What You Missed on Ultimate Survival Alaska: Hell Hole

Warning: SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t watched this episode, stop reading now!

Traversing the treacherous Hayes Glacier, the Ultimate Survival Alaska teams are faced with dangerous cliff faces, crevasses, and moulins on their way to dense forest, and then ultimately the extraction landing zone at Red Salmon Lake 30 miles away. Endurance is riding high from their win and planning on making it a double with this leg, but they’ve got some serious terrain to cover.

The Mountaineers are hoping they have the advantage on this leg, which is chock full of the brutal Alaska terrain they excel at covering. The team heads for the most direct route, straight down the face of the glacier.

The Military, with little experience in glacial terrain, chooses to head straight for the foothills on the other side of the glacier, hiking up and over. It becomes apparent though that they are in over their heads, or at least Grady is when he plummets into a crevasse.  He disappears beneath the snow, yelling frantically for his team to hold on to him. It’s a harrowing few minutes while they anchor him and Grady struggles slowly out of the abyss.  “Not cool, dude…” Grady says wryly, “We got to find a better route.”

Endurance cuts diagonally across the glacier to get off the ice. The route is longer, but they hope it will give them an advantage. Ten hours later, they are making steady progress, but still on the snow and ice. They build a snow shelter for the night. The other two teams hunker down in the snow as well and somehow manage to look like they are warm and cozy.

On day two, The Mountaineers are in first place, charging through a glacial canyon. However, they find themselves at the dead end of a box canyon. So Tyler, the expert ice climber of the team, decides to scale the ice and get a look at their options. It’s a risky climb, but he finds a shortcut that should shave hours off their time.

Thomas Cavern
Thomas Makes His Way Through an Ice Cavern

Endurance is almost off the glacier, but also find themselves at a dead end. The only way out is to rappel down 300 feet. Sean, despite his experiences, is not a fan of heights. He is not thrilled about the incredibly steep face of the cliff, but tackles it.

The desperately-behind Military Team has it worse when they get off the glacier. They find themselves staring over a sheer 600-foot cliff. To make up time, they have no choice but to rappel down it. At the bottom, however, there is no way out except a vertical climb up a wall of loose rock. The clock is ticking and they are pulling up 3rd place far behind.

While The Mountaineers do a little fishing, Endurance finds a porcupine quill and decides that they are going to track down the animal that lost it. They need protein and porcupine is protein. (Yum?) Dallas tracks and shoots one, expertly dresses it, and everyone makes it look like it’s delicious.

On day three, Endurance and Military are fighting their way through thick brush. The Mountaineers have hit a river valley. Crossing the river seems like a welcome relief after all the bushwhacking, but they quickly find that the river is fast and deep. Losing their footing and momentarily their packs, they are swept down river, but still manage to make it to shore. It may have been a risky choice, but it gives them the advantage.

The Mountaineers are the first to make it the extraction zone, just ahead of Endurance. When the plane is coming in for a landing, however, the teams start wondering about The Military. There is only three minutes left on the clock and they are nowhere in sight. It’s looking like it’s over for them, but they arrive in the nick of time, taking third, but staying on the board.

With five legs left and two wins for The Mountaineers, two wins for The Military, and one win for Endurance, it is still anybody’s race. The race doesn’t get any easier, though. Next leg, the teams are challenged by 40 miles of treacherous canyons, raging rivers, and deadly quicksand.

Tune in to Ultimate Survivor Alaska: Vice Grip on January 29 at 9PM et/pt and see who gets closer to the win.


  1. Scott
    January 20, 2014, 9:10 pm

    Why? Why does National Geographic think they have to deceive us with completely inaccurate information? Despite them telling us that this episode took place on the Hayes Glacier, with a hike out to Red Salmon Lake, THIS IS CATEGORICALLY FALSE!

  2. Scott
    January 20, 2014, 9:44 pm

    Oops, I accidentally clicked the Submit button too soon. Continuing on with my comment from above…

    This entire episode took place on the Triumvirate Glacier – THE SAME AREA as Episode 4 was in! The teams did NOT hike out to Red Salmon Lake. They hiked out to Beluga Lake. The show told us that the teams would have to hike 30 miles northeast and down the Hayes Glacier to Red Salmon Lake. WRONG! They actually hiked southeast only 15 miles to Beluga Lake. The purported extraction point, Red Salmon Lake, is actually 37 MILES NORTHWEST OF BELUGA LAKE! Additionally, the Endurance and Military teams (once again, as in Episode 4) went completely out of the way and did an unnecessary climb up onto the glacial plateau that is directly northwest of Frustration Lake. Why did they do that? It was in the WRONG DIRECTION AND WAS COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY! I can only assume that the producers told them to go that way, even though it was in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION from the extraction point.

    One other thing really gets me about this program: it is supposed to be a race, correct? At least that’s what we are told. But it’s only 60 hours – that’s only 2 and a half days. Each team member is given two pounds of rice and beans for the 60 hours. Granted, it’s not gourmet food, but it’s certainly sufficient to keep them from starving to death (it’s only 60 hours!). So it’s completely ridiculous that the teams would need to kill animals “in order to survive”. They could go the entire 60 hours with just their beans and rice and they would not starve to death. Sure, they’d be hungry when they reached the “finish” line, but they’d make it just fine without having to kill porcupines and assorted other animals.

    So, National Geographic – why do you need to lie to the viewers? What are you trying to hide? I thought National Geographic was supposed to be the last great bastion of geographic knowledge and accuracy. NOTHING about this episode fits with the geography that is described in the show’s synopsis. How can the National Geographic Society lend its name to this farce of a show? It’s absolutely shameful.

    P.S. For those who doubt the veracity of my comments, I suggest you start up Google Earth and follow along with the program. You’ll quickly see with your own eyes that this show is a lie.

    P.P.S. My beef with this show is not really with the teams. It is with the producers of the show. I suspect that the team members were only doing what they were told to do, as per the script for the show, and I’m sure (at least I would hope) that they are just as confused and upset with the final editing of the show as I am, and as everyone should be.

  3. TJ
    January 25, 2014, 1:16 am

    Where’s was the clip of Marty and Thomas climbing up the 80 foot ice wall…no pics, didn’t happen, you know what I mean?

  4. Brandon
    New Hampshire
    January 26, 2014, 9:24 pm

    Can we get a little more real? Jan 26 episode, the endurance team is forging through “rapids” but when the camera pans, there is a rock passageway less than 75 feet away, where they could walk across the rocks rather than pretending they are in danger by forging the “wild” river.