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Route Three:† Flying from Seattle/Vancouver to Whitehorse via the Trench and the Alaska Highway: 850 nm with One Stop in Prince George
∑ To reach the Trench, one must first fly across the Rockies from the Seattle/Vancouver area to Prince George.† The shortest IFR route is a distance of 305 nm, with the highest MEA of 14,000 feet, and would be along the Victor airways:† Paine VOR (PAE), V23 to Whatcom VOR (HUH), V349 to Williams Lake VOR (YWL), then V349 to Prince George VOR (YXS) and to the Prince George airport (CYXS).† The segment along V23 from Whatcom VOR (HUH) to Williams Lake VOR (YWL) has an MEA of 14,000 feet.† For pilots who donít want to use oxygen, an MEA of 10,000 feet is available by instead flying V349 from Whatcom VOR (HUH) to JANEK intersection, then V338 to Ashcroft VOR (YZA), then V325 to Williams Lake VOR (YWL).† This alternate route has a distance of 333 nm.† It is highly advisable to stop for fuel in Prince George, since the second leg of this route (342 nm to Watson Lake) has only sporadic gravel landing strips that require advance-fueling arrangements.†
∑ One can also reach the Trench by flying VFR from the Seattle/Vancouver area to Prince George, a distance of approximately 280 nm.† The Canadian VFR charts for Vancouver and Prince George depict the recommended route with a trail of blue diamonds:† depart Vancouver harbor to the north over Howe Sound (reachable by flying V321 on the 352 degree radial from the Victoria VOR (YYJ)) and then follow the Cheakamus River through a 2,000 foot high pass just next to the Whistler Mountain ski area, over Anderson Lake, past Lillooet airport (CAR3); then through the 3,450 foot high Kelly Lake mountain pass; then follow highway 97 past Williams Lake VOR (YWL) and Quesnel VOR (YQZ) to Prince George airport (CYXS).† The portion of this route from Vancouver until just past Anderson Lake traverses the 10,000 foot high Rocky Mountains by means of a river valley that is generally only 2,000 to 3,000 feet high, so winds and weather can be important factors.† Beyond the Kelly Lake mountain pass the terrain rises to a wide plateau that is generally 4,000 feet msl.††
∑ To actually fly the Trench (which is basically a natural ditch through the Rocky Mountains), the second leg covers a distance of 340 nm from Prince George (CYXS) to Watson Lake (CYQH).† The Canadian VFR charts for Prince George and Fort Nelson depict the recommended route with a trail of blue diamonds:† depart Prince George airport (CYXS) and follow the highway outbound at a heading of 326 degrees to MacKenzie (CYZY); then follow manmade Williston Lake at a heading of 306 degrees for its entire 110 nm length; then continue north following the Finlay River past Fort Ware (CAJ9).† At this point the Trench begins to narrow and its floor rises to a 3,500 foot high pass through the surrounding high mountains (up to 10,000 feet):† this is the choke point for weather.† There is no way around the pass, so if it is closed off due to weather, its time to turn around† (arenít you glad that you left Prince George with full tanks?).† Beyond this pass the Trench descends and widens:† follow the Kechika River until the Gataga River at the same 306 degree heading to Watson Lake (CYQH).† This last portion will be in open tiaga terrain and the Liard River plain, with few ground features and virtually no civilization.†
∑ Be advised that this second leg (described in the preceding paragraph), where a pilot is flying through the Trench itself, has no radio facilities to talk with ATC except for an RCO on 126.7 at Fort Ware (CAJ9), with limited range due to the mountainous terrain.† So donít expect to receive many weather updates enroute.† Also, there are no published airways for IFR navigation along this second leg of the route through the Trench, and the typical area minimum altitude in this region is 12,000 feet high, so donít expect a swift or safe transition to an IFR flight plan if the weather deteriorates.
∑ From Watson Lake (CYQH) to Whitehorse (CYXY) is a distance of 195 nm.† The Canadian VFR charts for Atlin and Whitehorse depict the recommended route along the Alaska Highway with a trail of blue diamonds:† follow the highway as it leaves Watson Lake at a heading of 242 degrees through the valley of the Rancho Ria River, where there is a small pass at 3,300 feet msl just after Pine Lake airport (CFY5) (the surrounding mountains are 6,000 to 7,000 feet high); continue following the highway through the valley of the Swift River, passing several small lakes and then the over Teslin Lake, past Teslin airport (CYZW);† just at the end of Teslin Lake follow the highway as it diverges from the Teslin River and instead makes an abrupt turn southwestótravel through a cut in the mountains and a small 2,800 foot pass, then exit the mountain area and follow the highway as it turns to the northwest just before Little Atlin Lake (not highway 7 which veers to the south) along the shores of Marsh Lake to Whitehorse (CYXY).
∑ †If flying IFR to Prince George IFR, use the Canadian LO 2 enroute chart (1.5MB, so expect slow download).† If flying this Route Three by VFR, use the following Canadian sectional charts:† Vancouver, Prince George, Fort Nelson, Atlin and Whitehorse.† There is also a Canadian sectional chart entitled Alaska Highway.†
∑ Listed below are directory information, diagrams and instrument approach procedures for each of the airports mentioned in Route Three (or, in the case of a navigation aid, the associated airport).† This information was obtained from either AOPA or NavCanada, is copyrighted, has an expiration date of mid-2004, and is presented for informational purposes only.
Fort Ware (CAJ9)
Pine Lake (CFY5)
Prince George (CYXS).†
Watson Lake (CYQH)