What you Missed on Ultimate Survival Alaska: Vice Grip

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

On leg seven of Ultimate Survival Alaska, the teams begin their trek off the toe of the barrier glacier. With only four legs remaining, Military and Mountaineers are tied with two wins, Endurance trailing with a single win.  First the teams will cross a steep ridge to the Strandline Canyon, then trek 40 miles to the extraction landing zone, an old plane wreck on Beluga Lake.

Military has had some tough breaks the last three legs and are determined to get back on the board again. They take the most direct route across a basin that is riddled with quicksand. The quicksand is a deadly combination of glacier silt and melt water, which can easily swallow a man whole, something that Military quickly experiences. Walking isn’t working, so they decide to sprint. (Sprinting across quicksand with 100+ pound packs, easy, right?)

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers notice Military making progress with their sprints, unaware how bad the quicksand they have just crossed can be. Assuming it will be a piece of cake, they discover that one moment you can be walking on solid ground, only to find yourself mired. Marty and Tyler are stuck waist-deep and freezing. Thomas is forced to hang back and throw them a rope. (Watch them get stuck.)

Endurance focuses on “the safe” road. (As if there is a safe road in the Alaskan wilderness.) They head straight for Strandline Canyon following a winding valley. Avoiding the quicksand puts them in first place, but they find themselves at the edge of a raging river with no easy crossing.  All the same, they jump into the icy water.

Things are looking good for Endurance’s crossing until Dallas slips into the water and finds himself clinging to a boulder for dear life and freezing. (Hang on, Dallas!) His team rescues him and together they make a different crossing. On land, they have to quickly build a fire and get Dallas warm.

Military takes a commanding lead, trying to keep a low profile so The Mountaineers don’t realize they are a mile ahead. Reaching the mouth of the canyon, they still have get down to it. They decide to strategize later. With a storm approaching Military and the other two teams set camp and call it a night.

On Day Two, Endurance is in first place, Military in second and Mountaineers a close third. Military slides down a slick, rocky, and dangerous slope to the bottom of the canyon. Rather than risk the same dangerous scree descent, the Mountaineers find a safer descent and move ahead of Military.

Meanwhile, Endurance finds themselves with nowhere to go except for another even larger river crossing. Securing a pack raft to a line, Dallas tries to paddle to the other side in order to set up a line. After one failed attempt, they make it, getting their gear and the team across safely. They take the lead on the Mountaineers who have already set camp, and watch as they lose their position.

Endurance creates a ferry system with their pack raft.
Endurance creates a ferry system with their pack raft.

While the Mountaineers nibble on lowland fireweed stalks (At least they are getting some roughage.) and Endurance chows down on salmon, Military keeps moving until midnight. Once again, Military takes the lead. In the morning on day three, with four hours left, all three teams are close enough to one another that it could be anyone’s win. They just have to find the LZ.

Rudy climbs a tree to scout for the LZ and sees their win right ahead of them and no one else in sight. It’s looking like their win, until fate steps in. Rudy takes a spill coming down the tree, cracking his ankle. There are only 300 meters left and Rudy insists that they strap his leg up and keep moving.  With Rudy walking through the pain, Military wins. It’s a bittersweet success, however. On closer inspection, the team is certain that Rudy has broken his ankle. Endurance arrives second, followed by The Mountaineers, but all anyone can think about is the injured competitor. If Rudy can break an ankle, then any of them could be taken out of the race.

All three members of Military made it to the extraction zone, so they remain in the race, but they are going to have to finish the last legs without Rudy. (We’re going to miss you, Rudy!!) Will this disadvantage cost them the race? Tune in next week to Ultimate Survival Alaska: Guts and Glory on Sunday February 9 at 9 PM et/pt and find out.


  1. Scott
    January 28, 2014, 5:04 am

    Why, National Geographic, why? Why the need to deliberately lie about where the teams are undertaking their so-called “race” to the LZ? I thought the lies and falsehoods in the previous episodes couldn’t be topped. But this episode (#7, Vice Grip) absolutely takes the cake.

    Jeez, where do I even begin? Let me say this – everything about this episode was a total and complete lie. Here’s what we are told:

    NG: The teams start out on the toe of the Barrier Glacier.
    Truth: WRONG! The teams started out on the northwestern shore of Beluga Lake, ONLY ABOUT 1 TO 1.5 MILES AWAY FROM THE EXTRACTION POINT! And they were nowhere near the Barrier Glacier. That glacier is 27 MILES SOUTHWEST of where they started at Beluga Lake.

    NG: The teams had to hike 40 miles.
    Truth: WRONG! No , they didn’t. Military did about 12 miles, while Endurance and Mountaineers did about 11 miles.

    NG: The route “map” showed the teams traveling southeast from the toe of the Triumvirate Glacier (not the Barrier Glacier) to the northwest shore of Beluga Lake. This would have them traveling downstream and down valley from the glacier to the lake for the entire trip.
    Truth: WRONG! The teams STARTED AT BELUGA LAKE (did I mention that they started only 1 to 1.5 miles away from the extraction point?), then traveled northwest, UPVALLEY and UPSTREAM through the gorge. Then on the second day they TURNED AROUND and headed back downvalley in the direction that they had just come! WHAT?

    The simple fact that they started out only 1 to 1.5 miles away from the extraction point, and then headed in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION, completely invalidates National Geographic’s assertion that this is a race to the finish line. If it’s REALLY a race, why go the wrong way, AWAY from the finish line, when all they had to do was take a short stroll across level ground to the finish line only 1 to 1.5 miles away from the starting point? It makes no sense.

    Why do the producers of this show think they need to intentionally falsify where these episodes take place? What’s to hide? Don’t they know that anyone can expose their lies by simply following along with the team’s locations and progress using Google Earth and a little common sense? Nothing about this program is the truth. It is NOT a race. All the locations are scoped out ahead of time in order to find things that the producers can hype as death-defying, supposedly realistic challenges that the “racers” have to surmount in order to reach the extraction point. The truth is, any real outdoors-person engaged in an actual wilderness race to a finish line would NEVER do some of the stuff that National Geographic has these teams doing.

    Last but not least, this episode, #7, is the THIRD episode that takes place in the small area around the Triumvirate Glacier, Frustration Lake, Strandline Canyon, and Beluga Lake. The other two episodes were #4 and #6. But to hear National Geographic tell it, these three episodes took place in completely different areas. WRONG! Don’t believe it – it’s a lie.

  2. Rosemary
    New York
    February 2, 2014, 11:17 am

    First off, I don’t see why some people are getting to upset about the truth or fiction involved in the making of this TV SHOW. I don’t care if they hiked ten miles or fifty miles, these are the toughest guys on television and I find it wildly entertaining watching them trudge through these perilous courses.
    I am sad to see Rudy go though. He had the best attitude and sportsmanship throughout the series, really wanted to see him and the military win this.
    Looking forward to seeing what happens next!

  3. Scott
    February 4, 2014, 11:05 pm

    Rosemary, I can understand, to some degree, your indifference to some inaccuracies in a TV show. We all know that most all TV shows are scripted and edited so as to grab the viewer’s attention and thus generate ratings and advertising revenue.

    However, when a show is produced under the auspices of the National Geographic Society (one of the primary purveyors of geographic knowledge and accuracy in the United States for the past 126 years), you (well, maybe not you specifically, but most people) would naturally expect that what they present in their TV programs would be geographically and factually accurate. After all, it’s the National Geographic Society – why would they lie? We naturally assume they wouldn’t. So when we easily discover the outright, blatant falsifications and lies told in the program, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Why do they need to intentionally give false information about where these episodes take place? What are they trying to hide. Does this mean they are operating illegally in these areas? Don’t they realize the lies can be easily uncovered using nothing more than Google Earth? And what about the numerous fixed-wing and helicopter pilots who provide aerial support for the program? Certainly the pilots (and their recorded flight plans) can provide absolute proof of NG’s lies.

    So Rosemary, you don’t see why some people would be upset at being told these lies? After all, it’s just a TV show, right? If that’s your reasoning, then it shouldn’t matter that our elected representatives routinely lie to us (or at least, twist and severly obfuscate) the truth. After all, it’s just politics, right? It’s exactly that attitude – that the truth doesn’t matter – that is at the root of so many problems in the U.S.

    So yeah, National Geographic’s deliberate lies bother me, as it should everyone. If they presented the show as some guys doing some really cool outdoor stuff in the wilds of Alaska, that would be great, and it would be a compelling, interesting show that many people would enjoy. There’s no need to lie about it – just tell us that the teams had to complete this-or-that task at such-and-such place. That would still be a cool show.

    But when they present it as “ultimate survival” and a “race to the finish line”, when it can be easily proven that it’s anything but survival and anything but a race, well then, National Geographic loses all credibility. Geez, after all, if you can’t trust National Geographic to tell you the truth, then who can you trust?

    By the way, you say that “these are the toughest guys on television and I find it wildly entertaining watching them trudge through these perilous courses.” Don’t believe it – it’s all a sham, a scripted story line designed to make you believe that what you see is REAL survival and a REAL race to the finish line. But just think about this: if these guys are truly out in the wilds of Alaska, doing all that extremely strenuous activity, day after day, with just two pounds of rice and beans each and whatever little they can (needlessly) kill (that’s per episode, not total), they why don’t they lose any weight over the course of the weeks they are doing these activities? Take a look at Marty – not a pound shed that I can see. It’s just more proof that this entire show is fabricated and edited to make you believe it is something that it’s not. They’re playing you for a fool, and the sad thing is, you don’t know it and you don’t care.

  4. taco bell
    February 5, 2014, 12:35 pm

    Good luck military. enjoyed your party in St.Louis