The weeks before the trip, co-schemer Drew Stoecklein and I made various cold calls to anyone we thought might have a sliver of insight into conditions in the Brooks. Responses ranged from neutral, “hmm, I don’t know boys I doubt anybody has been flying up there since the fall,” from one bush pilot, to down right negative and threatening, “Are you boys f#&king stupid? That sounds like a suicide mission,” from a park ranger.
But we stayed the course, pouring over Google Earth images, web cams, and satellite photos that we hoped would give us a clear “go” or “no go” message. Finally, we called Bozo Cardozo, a guide and intrepid soul who was no stranger to the unknown. “You’re eventually going to get to a point in your adventures where there’s not a road map and you have to go for it, the important thing is to have the humility to pull the plug if, at some point, you realize you’re in over your head,” Bozo said, in a matter-or-fact way. Perhaps the only people that are qualified to judge the legitimacy of an adventure are the enigmas that have been there themselves, that have actively sought discomfort, roadless maps and geographic conundrums, for no other reason than satisfying their soul’s intrinsic search for adventure.
So that was it, we were going. Drew—a skier and photographer with the endearing ability to simultaneously make you laugh and piss you off—Todd Ligare, and Lars Chickering-Ayers rounded out the crew. Todd’s ambition far exceeded his camping and expedition skills, but personally I’d take ambition over talent on a trip like this. Lars is a guy that lets his actions speak for him—and I mean that in a very literal sense. The man is a doer, not a talker, another valuable asset.