Shark Fin


Distance: 11 km
Elevation Gain: 1221 m (4006 ft)
Time: 8.5 hours
Difficulty: Difficult
Region: White Pass
Date Added: June 18, 2013
Last Update: June 18, 2013




If you're looking for an 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 sub peak 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.


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Scroll below photos for Driving Directions and Trail Description.



Photos


The Shark Fin is the pointed peak at the top center of the photo.



The route starts with a canoe/kayak ride across Bernard Lake. The Shark Fin is the peak on the upper right of the photo.



Your route finding skills will be needed at the beginning of the hike.



Staying on the ridge tops will avoid most of the bushwhacking.



The boulder fields also avoid some of the bushwhacking.



Once you are up in the open alpine, the hiking becomes easier.



There are a few small creek crossings. This particular one is in a beautiful setting with deep pools.



An example of the route up, following the snow patches. The cliff band is the small bump on the upper right shoulder of the photo, above the right-most snow patch.



Taking a rest partway up the mountain.



Any remaining snow slopes are easier to ascend and descend than the rocky boulders.



Hiking the final meters on the Shark Fin.



The view to the south from the summit.



The view to the southwest from the summit.



The view to the east from the summit along the same ridge.




Driving Directions

From Whitehorse, drive south on the Alaska Highway and take a right at the Carcross Cutoff onto the South Klondike Highway. Drive south on the South Klondike Highway towards Skagway, Alaska. Immediately before reaching the Canada Customs at Fraser, BC, there is a large parking area on the left. 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.




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Trail Description

You must have good route-finding skills for this hike to avoid much of the subalpine forest bushwacking in the lower elevations and to navigate the snow and boulder fields on the upper sections. Recommended timing for this route is early- to mid-summer.

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 that cover much of the lower section of the mountainside.

Once you are out above the treeline, 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 slightly northeast. To your left, you will see some steep, 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.