Document 88: Letter from Alfred McMichael
Diary and Letters of Alfred McMichael, Juliette Reinicker Papers, MSS 100, Acc. 79/68, Box 10,
Yukon Archives, Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.
The Scales and the Chilkoot Summit
April 5, 1898
This place takes its name from the fact that it is here they weigh the goods for the packers going over the summit. Now there is quite a village of tents, some bunk houses, saloons, restaurants, etc. and enough groceries and other supplies piled up in the basin there to stock all the stores of Detroit. There are two cable lines hauling, and hundreds of packers to carry, the freight to the top. One line carries the packages on cables suspended in the air, while the other draws up sledges attached to an endless cable.
We started up from here in pleasant weather. The ascent is not difficult because there are nitches cut into the hard snow which makes it about like going up a flight of stairs 1,600 feet high and just about as steep. After going up about five or six hundred feet we ran into a blizzard of blinding snow. It came on in two or three minutes, so thick and fierce that I could not see ten feet ahead. All we could do was keep watch where each foot was placed and keep moving....
We found a man who was going down to show us the way...it got so lively we could not keep our feet, and down the mountain we went the way children go down the stairs. Away we flew "shooting the chutes" sitting in grooves up to our shoulders at times and others on the level. Sliding from side to side and oftimes almost turning from end to end, then bumping into the fellow ahead. With the snow in the air and what we kicked up in sliding we were like snow balls when the bottom was reached. We shot out of the storm into nice weather in a moment, shook ourselves free of as much snow as possible asnd our first trip over the Chilkoot Pass was ended. Altogether it was a delightful experience.