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Rock Climbing in Skagway

Skagway, Alaska, May 19. Weather is absolutely fabulous, bright, sunny and warm. Three passengers and I climb into a van with Coleman, our guide, and head out of town, all deciding we are probably out of our minds. We are going rock climbing and rappelling, all for the first time. I am, as usual, the oldest.

The scenery is stunning as we drive along the Skagway River, looking at snow-capped mountains and glaciers far up the mountains. We can look across the valley and see the tracks of the White Pass and Yukon Railway clinging to the sides of the cliffs. Michael and I took that train ride last week and highly recommend the trip.

Back to today’s trip … we exit the van and begin to climb up to the base camp for the activities. It is not a bad climb, but definitely not for anyone who is unsteady on their feet. There are no stairs, just tree roots and mulch. I wore sneakers but would have preferred light hiking boots. Once we reach the camp, however, we change into climbing gear that includes climbing shoes with rubber soles.

Joanne all geared up and ready to climb.

Joanne all geared up and ready to climb.

Once into our harnesses and helmets we head out for a short climb, the bunny hill of rock walls. We all reach the top, slap the chain and make it down safely.

On to the 70-plus-foot wall and we all head up, some more slowly than others (me). Looking at the rock wall from below you can actually see holds and crevices for hands and feet. Once on the wall it is not so simple, as you are trying to stay on the wall while looking for these holds.


Coleman, our guide, gave good directions and I got within two feet of the top. I just couldn’t make that last big oomph step to be able to slap the chain. My left leg had no strength left and there was no good finger hold to help pull up. It’s okay, though, the view from up there was magnificent and the rappel down is a blast. As it turns out, I did get closest to the top. Let’s hear it for old people.

The small dots by the arrows are climbers. You can really see the size of the rock.

The small dots by the arrows are climbers. You can really see the size of the rock.

When we are all down, we take another hike up to the top of the 70-plus-foot wall so we can jump off on a rope. Rappelling turns out to be a blast, just like it looks on television. I just wish we had time to do more of it. I managed to do some videotaping on the way down, but of course, it just looks like a moving rock wall with a few ropes.

It was great fun and I would recommend it for anyone who has a bucket list of adventure activities to check off. Safety was a big concern and they did a good job on the instructions. Alaska has so many opportunities to do things you can’t do at home. Come join us!

Joanne and Michael are future cruise consultants aboard Zuiderdam.

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