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Phillips spent a few hours in Warren patiently listening as the village elders warned that he could not cross the pass. They told him not to go: "If you get hurt," they said, "we can't help you. If you get lost, we can't search for you. But if we happen to find your body in the spring, we will bring it out."
On that happy note, Phillips set out the next morning on a crossing that rarely had been made in winter. It took him three days. "I knew there would be nothing there that I had not encountered back home in my own mountains," he says. "And I knew my equipment and myself. It was not an easy trip. The drifts in some of those windrows were fierce. But it was no more difficult than I had expected."
In his quiet way, Phillips passes lightly over the hairier moments of his trek. At one point he slipped off a ledge, catching his backpack on a branch where he hung upside down until he could reach a knife and cut himself free.
When Phillips finally arrived at Buckskin Bill's cabin on the shores of the River of No Return, the old man, like any sane hermit, was inside by the fire. He answered Phillips' knock and incredulously peered at his unexpected visitor.
"How'd you git here?" he asked.
"Over the pass," Phillips said.
"Well, praise God," the hermit chuckled. "There's still somebody out there with a little adventure left in his soul."
Phillips stayed a week with Bill, listening to the lessons the old man had learned from a lifetime in the wilderness. Phillips' only disappointment, if it could be called such, was that he had found the weather in Idaho too warm. The temperature had never dropped lower than 10 below zero. For the ultimate test of his gear, he wanted weather much colder. He came closer to what he was looking for last winter in Barrow, Alaska.
In the two weeks Phillips and his son camped on the frozen Arctic slope at Barrow they spent much time with the Eskimos and even took a troop of Barrow scouts—all Eskimos—camping out on the pack ice, reacquainting them with many of the survival arts of their people which have been lost in the television and transistor age.
Although the weather in Barrow was still not cold enough for Phillips—the temperature often went as high as 20� below zero—the trip was an invaluable test of his equipment as well as an opportunity to study Eskimo clothing. Phillips is convinced, as are many other cold-weather experts, that Eskimo dress is still the most functional and practical in extreme cold. His own gear is based on the Eskimo concept of keeping all clothing large and loose-fitting.