacial cirque directly south of Three Guardsmen Mountain, on Saturday (October 1st).

The day started out poorly, with a mechanical problem. One of the automatic levellers on my motorhome wouldn’t retract. None of the over-ride procedures worked either, so I finally crawled under the rig and removed it. It’s a heavy bugger!

Even with the leveller problem, I still made it down to the pullout at Historic Mile 48, where a buddy from Haines was going to meet me at 10:00. It’s a great place to wait.

RV at Historic Mile 48, Haines Road
The pullout is also a great place to play with Bella and Tucker. Sometimes they played ball with me, sometimes it was Tucker’s “catch me” game – which Bella no longer has any hope of winning. He’s very fast, and very agile.

Playing with dogs along the Haines Highway, BC
When I put the kids inside and walked away to take a few photos before giving up on my buddy and leaving at 11:00, Bella took her usual position in the driver’s seat 🙂

Dog in the driver's seat of my RV
I drove north and parked on the very wide shoulder on the west side of the highway (yes, the wrong side to park on, but the only side with a shoulder) just south of Three Guardsmen Lake. The elevation here, at about Km 91 of the Haines Highway, is 955 meters (3,133 feet). The few trail reports all talk about going through a marshy area to reach the trail, but as I had expected to, I quickly found a “stepping-stone” crossing of the little creek that drains the lake, right at 11:30.

Crossing the creek to get to the Three Guardsmen Cirque trail, Haines Highway, BC

For trail details, I’ve posted the applicable section of topo map 114 P/9 (from aerial photos taken in 1979, 1980).

The place where the old mining road started wasn’t obvious for the first few hundred meters/yards, so I headed for a spot somewhere in the middle of where I expected that it would be, but couldn’t see. The brush between me and that spot, though, was pretty thick. The dogs probably had an even worse time getting through it than I did.

Thick brush on the way to the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
At 11:45, the going was still ugly but I felt that we were close to the road/trail.

Thick brush on the way to the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
11:47 – success! The trail had actually been cleared. I found when I got home that a prospecting party led by Gerry Diakow had done this work in 2011 so they could get a 6-wheel Polaris ATV up to the cirque.

Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
We soon were out of the thick brush and had wonderful views. This was the view to the north, over Three Guardsmen Lake, at 11:54.

Three Guardsmen Lake from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
11:56 – The Three Guardsmen is an impressive pile of rock! The highest of the 3 peaks, Glave Peak, is 1,928 meters (6,325 feet) high.

Three Guardsmen Mountain / Glave Peak - 1,928 meters (6,325 feet) high
Looking southwest at 11:57, with the Haines Highway below.

The view from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
12:03 – the variety along the trail is wonderful, with spectacular views, and the slopes on both sides often carpeted with heather, lichens, and several varieties of berries.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, Haines Highway, BC
Up, up we go! At 12:10, we were at 1,081 meters (3,547 feet). What a perfect day! There was a slight breeze, but I was soon down to my t-shirt.

At 1,081 meters (3,547 feet) elevation on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
The kids got a good drink at 12:16. I carry enough water for all of us, though I expected that this trail would have some water along it.

A creek on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
Some large level areas like this one that we reached at 12:20 aren’t visible from the highway.

A large level area along the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
Across the valley at 12:32, a good view of the ridge that we hiked on Thursday – the one that I’m calling Tina Creek Ridge. Tina Creek flows down the canyon on the right.

Tina Creek Ridge from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
The view to the south at 1,200 meters elevation (3,937 feet), at 12:38.

At 1,200 meters (3,937 feet) elevation on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
My only selfie of the hike, at 12:42 🙂

Murray Lundberg on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail, Haines Highway, BC
At 12:47, we reached a creek that took some care to get across!

Frozen creek to cross on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
12:51 – the views just kept getting more and more spectacular.

View from the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
To the right of centre in the next photo is Copper Butte, an old mining area that is on the “must-hike” list for next year. I think I’m going to be spending a lot of time along the Haines Road now that I’ve had a good look at it.

Copper Butte, an old mining area west of the Haines Road in BC
At 1:15, we reached some snow remaining from a little storm a week or so ago.

Fresh snow on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
The road ahead at 1,300 meters elevation (4,265 feet), at 1:17.

At 1,300 meters (4,265 feet) elevation on the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
This is where we topped out at 1:37, among extensive mining exploration activity in the glacial cirque, at 1,387 meters elevation (4,551 feet). That’s 432 meters (1,418 feet) above the spot where I parked the RV – with lots of photo-stops, it took us 2 hours and 7 minutes to reach this point.

Old mining activity in the Three Guardsmen cirque
Rock from at least one of the contact zones that has been investigated was obvious. Copper was the initial draw here, but the latest (2011) exploration found copper, silver, gold, zinc, and bismuth, and well as small amounts of several other minerals. In 2011, S.G. Diakow called this the “Cold” mineral claim.

Old mining activity in the Three Guardsmen cirque
I think that Bella is looking forward to having her own deep snow at home 🙂

Shelty cross Bella dipping in October snow above the Haines Road, BC
There were roads going much further into the cirque but because of the snow we didn’t go further. I thought about going down the creek that had presented a bit of a problem crossing because of the ice, but decided that the rocks would be too tough on the kids’ feet. At 1:48, we were heading down on a nice soft lichen-covered ridge.

Heading down from the Three Guardsmen cirque
At 1:53, we came to an old mining camp, protected from the wind by a berm about 10 feet high.

An old mining camp in the Three Guardsmen cirque
Among the mining camp ruins were a couple of bed frames, a few drill-core boxes, and lots of lumber from various buildings, tables and such.

An old mining camp in the Three Guardsmen cirque
I very much support responsible mining, but this sort of thing really pisses me off. It’s simply lazy and disrespectful. Many miners – or at least mining companies – are their own worst enemies.

An old fuel barrel below the Three Guardsmen cirque
Scouting out another hike. The access from the highway isn’t clear, but that old road – another mining road, I expect – climbs to (or close to) a communication tower that’s barely visible right on top of the mountain.

An old mining road at Three Guardsmen Lake
2:21 – with more direct light now, the views to the north in particular looked quite different on the way down.

The road down from the Three Guardsmen cirque
On a warm summer day, it would be wonderful to just lay down on some of these slopes for a while and savour this incredible world.

Three Guardsmen Mountain
At 3:00 pm, another look at the first good drinking-creek we stopped at.

Creek below Three Guardsmen Mountain
A telephoto look at one of the many glaciers that form a virtual wall of ice to the south.

Glacier along the Haines Road
At 3:09, Three Guardsmen Lake is ahead, and the motorhome can be seen at the lower left.

Three Guardsmen Lake
Back into the brush at 3:14.

Brushy section of the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
Looking straight up – the third Guardsman is hidden behind the peak on the right, which doesn’t have its own name. The one on the left is the highest one, Glave Peak.

Three Guardsmen Mountain, Haines Highway
Going down, I could follow the road/trail right down to see where the actual start of it is. At 3:21, we reached the bottom, at the northeast corner of a long-abandoned gravel pit. A couple of survey-tape flags mark the start of the trail.

The start of the Three Guardsmen Mountain trail
At 3:25, another stepping-stone crossing of the creek that drains Three Guardsmen Lake, and we were soon back at the motorhome.

Within a few minutes, we were on our way towards home, 326 km (203 mi) away. This is looking north towards the Haines Summit, with Clear Creek (the creek we hiked along to reach the Samuel Glacier the day before) in the valley bottom.

The Haines Road south of the summit
The Km 110 milepost can be seen on the right in this photo.

Km 110 milepost, Haines Highway
One last photo, shot at 5:13 on the Alaska Highway with Paint Mountain ahead. This is just east of Haines Junction.

We got home just after 7:00 pm, hugely pleased with the way the final high-country hiking trip of the season had gone. Next… – well, I’m not sure yet, but I’m pretty pumped about getting into kore exploring.


Hiking to The Three Guardsmen Cirque, Haines Highway — 9 Comments

  1. Love the three guardsman area! its some spectacular country! The tower site across the highway is a multi use site including a Yukon Amateur Radio Club repeater that links all of the Yukon together. here is a link to the repeater page

    Love your website, keep posting, especially WPY&R info, I am hoping to hike the rail this time next year after the end of summer ops.

  2. Looks great Murray. A hiking group from Haines is headed around Three Guardsmen on Sunday. Perhaps I will join them. Thanks for sharing your hikes.

  3. Murry, this may sound like an unusual request but I was wondering how you keep your motor home warm at night & when you leave your kids in the RV during the day when you are dry camping in September & October at the White Pass, Top of the World Hwy., & Haines Hwy.? Do you run the propane heater all night & at what temperature? Do you use your generator to recharge your batteries & how many hours a day do you usually run the generator for the recharge? Do you use solar power to charge batteries? Thank you in advance and keep up the great posts.
    John & Marion Kelly

    • I have the propane furnace on at night – at minimum temperature so even when it drops to near -10C (14F), it doesn’t fire that often through the night. Then I boost it for a few minutes to be comfortable in the morning. We got new house batteries this Spring (a pair of large 6-volts) and have had no problem with them getting drained even on multi-day bookdocks (up to 5 days so far and they can clearly go MUCH longer). The generator is almost never run – occasionally when I want a big pot of coffee rather than the little percolator, or a quick microwave. We haven’t got solar boosters yet, but they may get on the list some day.

  4. Hi Murray great photos. Looks like some great hiking areas. How large are your 6 volt batteries? Are you not worried that Tucker will maybe take off on you when hiking.

    • Thanks, Bruce – it is a great area that I haven’t explored a lot yet, but with the motorhome it’s a much easier area to explore. The batteries are big – without going out and measuring, they’re about half again as large as the chassis battery. Yes, I worry a great deal about Tucker taking off on me. On the glacier hike the day before this one, he did and scared the crap out of me 🙁 But, like 2-legged kids, you have to balance the rules and freedoms, and hope that your training will keep them safe. He’s an amazing tracker, so believing that he could find his way back to us regardless of how far he wanders helps.

  5. Great hike, great pics. Having that home on wheels is such a game changer for all of you…a haven from the dark, cold, rain, snow, etc. And it gives you off season comfort and flexibility for trips and adventures such as these. I am still in my canvas hot tent, but I can see where this is leading one day for me…