You’ll need a good, sturdy truck that you can repair yourself. Just as important are warm clothes and boots for the hours you’ll spend scouting. It’s a good idea to have some planks of wood to bridge pressure ridges, but be prepared to lose that luxury out the back of your truck as you bump along uneven ice and snow. You’ll need a good eye to spot weak ice and cracks, as well as a heavy foot to barrel over those obstacles. Skills and equipment aside, the most important things you’ll need to drive across a frozen lake without an ice road are guts, faith, and a bit of style.
Deep in the annals of The Prospector, Yellowknife’s first newspaper, a wild adventure yarn belies the curt headline, “Drive truck across lake.” In January 1939, Frank Sedore and Red Hamilton drove a 1937 heavy duty Chevrolet truck across Great Slave Lake from Fort Resolution on the south shore to Yellowknife on the North Arm. It took them eight days, two of which they spent at Outpost Island repairing the truck while the island’s lone inhabitant—who’d had no radio or reading material all winter and was right bushed—tried to ascertain whether they were hallucinations.
The pair lost their planks of wood on the first day of the trip and had to build bridges over cracks out of sleigh runners and racks. It was either that or just slam the pedal to the metal over thin ice. They’d leave their truck and walk for miles scouting their route and often just grab their axes to hack a road through the ice ridges.
The only easy travelling of the whole trip came on the evening of the last day of the drive, as the pair entered Yellowknife Bay. They drove at a good clip, about 40 km/h, right off the bay and onto the town's road, and caught Yellowknife Supplies before it closed for the night.
You’ll want to get used to reading the ice before trying a stunt like this. (And heck, if you just want to get from A to B, take a snowmobile.) But if you successfully drive from the south shore to Yellowknife Bay in less than eight days, take the houseboaters’ ice road to Old Town, park your truck and head to The Woodyard brewpub down the main road. I doubt you’ll have to pay for your own beers.