North

British adventurer travels entire Yukon Quest trail on foot

For British adventurer Mark Hines, the 1,600 kilometre Yukon Quest trail isn't just for the dogs. Hines overcame frostbite, bitter temperatures, and broken ribs to hike the trail from Fairbanks, Alaska to Whitehorse, a trip he says took six weeks.

Mark Hines overcame frostbite and broken ribs to walk 1,600 km from Fairbanks to Whitehorse

For six weeks, British adventurer Mark Hines walked the 1,600 kilometres of the Yukon Quest trail. (Submitted by Mark Hines)

Mark Hines' definition of going for a hike might be a little different from most people's.

This week, the British adventurer completed the 1,600-kilometre Yukon Quest trail — used for the famous annual sled dog race — between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse,Yukon on foot, a trek that took him six weeks.

Hines left Fairbanks Feb. 1, hauling everything he needed, including food, clothing, and sleeping gear, on a sled behind him, he told Dave White, host of Airplay

"It was pretty heavy and the trail was pretty soft this year, so it was a character-building first few weeks on the Alaska side," Hines said. "The trail on the Alaskan side just wasn't as hard-packed as it is on the Canadian side and I wasn't really as prepared for that as I should have been." 

'I couldn't be defeated by a slab of ice'

Most days, Hines would walk 20 hours per day, but hauling the sled through soft snow sapped his energy and he'd sometimes limit himself to 12 to 15 hours. Hines said that he'd cover anywhere from 24 to 64 kilometres of trail each day.

"That depended on if there were somewhere I specifically wanted to reach, say the other side of one of the mountains or a cabin to stay in for the night."
Along the way, Mark Hines sustained frostbitten fingers and broken ribs. (Submitted by Mark Hines)

Not surprisingly, there were a few moments when Hines said he considered packing it in. One morning on Yukon's Fortymile River he was caught off guard by the cold and sustained frostbite on his fingers, which made it difficult to open bags and access supplies. 

"At this point I was thinking I might have to call it a day when I arrived at Dawson City," he said. But then the weather changed and temperatures warmed up.

"I thought, 'The gods haven't seen me struggle enough yet. They've still got some sport left.'"

The worst mishap didn't happen on the trail at all, but in the entrance to a cabin in Scroggie Creek, Yukon — about two-thirds of the way through the trail — where Hines was preparing to stay for the night. He slipped on a patch of ice and landed unceremoniously on "a big old slab of tree trunk and broke a few ribs."

Again, Hines considered calling off the rest of the trek. But he reasoned that since breathing and sleeping hurt the most, and since he would be doing those things regardless of whether he was still on the trail or not, he might as well keep going.

"I couldn't be defeated by a slab of ice because I told myself I wasn't the Titanic," he said. 

Worth it

But Hines said the trek was worth the hardships. This year's Yukon Quest trail was re-routed, followed the Top Of The World Highway instead of the Yukon River for a stretch because of heavy jumble ice. The new route offered stunning vistas. "The scene just opened up in front of you and it was mountains as far as you could see," he said.

Hines said he enjoyed the occasional chat with the Yukon Quest mushers, who shared the trail with him during the annual race and could sympathize with the cold and exhaustion Hines endured. 

Alaskans and Yukoners understand why someone would want to take on such a journey," he said. "Londoners? Not so much.

"It feels very different to talk to people here about the journey than to talk to people back in the U.K. about it."

With files from Airplay

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