Warning SPOILER ALERT! If you have not watched this episode, read no further.
In the wet and wild fifth leg of Ultimate Survival Alaska, the teams land in the Skewntna River Valley, to race down 50 miles of turbulent rivers and navigate a particularly treacherous section known as “Hell’s Gate.” If they make it through, they must bushwhack their way to the LZ at Butterfly Lake.
Team Endurance has yet to come in first place and is determined to get far enough ahead to guarantee a win. The guys are feeling a little flat, so Eddie passes around the seal oil again. It still doesn’t sound like much of a tasty treat, but the Inupiat Eskimo’s swear by it and now so do Dallas and Sean. They need the boost too, because Military spots them inflating their pack rafts on the edge of Friday Creek, and move in on them. Whoever can get their rafts in the water first will have the edge, but Endurance takes the lead.
The Mountaineers choose to raft down Saturday Creek, which is deeper and faster water, but likely more dangerous. However, Friday Creek has its own challenges too. It is littered with strainers and fallen trees that can easily suck a raft under. Sean has already fallen a victim to one in an earlier leg. He manages to avoid repeating the dunking, but Eddie isn’t so lucky. Still, Endurance maintains their lead.
Military sets up camp early to get in some time to fish and a massive bear invites itself to dinner. This means bear security, an all-night watch and a little less sleep for the team. The Mountaineers who are in third place get a surprise, running into a local fisherman who warns them about their imminent trip through “Hell’s Gate,” where Friday and Saturday Creeks meet. Not to worry though. Their new friend reassures them that they “might” make it. His best advice is to cross their fingers.
On day two, Sean is the first to take a spill in the Hell’s Gate rapids, but recovers quickly and Endurance continues with the run. On the Mountaineers’ run, Marty goes under and slams both his knees into rocks, but the team takes inventory, finding everyone and everything in place. So they keep going. Military isn’t so lucky. Grady gets wet, but makes it to shore fine. Rudy takes a heavy blow, however. He not only goes under, but loses his pack.
Stopping to re-rig their rafts, Endurance spies Rudy’s pack down river. Dallas ponders the fact that they could just chuck the pack in the trees and easily knock Military out of the race. However, neither he nor Sean and Eddie want to win that way. So they put Rudy’s pack out the open where it will be easily found.
Rudy is slipping into hypothermia by the time they find his pack, slurring his words, which is a sure sign that he’s about to be in trouble. The team has already wasted time searching for the pack, but they have no choice but to get Rudy into a sleeping bag to warm up.
Settling in for the night, The Mountaineers go fishing with Marty’s ski. Not only have Marty’s skis been used as paddles and tent poles, but they also catch the team a king salmon. Endurance, in the meantime, is using their MacGyver skills rigging up a dental floss trip line across the river. If one of the teams starts to get a lead on them, they will be read to jump up and back in the water.
On the third day, Endurance wakes to the sound of the Mountaineers hitting the trip wire. Endurance jumps to it, glad they chose to sacrifice their oral hygiene to save their lead. Once off the river, the teams have a mile-long footrace to the extraction point. Mountaineers and Endurance arrive almost simultaneously on Butterfly Lake in sight of the cabin that is the LZ. However, it is Endurance who gets to the beer barrel of jerky first. After seal oil, beans, and rice for three days, the food is as welcome as finally taking the win and getting on the board.
Endurance thinks they have it dialed in now and vow to be a tough team to beat from here on out. They will definitely have a chance to prove it next week when they hit Hayes Glacier, a brutal trek across frozen wasteland, deadly crevasses, and jagged ice walls.
Tune in to Ultimate Survival Alaska: Hell Hole January 13 at 9PM et/pt to see if your favorite team takes the next leg.