Chilkoot Trail hikers know that the weather can change almost before you realize it. So it was on August 10, when the pleasantly cool morning we left at Sheep Camp transformed into rain, sleet and powerful gusts as we left the summit and headed for Happy Camp.
When we arrived, we heard that a gentleman suffering severe hypothermia was inbound from the summit, where his friends had warmed him as best they could. An air evacuation was impossible, with clouds socked in right to the ground.
Christine Hedgecock, the Parks Canada patrol person at Happy Camp, had placed a propane heater in the cooking shelter, and when the unfortunate gent arrived, she turned up the heater, wrapped him in blankets and hot water bottles, fed him hot electrolytes, food and hot chocolate, frequently visited the shelter to check on him, while keeping watch for arriving hikers and doing quick interviews with them to detect the mental dullness that signals early hypothermia. Fortunately, there were no more victims.
After the gent recovered sufficiently, Christine put him up for the night in her tiny quarters, so he could stay warm and rest.
The cooking shelter had filled with people, when a camp stove flared out of control. Christine calmly and firmly took control, moved people out of danger, and used just enough of the fire extinguisher to snuff the fire without blanketing the shelter in powder.
That night featured driving horizontal rain, with many campers getting soaked and cold.
Next morning, as sodden hikers left, Christine told them to light woodstove fires in the Lindeman cabins to warm up and dry. We arrived at Lindeman to find that Torch, the owner of the hyperactive camp stove, had redeemed himself by starting a crackling good fire in the stove. We chatted, dried gear, ate and generally cheered up. The weather cleared, and that evening there was a happy bunch at Bare Loon, including the hypothermia sufferer, who had largely recovered.
Funny how the conversation kept coming around to Christine, a superb patrol person.
Darlene and George Dimsdale
Marsh Lake, Yukon