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Yukon hiker killed at Pooly Canyon remembered for adventurous spirit

Dan Kemble’s loss leaves huge hole in Yukon and beyond
Dan Kemble on Coal River (Dan Patterson/submitted)

For nearly fifty years, Dan Kemble was a stalwart presence in Carcross. He was known to live life fully, exhibit community and personal presence, and move without hesitation or reservation.

Kemble died suddenly in Pooly Canyon on the south side of Montana Mountain while exploring with friends on July 29. The gorge is technical, beautiful and dangerous. Kemble, who was thrilled to be back exploring the cavernous spaces and paths, had split from the group to find an old cabin.

He fell into a steep crevasse, according to a report from the Yukon Coroner issued on Aug. 2. His body was recovered by search and rescue the following morning on July 30.

Kemble, 64, leaves his wife Nancy and two adult boys, Wes and Vince, and a huge circle of family and friendships that spanned decades and circled the globe.

Kemble was a man who loved to make connections and see things that move — birds, rivers, animals and people. He groomed community cross-country ski trails for over forty years, invited community newcomers to shinny hockey on outdoor ice, served as fire chief, spent time on the local advisory council and sat on several other boards and committees.

Kemble is remembered as an avid birder who kept a lifelist of spotted species, a keeper of long friendships, and as a person who wrote letters, made phone calls and organized trips without email, cell phones or internet.

Dick Eastmure, who has known Kemble since Grade 3, also noted his friend’s adventurous spirit.

“He called them all trips, whether a canoe trip, a hiking trip, a hunting trip, a ski trip or other outdoor adventure stuff,” Eastmure said. Kemble loved to show people the places around Carcross, “And that’s what he was doing when he died.”

Kemble trained with Parks Canada on the restoration of the S.S. Klondike. He restored buildings on Herschel Island, a Dawson gold dredge, the Tutshi in Carcross, WhitePass and Yukon Route Railroad’s Duchess engine and buildings at Robinson and Bennett Lake, and others. He was mid-way into the restoration of the MV Tarahne in Atlin.

He loved his work, picking and choosing his jobs like he picked each piece of wood. Eastmure recalled asking him when he planned to retire, to which Kemble replied, “Why would I retire? I love what I do. I just have to tell a client that I’m going to the cabin and will be back in a few days.”

In 1973, at 17-years-old, Kemble hopped freight trains across Canada to the Yukon, hitchhiking the final bit, to attend the Carcross Community Education Centre set up by Bishop Frame of the Anglican Church. It made perfect sense for the adventurous soul he was.

Kemble’s adventures continued throughout his life. Some, his partners called “life altering.” Kemble never failed to find people to join him on his trips, though some grew more selective as they aged and adjusted their inner risk calculation.

His wife Nancy described how Dan, as a kid, would get on his bike and go anywhere. One time he wrote a letter to his mom from the next town, because that was where his legs had taken him.

Before he died, their next planned trip was to see his English teacher from high school who had inspired him to read, write, listen, adventure, and move to the Yukon to finish his schooling. Kemble was also a man of books.

On Facebook, some recalled his motions, others his steadfast and ethical presence. His niece, Amy-Rose Kemble wrote:

“Somehow he’s the most wild person I’ve ever known, and also the most calm.”

Contact Lawrie Crawford at