Phillip, a Vibram Five Fingers fan, and his girlfriend recently hiked the Chilkoot Trail in Alaska and British Columbia. This trail was used by prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush to reach the Yukon goldfields. It is a 33 mile trail that can takes 3 to 5 days to hike and Phillip did it all in his Vibram Five Fingers KSOs. After the jump, Phillip shares his experience and amazing photos from the hike:
Hi! My name is Phillip, I'm from Juneau Alaska, and I'm a huge fan of Five Fingers. Recently, my girlfriend and I traveled to Skagway, Alaska to hike the infamous Chilkoot Trail. I've been wearing my Five Fingers KSOs for a little over a year now for just about everything, from 5k races to jet skiing, so I didn't think twice about using them for this trip. I'm stoked to say that I had no problems wearing my toe shoes for the entirety of the hike, 40 pound pack and all.
Our first day on the trail also happened to be our only dry day. After that, it was rain or mist for the rest of the trip. We took a shuttle out from Skagway to Dyea, a former tent city, but presently just the starting point for the hike. Roots covered the trail on all points, except for where it was in turn covered with bear scat. Oddly enough, we didn't see a single bear for the entire trip! When we finally got to Sheep camp 12.4 miles in, our dry part of the hike had ended, leaving us to set up camp in the rain.
On the morning of our summit, we were up early, waiting for the day to start so we could move around and warm up. This late in the summer, almost all of the snow had melted from the pass, revealing an incredibly steep slope consisting entirely of boulders. This was my favorite part of the hike, in no small part because of the ease at which I could scramble up and over the rocks with my toe shoes. We ended up passing several groups on our way to the warming hut on the summit, which also happens to be the border. On our way back down, we did encounter areas where crusty snow still lingered in the shadows of the mountain. Traction on snow is not a strong suit of the KSOs razor-siped sole, but by using my toes I was able to grab onto the wind made ridges and get around. After that, we were faced by a series of stream crossings. For this day, I wore a pair of Injinjis, which unquestionably eliminated a problem I sometimes have with seams rubbing when I get my feet wet. At just about every stream crossing we had, I had absolutely no problems with traction or chafing. For that matter, I ended the trip without a single hot spot or blister.
By the time we arrived at Bennett, the last point on the trail, we had seen a ton of gold rush artifacts, been through roots, rocks, mud and sand, and met just about everyone else on the trail. A fellow hiker thanked me, apparently because she had entertained herself with tracking "bigfoot" during the hours and hours of hiking. My girlfriend had to laugh when people asked her with surprise, "Wow, you're wearing running shoes for this hike?" at which she would point at me and say, "yeah, but look at what he's wearing."
The trip was a blast, and definitely doable in fivefingers, as long as you've conditioned your feet to barefoot conditions. If I was to do it again, I think I would use a pair of treks, as I think the extra traction would make a huge difference on the snow. Also, I'm pretty rough on my KSOs. They had to go through a lot of stitching and fabric glue after a bike crash last fall (my big toe has a nice scar from being ground on the road), and a couple other places, like the little toes and the mesh to fabric seam on both shoes have needed some TLC. I think the mostly leather construction of the treks would probably be best for the abuse I put them through. Oh, and Vibram, if you want to hook a guy up in return for product durability testing, I'm your man!
And of course, here are some pictures for you all to enjoy.
Photos of Phillip and his girlfriend on their Chilkoot Trail hike:
Thanks for the great write-up and pics. Looks like your KSOs have been through a lot and it is impressive how you have been able to patch them up. BTW, find any gold up there?