What You Missed on Ultimate Survival Alaska: Arctic Battleground

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Episode 1 yet, read no further!

In the first episode of Ultimate Survival Alaska Season 2, four teams of expert outdoorsmen—Team Endurance, Team Military, Team Mountaineers, and Team Woodsmen—are dropped into a desolate ice field above Juneau. The clock starts with a grueling three-mile glacial hike to a dog camp, which honestly, seems like a bit of an unfair advantage for a certain team; Endurance gets there first and we all know team member Dallas is a professional dog musher. In fact, he’s the youngest person to win the Iditarod!

It looks like Endurance is going to have a leg up, but Military is on their heels and has a plan of their own. They may not have the skills to beat Endurance on a dog sled, but they figure—who needs canine power? So Military takes a gamble and walks out of the camp without stopping to even scratch a dog behind the ears, leaving Endurance to get their dogs in a row on the snow with their jaws hanging.

Team Endurance
TEAM ENDURANCE: With their sled dogs in position, Dallas and Sean wait for teammate Eddie to catch up. // Photo by Brian Catalina Entertainment

By the time Endurance starts the race across Gilkey Glacier with their dog teams, Military already has a decent lead on them, but Dallas sounds pretty confident they will catch up. And they do—for a moment. However, they aren’t expecting the river of glacial melt water. Endurance finds themselves at the backend of a sled dog train wreck and watching Military make crossing the freezing water look like jumping puddles.

Behind them, The Mountaineers and The Woodsmen are jostling for third place. Tyler manages to lose his pack and then himself off the dog sled, knocking down Marty who is skiing along behind. It looks like a comedy of errors until Tyler manages to run down the sled and get it back under control. You read that right; Tyler outran a runaway dog team. Go Tyler!

The day ends with Military in first place followed by Endurance, Mountaineers, and Woodsmen.

Watch: Timber Tina’s Video Diary After Day 1

On day two the teams are all on foot and looking for the best path down a 2,000 foot gully on their way to a 15-mile whitewater rafting trip. Endurance chooses to trek down a glacial route—which is absolutely insane. Sean explains that at any time they could find themselves on a snow bridge with nothing but a deceptive layer of white power between them and a bottomless crevasse.  Of course, Sean falls through one as if to prove his point. Fortunately, the guys are all roped up and have each other’s back. Still, Sean does an excellent job of proving they are insane. Did I mention they are insane?

Watch: Sean’s Video Diary

The Mountaineers are all straight up Alaskans, so they make the trek look a little easier. Putting screws in your boot soles for traction? Brilliant! The Mountaineers take the lead, but Military isn’t far behind and they have another surprise tactic: protein.

Each of the competitors has two pounds of beans and rice for each leg of the competition. Making it a feast is entirely up to them. More protein would mean more energy and lucky for Military, Grady is a crackerjack shot, because the only prey they find is a squirrel. Squirrel for dinner anyone? Rudy says it smells like chicken…

Watch: The Mountaineers’ Video Diary

Day three is extraction day and the teams are hustling to make it to the rendezvous point. If they miss it, then it’s game over. However the rapids they have to traverse are not going to make it easy. Tina is nervous about the very real possibility of falling in the freezing water and succumbing to hypothermia. It’s another member of the Woodsmen who takes the plunge, however. The team panics when Jimmy goes under and disappears. Their frantic search for their missing compatriot puts them far behind.

Endurance has its own challenges. In a section of the river full of strainers, fallen trees that create vacuum suction, Sean gets pulled in and pinned. Poor Sean, Alaska has definitely got it out for him on this leg. The team hustles to give him a lifeline, tying a shoe to the end of the rope and dragging him to shore.

In the meantime, the Woodsmen find Jimmy, soaked, but alive and relieved. The oldest member of the competition at 62, Jimmy proves he is just as tough and resilient as the rest of the crew. His teammates are overwhelmed with relief and maybe they won’t underestimate Jimmy again. They need to get Jimmy dry and warmed up, but they are still three miles away from the extraction point with only an hour left. It looks like they may not make it.

Military pulls up to shore, claiming first place. Their reward?  A bucket of jerky, which is surely tastier than squirrel.  Endurance and Mountaineers both arrive, but they are still missing a team. The plane is in sight and everyone is thinking that the Woodsmen aren’t going to make it. At the last minute, the Woodmen pull up, coming in last, but proud they came in at all.

Four teams, eleven legs of the competition, and only one winner. Have you picked your favorite yet? I know I have. Cast your vote with the Ultimate Competition Tracker.

And be sure to tune in for the next leg of the adventure! Ultimate Survival Alaska: Savage Beasts airs Sunday December 22 at 9PM et/pt.

Here’s a peek at what’s in store:


  1. JIF guy
    December 21, 2013, 6:44 pm

    You’d think that, this being a National Geographic program, they’d be able to get their geography right. They tell us that the dog sledding takes place on the Gilkey Glacier. Not true. They are on the Mendenhall Glacier and the Herbert Glacier, 25 miles south of where, sometime later, they were dropped off on the Bucher Glacier (a tributary of the Gilkey Glacier). In fact, there are no dog camps on the Gilkey Glacier. So the entire first half of the program takes place on the Mendenhall and Herbert Glaciers. And that part of the program had absolutely nothing to do with the trek from the upper Bucher Glacier out to Berner’s Bay. So what was the point of having the teams doing the dog sledding? It makes no sense. This show is just another example of the current media hype about Alaska. It’s all just a bunch or ridiculous melodrama. The only thing programs like this are good for is spreading misinformation about Alaska. I wish they would just go away and leave us alone!

  2. Jean McBride
    Evergreen, Co.
    December 21, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Beautiful country,, great filming, rugged people

  3. Juneau Icefield expert
    December 22, 2013, 9:32 pm

    Just a correction to the show and the article above: the dog sledding is not on the Gilkey Glacier. It is on the Mendenhall and Herbert Glaciers.

  4. Nate Atwood
    January 2, 2015, 9:46 pm

    All faith lost in National “Geographic”. JIF guy is all over this. I spent a summer up on the Juneau Icefield mapping it. Even climbed down and spent a week on the Gilkey. This show is absolute Garbage. I’d be embarrassed to be associated with it.