Welcome back to Alaska. Ultimate Survival Alaska returns for a third season of competition and survival, challenging four teams of the world’s toughest outdoorsmen in a head-to-head race across America’s most unforgiving terrain.
The rules are the same: four teams racing to complete each leg from start to finish in only 60 hours, using nothing but the gear in their packs. This season, veteran competitors are pitted against Alaskan newcomers, all coming from different backgrounds to battle for the prize. Team Endurance are the reigning champs, led by USA veteran Dallas Seavey. Narrowly thwarted by Endurance for the win last season, Team Military are out for revenge. Team Alaskans pose a formidable threat, comprised of competitors used to the state’s merciless terrain. And then there’s Team Lower 48, made up of formidable newcomers looking to pull off a dark-horse win.
On the season premiere, the four teams are tasked to summit Mount Gerdine, a 10,000-foot behemoth located deep in the Alaskan interior. To get there, the competitors must cross a rapidly thawing lake, traverse a glacier and scale walls of crumbing ice. If the first challenge is a harbinger of the difficulties to come this season, the four USA teams have a tough road ahead.
1. Revenge: best served cold
Team Military isn’t just here to win. They’re here for revenge, on a mission to beat the team that edged them out last season, Team Endurance. After last season’s loss, returning competitors former Green Beret Grady Powell and former Navy SEAL Jared Ogden have one goal in mind: beat Dallas. And when faced with their first major roadblock of the season, a half-frozen lake that’s quickly thawing, Military doesn’t waste time trying to circumvent the thin ice.
Knowing they’re taking a big risk crossing the thin ice, Jared has an idea to keep them from falling in – spreading out their gear to balance their weight. Tiptoeing their way across the thawing ice, the team makes it across successfully – except for a quick dip in some slush – and captures the first flag of the leg.
Team Military leads the charge from the lake to the mountain, but they soon run into difficulties with their newest member, former Marine scout sniper Daniel Dean. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Daniel is out of his element in the snowy terrain. He’s eager to prove himself, but Alaska is unrelenting, and Daniel soon finds himself in over his head.
2. Dallas takes the plunge
Returning Ultimate Survival Alaska champion Dallas Seavey is having a big year. Four months ago, the pro dog musher won his second Iditarod, setting an all-time speed record for the competition. He returns to USA for a third season at the helm of the Endurance Team, joined by avalanche expert and heli-ski guide Lel Tone and mountain climber Ben Johns.
Team Endurance is eager to thwart their Team Military rivals, so when they see Military charging onto the dangerously thin ice, Dallas is forced to make a difficult decision, urging his team to follow them across. But while Military spreads out their gear to balance their weight as they cross the ice, Endurance chooses to carry their packs, adding over 40 pounds to their centers of gravity.
As they inch across, Dallas takes a scary plunge through the ice.
Luckily, he emerges unscathed, but the near-deadly fall doesn’t do Team Endurance any favors in their race against the clock. As they regroup after Dallas’ fall, Team Military surges into the lead heading towards the mountain.
3. The Alaskans raise the stakes
It takes some serious bravery to take the riskiest route up a dangerous mountain – especially on the first episode. Back for their third season, mountain man Marty Raney and big peak racer Tyler Johnson lead the all-Alaskan team, joined by experienced mountain guide and Mount Everest vet Vern Tejas. After bypassing the risky river crossing and taking a longer, safer route, the team falls behind.
To make up time, the team embraces their competitive advantage – climbing mountains – and follows the steepest route to the mountain’s summit, taking them face-to-face with a deadly cornice overhang of snow and ice. One false step could mean triggering a massive avalanche.
Few teams could accomplish such a feat, but these men are in their element on the steep climb.
4. High stakes, higher tension
Representing the contiguous United States, the Lower 48 team consists of three Ultimate Survival Alaska rookies: mountain climber James Sweeney, pro-skier Kasha Rigby, and professional kayaker Scott “Cluck” McCluskey.
Hailing from South Carolina, Cluck is quickly overwhelmed by the icy mountain terrain. As a professional kayaker who competes with the U.S. Olympic team, Cluck has tackled the world’s most difficult whitewater rapids. But this icy terrain is completely foreign to him, and he soon butts heads with the experienced but short-tempered Sweeney, who isn’t above teasing his teammates.
Cluck is not amused.
Kasha attempts to keep the peace as the team embarks on the tumultuous climb to the summit of Mount Gerdine, fighting to get ahead in the race.
5. Endurance pays off
On the final morning of the leg, Dallas cooks up a big pot of rice and beans with a tin-can “Iditarod stove” to fuel his team for the final leg…
…and it works! After battling off Team Military throughout the challenge, Endurance edges out their rivals, winning Season 3’s first battle. Team Military comes in a narrow second, Alaska in third, and Lower 48 in fourth.
With an early lead this season, will Endurance be able to maintain their momentum? Tune in next week for another all-new episode of USA, and thanks for reading. Thoughts? Questions? Complaints? Leave them in the comments below.
Which team do you think will prevail this season? Make your predictions for each leg of the competition on our Survival Competition Tracker here.