OVER THE TOP

Possibly the oldest hiker to complete the Chilkoot, Reid Ross, 83, leans on his walking stick after crossing the summit. Standing behind Ross is Sandy Miller. Photo courtesy Maggie Purves

Octagenarian conquers Chilkoot

By CASEY GROVE
Eighty-three year-old “Speedy” Reid Ross from Durango, Colo. might be the oldest person to have succeessfully hiked the Chilkoot Trail. Ross and the “Chilkoot Chicks,” his four female hiking companions, completed the trail in five days, riding the train back from Bennett to Skagway July 15.
“The trip was a piece of cake,” Ross said while enjoying a celebratory beer at Mile Zero Bed and Breakfast. “A walk in the park.” His favorite part of the hike was the climb over Chilkoot Pass and the Golden Stairs.
“It’s a challenge, a physical and emotional challenge,” Ross said, “and you keep thinking about those poor bastards that went over it 40 times. And they weren’t carrying 40-pound packs. You’ve got to respect that after doing it yourself.”
Janet Ross, Speedy’s daughter, was one of the first park rangers on the Chilkoot Trail back in the 1970s. The hike this summer was her first time seeing the Chilkoot in 27 years.
“There were just a lot of crazy people then,” Janet said. “It wasn’t a permitted trail.”
She believes her father is the oldest person to successfully carry his own pack the entire length of the trail. A 92-year-old woman had previously completed the trail, “But she wasn’t under her own power,” Janet said, because she had help carrying her pack for much of the way. An 89-year-old man also attempted the trail, she said, but broke his leg and was evacuated before finishing.
The average age of Ross’s group was 64, but, said one hiker, “He pulled the average way up.”
Ross jokingly disagreed with their arithmetic. “The average age was deceased,” he said, eliciting laughter from his friends.
Lead Protection Ranger Tim Steidel said the National Park Service does not have complete records on hiker’s ages, and therefore could not back up claims that Ross is in fact the oldest to complete the trail. Janet Ross said a ranger at the Trail Center told the group that her father was the oldest.