After the gold rush

Several reality TV show contestants were poisoned earlier this week after eating a poisonous plant on the Chilkoot Trail, said Christine Aikens, Parks Canada's public safety specialist on the Chilkoot Trail.

Several reality TV show contestants were poisoned earlier this week after eating a poisonous plant on the Chilkoot Trail, said Christine Aikens, Parks Canada’s public safety specialist on the Chilkoot Trail.

After grazing some edible species, the group accidently ate the false hellebore, the “most toxic poisonous plant on the West Coast,” said Tim Steidel, chief ranger of Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park.

They suffered from severe vomiting and diarrhea and probably would have died from the lethal plant if a Parks Canada employee didn’t happen across their camp, said Steidel.

After a hospital visit, the hikers returned to the trail to continue filming the show, La Ruee vers l’or (The Gold Rush).

The contestants were among 10 French-Canadian hikers who are re-enacting the gold rush on the Chilkoot Trail for the reality show.

But unlike 19th-century prospectors, these adventure-seekers don’t strike it rich at the end.

There is no prize and no winners.

“It’s educational, it’s historical and a human experiment in terms of group dynamics,” said Marie-Josee Houle, the show’s co-ordinator.

The 10 candidates are recreating the Klondike Gold Rush as it would have been in 1898.

“They’re dressed in the same sort of period outfits as they would have worn back then, same type of equipment in terms of their sleighs, the equipment they use for their camp, the prospector tents, and they’ve got the same type of food.”

When they’re not dining on local flora, like the toxic hellebore, they’re surviving off corned beef, rice and flour.

On their backs they carry 500 pounds of food, clothing and equipment. The only modern supplies they have are bear spray and avalanche equipment for safety, said Houle.

“Everything we do, basically we try to make it true to the history of the Gold Rush. Back in the day you couldn’t hike over the Chilkoot Pass and pass through Canadian customs unless you had enough food and equipment to last the entire year … so they have to do that as well.”

But the toughest part is nature itself.

“Everything from just dealing with the wilderness,” said Houle. “There are bears in that area. It’s not an easy trail. It’s rough, especially when you get to the scales,” adding that the contestants are travelling in cold, rain and snow without waterproof equipment. “It’s not a very forgiving challenge.”

Poisonous plants and watching for bears are only a few of the challenges they face.

The hikers have experienced back pain from the heavy packs and blisters and bloody feet from the old-fashioned shoes.

But what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger.

The challenge is about “giving yourself confidence by challenging yourself and seeing how far you can go and pushing those limits all the time,” said Houle.

She trusts they will endure. That’s how the contestants were chosen – the producers chose 10 people out of 1,200 who auditioned because they believed they could make it to the end.

“It’s putting 10 people together who have different interests, different characters and getting them to the end point,” said Houle. “It’s an experiment in group dynamics. None of them knew each other before the fact.”

The show is currently being filmed with Ottawa-based Slalom Productions and Winnipeg’s Les Productions Rivard.

Contestants began their trek in Skagway on June 5 and are expected to arrive in Dawson by the end of the summer where they’ll pan for gold. They’ll make a stop in Whitehorse on July 24.

But the schedule is flexible because of unpredictable conditions.

“It is documentary so we kind of go with the flow of events and see what happens. We don’t ever really control and they take most of the decisions and we follow them through the whole thing,” said Houle.

The challenge is scheduled to air in 2011 on TFO and TVA.

Contact Larissa Robyn Johnston at

larissaj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Whitehorse’s Selkirk pump house on Selkirk Road in Riverdale on Jan. 26. Whitehorse city council decided Jan. 25 that there will be no advantage for local firms planning to submit proposals for the final report and design of a second barrier water treatment project for the Selkirk pump house. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
No local content weighting on pump house contract

Work will see design for water treatment system

The Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is issuing $10 million in rebates to employers this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Yukon employers to receive $10-million in rebates from Workers’ Compensation Board

Eligible employers will receive cheques based on total premiums paid in 2020

Connie Peggy Thorn, 52, pleaded guilty Jan. 27 to manslaughter in the 2017 death of Greg Dawson. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse woman pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of Greg Dawson

Connie Thorn, 52, was arrested in October 2019 and pleaded guilty in Supreme Court on Jan. 27.

Abigail Jirousek, left, is tailed by Brian Horton while climbing a hill during the Cross Country Yukon January Classic in Whitehorse on Jan. 23. Jirousek finished second in the U16 girls category. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Cross Country Yukon hosts classic race

Cross Country Yukon hosted a classic technique cross-country ski race on Jan.… Continue reading

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver talks to media on March 5, 2020. The Yukon government said Jan. 25 that it is disappointed in a decision by the federal government to send the Kudz Ze Kayah mining project back to the drawing board. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Territorial and federal governments at odds over Kudz Ze Kayah mine project

The federal government, backed by Liard First Nation, sent the proposal back to the screening stage

Yukon RCMP’s Historial Case Unit are seeking the public’s help locating Bradley MacDonald, a 42-year-old man who has been missing since Aug. 5, 2019. (RCMP handout)
Historical Case Unit seeks man missing since 2019

Yukon RCMP’s Historial Case Unit are seeking the public’s help locating a… Continue reading

Yukon RCMP said in a press release that they are seeing an increase in tinted front passenger windows and are reminding people that it is illegal and potentially dangerous. (RCMP handout)
RCMP warn against upward trend of tinted windows

Yukon RCMP are seeing more vehicles with tinted front passenger windows, prompting… Continue reading

An arrest warrant has been issued for a 22-year-old man facing two tickets violating the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em>. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Arrest warrant issued for CEMA violation

An arrest warrant has been issued for Ansh Dhawan over two tickets for violating CEMA

The office space at 151 Industrial Road in Marwell. At Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 25 meeting, members voted to sign off on the conditional use approval so Unit 6 at 151 Industrial Rd. can be used for office space. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Marwell move set for land and building services staff

Conditional use, lease approved for office space

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Most Read