An interview with John Cantor

3 mins

Many of us were fortunate enough to hear John Cantor speak at our recent Minters Ascent Series events in Brisbane (26 October), Sydney (31 October) and Melbourne (1 November).

This series, which is open to all alumni, provides unique opportunities to network and hear inspiring keynote presentations.

John is an adventurer and professional speaker who recently joined MinterEllison whilst completing his law degree at The University of Notre Dame Australia.
John is currently preparing to traverse the Brooks Range in winter - a 1600km expedition across Arctic Alaska. We sat down with John to learn more about his courageous plans.

Tell us about your journey? (How far is it? How long will it take?)

The Winter Traverse of the Brooks Range spans 1,600km across a mountain range in continual darkness with temperatures ranging from minus 20 to minus 80 degrees Celsius with wind chill. It has never been done before and will likely take two months.

What sort of challenges do you expect to encounter?

The cold is by far the biggest challenge, followed by the darkness. Loneliness won't be an issue as I'll have an expedition partner, but the isolation is a big factor. Rescue will be challenging bordering on impossible, so we have to factor limited support into our risk assessment and management plans.

Where did the inspiration to tackle this trip from?

I read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, dropped out of university and went to Alaska. From there, I fell in love with the Brooks Range and eventually traversed it solo in summer. My expedition partner and I became the first people to attempt to traverse it in winter in 2014. It is exciting because it is one of the last expeditions on earth that has not been done in winter before.

How do you pack for such an expedition? What will you be taking?

Very little – a tent, sleeping bag and pad, stoves, camera equipment, skis, shovel, GPS, satellite phone and food. That's about it.

What will you be encountering along the journey?

There will be moose, caribou, wolves, wolverines, Arctic foxes, ptarmigan and musk ox. The Aurora Borealis will be out most nights, as will intense wind and snow.

How do you fill the time alone on such trips?

Filling time is not a problem; we need to ski 1,600km over mountains!

What drives you? Where does the motivation come from?

My main motivation comes from challenging myself and finding out what I am capable of.

When considering adventures, what do you look for?

I look for something that possibly can't be done. That's what excites me.

What do you think the highlight of the trip will be?

The moment I know for sure we can complete the expedition. As it has never been done, it is still unclear whether it is actually possible.

What do you want the journey to inspire in people?

To find their own 'Brooks Range.'

What advice would you give someone considering such a trip?

Learn from my mistakes, or the mistakes of others who have done a trip before you. I have provided information and guidance to many people wishing to attempt to traverse the Brooks Range. Some of them have made the exact same mistakes I made, despite my warnings. I guess sometimes people need to learn for themselves.

Of your previous trips, what story or moment stands out?

Being out there for my birthday.

You give fantastic talks. What do you hope the audience walks away with from these talks?

That people realise failure is not the end, but rather a new opportunity to set out to achieve their goal again.

How has MinterEllison supported you? How's the support and encouragement from the team?

Not only has MinterEllison provided financial support for the expedition, they have truly believed in me and my project. I really look forward to actually beginning this 15 month project and seeing the excitement in the firm as the expedition gets underway.

After the upcoming trip, what is next for you?

Starting my Grad offer with MinterEllison!

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