Expedition Denali: Scott Briscoe


Exposure at an early age to life in the great outdoors put Scott Briscoe on the long road of adventure. Inspired by a grandfather who loved to fish he developed a profound appreciation for the natural world that continues to this day. Though having attended private schools and granted many opportunities to experience high profile sports like skiing and snowboarding Scott is no person of privilege. With the support and sacrifice of single mom who encouraged his recreational passions he took full advantage of resources made available to him to build a career dedicated to inspiring others less fortunate.

Working with young people to foster their interest in outdoor recreation Scott aspires to be a role model. And as member of NOLS’ Expedition Denali, the first attempt to put an African-American team of climbers on the highest summit in North America, he aims to put his mountaineering skills to good use as a demonstration of what anyone can accomplish given the right exposure and encouragement. In this interview Scott explains how.

Q: Once you got into climbing how did that activity make you feel?

A: It’s everything. For me it makes me feel I’m alive. It gives me breath. It gives me excitement. There are a lot of fears that I have with climbing. When you’re on the rock, or even more basic when you’re inside a gym and you’re climbing up some of the holds you get a little bit of fear. So it’s really nice to dance with that fear and move with it.

Q: How do you think NOLS helps people reach those places where you are now spending time in the outdoors.

A: I think the most important thing that NOLS is doing right now is creating the exposure that people of color are out there. They’re doing these things. You may not hear about them, you may not see it, but theses are things that need to continue.

Q: So is Expedition Denali just another climb or is it a pivotal moment in history? And if so, why?
A: I see it as a pivotal moment, but think what’s greater than the climb itself is the overall project. For me, I’m thrilled about the climb. I’m excited to be in the outdoors, to have that feeling of dancing with that fear, with people who look like me, who have grown up and have had similar experiences as me. But the overarching project is overwhelming to me. To have the opportunity to go to schools, to go to community centers to go to churches and to talk to young children and share these experiences which they may not otherwise have, or heard about or even seen. That is the greater achievement, exposing this climb to those young kids.

Q: Why do you think it’s taken so long to get to this point?

A: I think it’s taken this long to get to this point because I think it takes a lot of people for a movement to really roll. Again, praise to NOLS for drawing us all together. When we first got together it was so amazing. We sat in this large circle and I just remember people saying over and over how amazing it is to see somebody who looks like me and to know that they’re doing these things that I feel so passionate about. There was just no way to draw the connection and I think NOLS has done a fabulous job of being the cohesion to bring us together.

Q: Obviously those connections, bringing people together is important. But how you make the outdoor industry realize or appreciate the importance of those connections as well?

A: Well it’s multi-facetted. The first thing that I think about is that fact that what was the minority is now becoming the majority. We have such an incredibly diverse society and if we leave that diverse society out of what’s happening in our National Parks, in our climbing areas then there’s a possibility that they might be depleted and maybe one day be gone. We need to bring a collective voice for everybody to say “These places are important to us”. And that includes everybody. So it’s really important to have those minorities who will soon be the majority to have that voice.
I think another part of it is people of color make up a large portion of the market. What a great opportunity for brands to grab hold of that and move forward?

Q: When you think of Denali, what goes through your head?
A: I’ve said this before. There’s fear. There’s excitement. It’s a serious climb. It’s one of the most dangerous climbs because of the weather and where it’s at. So certainly fear and the seriousness of the climb comes in. The excitement comes from the potential accomplishment with such incredible folks that are doing amazing things. And to be part of Expedition Denali with that group gives me goosebumps!


The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the generous support of MAKO Surgical Corp. Ask your doctor if you’re a candidate for MAKOPlasty.


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I'm a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

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