As the eleventh leg of Ultimate Survival Alaska begins, the three remaining teams are tied. And this time, the winner takes all. However, this is the toughest leg yet. The teams are facing their longest journey -60 miles in 60 hours. They will need to descend 3,000 feet down a crevasse-laden glacier, navigate 20 miles of whitewater rapids, cross Cook Inlet, and ultimately race up to the top of Augustine Volcano to get to the LZ.
The Mountaineers’ have a game plan of taking the shortest route across the glacier in order to reach the river and travel to the ocean. They are in their element and feeling confident, but immediately face their first obstacle. There is a river running beneath the glacier and no telling how thick the ice is in the warm summer temperatures. They rope up and keep the line on each other tight. Marty leads the trek, but breaks through the ice. They are going to have to navigate around the glacial river and make up the time later.
Military is hanging tough, but on a losing streak. Losing Rudy has definitely put them at a disadvantage, but they are determined to pull out a win in honor of their wounded teammate. Jared suggests that they inflate their rafts and let a glacial stream take them in the right direction. Grady is not thrilled. He’s tired of being dunked in ice water, but agrees that it’s the best strategy they have. Barreling down the ice luge, they find themselves about to slide right into a moulin, dropping into the glacier’s abyss. (Check out the moulin. Yikes!) Fortunately, they put on the brakes.
Meanwhile, Endurance is working for a third win. They aren’t taking any risks and choose a longer, more gradual, route off the glacier to the river that leads to the ocean. They find themselves in second place, but are still making good time. At least they are making good time until they find themselves cliffed out at a 100-foot vertical ice wall. There is no place to anchor a rope, so they use the ice, creating an Abalakov thread, drilling deep into the ice to make a hole to run their rope through. They just have to hope their anchor doesn’t melt before they reach the bottom.
The Mountaineers are in third place, blazing their direct path off the glacier, but it isn’t getting any easier. Suddenly, they find themselves facing a near vertical 80-foot ice wall with nowhere to go, but up and over. The ascent is on wet and crumbling ice, but they have the skills to do it. The question is if they have the strength. Thomas struggles, slips, regains his composure and keeps trekking. The team is exhausted when they get there, but makes it to the top. (This cliff face is a work out!)
Military remains in first place and are the first off the glacier and in route to the river that will take them to Cook Inlet. Unfortunately, they won’t be walking it. There is a violent 150-foot waterfall in their way. With jagged rocks on either side of the fall, they have no choice but to repel directly down it and take an uncomfortable shower. It looks more like a drowning than a descent, but the team makes it. As Jared puts it, “That sucked.”
However, Military aren’t the only team to face the falls. Mountaineers are close behind Military and on the same trail. Which, unfortunately, means that they are also going to get washed. Their only advantage is that Military left them an anchor and a rope. The guys are dubious, but if Military made it, so can they.
On day two, Endurance is moving down the river on rafts, but Mountaineers find themselves on a 300-foot cliff face with no access to the water. However, there is an old tyrolean traverse that leads to the other side, but do they risk it? It’s hard to say if the rope and opposite anchor will hold. All the same, Tyler makes it across, followed by Thomas who makes a daisy chain and pulls the packs across. As Thomas makes his way to shore, the Endurance team zips by, taunting him.
Marty, the last to cross, forgoes a harness to make up time. Hand over hand he crosses the rope, only to notice that there is more competition coming. Military breaks through the forest to the cliff. After a quick assessment of the situation, the guys decide not to bother with the rope and jump into the water. So Marty swings down and jumps as well. Who’s going to get their pack rafts in the water first? Will the other teams catch Endurance?
Tune in next week March 9 at 10PM et/pt for Ultimate Survival Alaska: Fight to the Finish. The race is almost over. You won’t want to miss it when the winning team reaches the LZ! And don’t forget to keep your eye on the leaderboard, vote for your favorite team!