If you're looking for a little adventure, then the Shark Fin hike is for you. The trailhead is a little unconventional as you will need a boat (canoe or kayak) to get across Bernard Lake to the start of the hike. The route takes you up to a precipitous subpeak on an unnamed mountain in the White Pass area. The name comes from the shark fin shape of the peak, as viewed from the north. Good route finding skills and a head for heights are needed on this route.
Drive south on the South Klondike Highway towards Skagway, Alaska. Immediately before reaching the Fraser Customs Station there is a large parking area. Park next to the White Pass Railway lines. You will need a canoe or kayak to reach the actual trailhead on the south side of Bernard Lake, 2.8 km away. The paddle should take you approximately 45 minutes. The time and distance indicated above does not include the paddling time.
You must have good route finding skills for this hike to avoid as much of the subalpine forest bushwacking in the lower elevations and to navigate the snow and boulder fields on the upper sections. The distance and duration listed for this hike are for the hiking portion of this route, where the trailhead is located on the southeastern end of Bernard Lake. Due to the length of the hike itself and the fact that you need to paddle to and from the trailhead, this route is well suited for camping overnight. It is possible to find a suitable camping spot on the rocky ridge just above the lake.
From the southeastern corner of the lake, head up towards the first rocky bench above the lakeshore. There are some good camping spots in this area. Drop down and south from this rocky bench and continue uphill to the next rocky ridge, which leads to the southwest. This ridge will eventually meet up with a large boulder field, which lies along the base of a gully. As mentioned before, good route finding skills will be a necessity, and a GPS with the hike track and waypoints will be an asset, as the route is difficult to describe.
You will continue southwest, gradually gaining elevation, following along a series of boulder fields and small rocky ridges, occasionally dropping down to pick your way through the subalpine fir and hop across a small creek and wetland complex. The aim of heading southwest along this boulder field gully is to hit a suitable spot where you can head up a steep, open slope above the boulder field gully, avoiding much of the subalpine fir forest and steep rock walls which cover the lower section of the mountainside.
Once you are out of the forested area, the route finding becomes easier. Start hiking straight up to the base of the mountain on the grass and lichen covered slopes. You will have to drop down through a small rock band to a small stream before heading back uphill again. When you reach the base of the mountain, look for any large snow patches, as these will be the easiest to follow up, otherwise you will be hiking up boulders which might slow you down.
Continue up the mountain (staying on the snow patches if there are any). Up high there will be a cliff band. It is not worth climbing up or through the cliff band, as it is easily skirted around by keeping lower and heading northeast. To your left, you will see some mossy steps about a hundred meters below the cliff band.
Once you find your way around the cliff band, you start to see more of the route to the top. Just keep hiking up towards the summit. You will reach a false summit before you reach the distinctive Shark Fin summit ramp. The left side of the Shark Fin might have a cornice and the right side slopes down to a drop off, so just hike up the middle of the ramp.
The view from the summit is great. You can finally see behind the peak to the mountains and cirques further east. To the southwest are numerous glaciers on rugged mountains. Below you is the moonscape area of the White Pass summit.
To descend, follow the same route down. Here again, any snow patches will make the descent much faster. Some of the snow patches are steep, so if the snow is hard packed, you may need a mountaineering axe to descend them safely. If the snow is soft, it should be easy enough to just walk down the slopes.
Take care to arrive back on your original route when you get down to the forest. It is not recommended to try to take a short cut, as you may end up bushwhacking longer than your original route would take. A GPS is handy for arriving back on your route.
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