King's Throne, Kluane National Park, Yukon
Have you ever looked at a mountain, thought to yourself how it looks impossible to hike to the top, and if there were a way it would be really sketchy? But then realize that’s the mountain you’re going to be hiking and then think "Oh shit"? That’s exactly what happened to us with King’s Throne.
We first visited Kathleen Lake, where King’s Throne sits above, on a cloudy day. It was right after we arrived Kluane National Park. Eager to check out the area, we got the Toaster set up and drove to the lake.
It was on that visit that Jerud and I glanced across the white-capped Kathleen Lake and saw this looming mountain that looked like the center of it blew up. We commented on how it would be neat if you could hike to the top, but how it looked kind of impossible because even from where we stood, we could see that the mountain was covered in loose scree.
Three days after our initial visit, we headed back to Kathleen Lake to hike King’s Throne. It wasn’t until that moment that we looked back up at that same mountain that we realized that was King’s Throne. The name made sense - the cirque is the seat of the throne. While the King’s Throne trail brings you to the seat of the throne, our plan, after reading about it on Yukon Hiking, was to continue on past the seat and hike to the summit of the King’s Throne. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I mean I did initially think it would be impossible to hike the mountain!
The description for the summit route is that it’s just a route. As the park website says, routes are not marked or maintained. Sometimes the routes are well worn in from previous hikers and other times you have to find your own way. In the case of going up to the summit of King’s Throne, it was well worn in from many other hikers. And in reality, there’s only one way to go – straight up.
The trail to King's Throne is 6 miles roundtrip with 1,800 ft. of elevation gain. Not bad at all compared to the hikes we did in Carcross. It's another 3.8 miles roundtrip to get to the summit with an additional 2,329 ft. of elevation gain. That's a bit more of an ass kicker.
The trail started off nice and easy with a perfect view of where we were going. It got steep shortly after we entered the woods.
The best part of this first section of trail was the moment we came out of the woods and stood high above Kathleen Lake. We could see where the truck was parked and where the red chairs sat on the shore. One of the cool things about hiking in Yukon is that you get above treeline really quickly. So there are always unobstructed views.
The remainder of the trail to the cirque is steep loose scree switchbacks. Lots of them.
For us, this wasn't anywhere near the end. So we took a quick moment to enjoy the scenery from the cirque, then turned left and kept on walking.
The route to the summit isn't for the faint of heart. Because it followed the ridge, parts of the trail were narrow and edgy. This section was hard on the legs, especially on my achilles, because of how steep it got. But it was the looseness that worried me most. The whole time up I kept wondering how I was going to get back down.
The view from the top was worth every single step up!!! Especially when we could see all the mountains behind King's Throne. That's where all the big peaks are, like the tallest (Mt. Logan) and second tallest (Mt. St. Elias) mountains of Canada. Mt. St. Elias is actually the second tallest peak in both Canada and the U.S. since the border crosses right through the peak. The only way to reach that range of mountains in the very interior of Kluane National Park is by air.
Obviously I made it down in one piece. Although four-wheel drive was required in one or two spots. We did see two kids who made it to the summit - good for them!
This was one of those hikes that leaves you feeling like you accomplished something. Afterwards we would drive past King's Throne, look at it and say to each other, "Wow, we made it to the summit!" Even after hiking it, the route to the peak still looked intimidating.