Brooks Range Traverse Cancelled

East fork river in brooks range winter scenic

Last week I posted a story about an attempt by Aussies John Cantor and Evan Howard to make the first ever winter traverse of the Brooks Range in Alaska. The expedition was expected to take up to two months to complete and cover more than 1000 miles (1600 km) in the process. The duo knew that to be successful, they would need to endure incredibly high winds, bone chilling temperatures and a host of other difficult conditions. Yesterday, about a week and a half into the journey, they were forced to pull the plug and abandon the expedition altogether, as fears for their safety grew.

 Early on, John and Evan admitted that the conditions were more challenging than they had expected. Posting to their Facebook page, the hinted that the extremely cold temperatures and high winds were making progress incredibly difficult. But as the week progressed, they seemed to hit their stride to a degree and gained confidence in their ability to make progress across the arctic landscape they were passing through. Weather conditions improved a bit as well, with the winds dying down to a degree.

But last night, they posted a new update that indicated that Cantor had contracted frostbite in one of his fingers early on and it has continued to worsen over the days. If he were to stay out on the trail, there is the real possibility that he could lose the finger altogether, and put both himself and Evan at greater risk. On top of that, the chance of a rescue operation being safely conducted in their remote location became a factor too. So, with that in mind, they decided the wisest option was to pull the plug and head home.

This is a good reminder that not all expeditions are successful. The world is still filled with wild and difficult places, and the Brooks Range is one of them. The conditions there are trying at the best of times, and during the winter they are all but inhospitable. I’m sure John and Evan are disappointed in having to go home, but it sounds like it was the right decision.

Kraig Becker