What You Missed on Ultimate Survival Alaska: Climb From Hell

WARNING SPOILERS! If you haven’t watched episode four, stop reading now!

In the fourth leg of Ultimate Survival Alaska, everyone is still smarting from the loss of The Woodsmen, reminded that anything could happen. The three remaining teams are determined to stay safe and in the race, but the Alaskan landscape has other plans for them.

Starting out on the barren Triumvirate Glacier, the teams must trek thirty miles through a granite face and the snow-covered Tordrillo Mountains to get to the LZ at Frustration Lake. The Mountaineers head straight for the rock-face, ready to prove their prowess. Endurance and Military let them have their crazy climb, sticking to the lower elevations, but quickly wondering if they have made a mistake.

The Military find themselves at the edge of 200-foot-wide canyon that is 250-feet deep. Not seeing a way to cross, they backtrack, losing their advantage and finding themselves in second place. However, it’s a setback that seems to have its upside. The team finds a tyrolean traverse, a fixed line that crosses the gorge and will allow them to get to the other side with a harness. The only question is how long it has been there and how safe it will be.

Rudy of TEAM MILITARY crosses the tyrolean traverse.
Rudy of TEAM MILITARY crosses the tyrolean traverse.

Endurance watches Military cross as they approach from a distance. In looks insane, but they don’t want to lose any more time. They are right behind them on the ropes, which theoretically are already proven safe. Dallas and Sean make it across with no problem, but Eddie, the last on the line isn’t so lucky.

Unable to assist, the team watches as Eddie’s rigging breaks away from the primary line and he takes a heart-dropping 30-foot fall before the backup line catches him and then he slams into the other side of the canyon. He’s thankfully not at the bottom of the canyon, but no one knows if the safety line will hold him or how badly he’s injured. Seeming to shake it off, Eddie makes it hand over hand to where the guys can help him up. He could easily have broken an ankle, if not his back. Safe on the other side, shaking with adrenaline, he can barely talk, but amazingly, he is completely in one piece. (If you were holding your breath just watching this, you aren’t the only one… )

The Mountaineers don’t exactly have it easy in the meantime. They are ascending 500 feet of loose gravel, dodging falling rock and barely keeping their handholds. Even after climbing 2,500 feet and taking the direct route, they are in 3rd place.

On day two, the Mountaineers reach the summit and are rewarded with a stunning view of the world from the top. Descending though, just like the way up, is slow work. They are in a distant third place and wondering how to make up the time.

Endurance takes a shortcut through a treacherous an icy mountain pass. Meanwhile, Military takes a gradual descent, which would be the easier walk if it weren’t for dodging avalanches.

The Mountaineers stumble on a bit of luck, a cache of long abandoned gear, two sets of skis, snowshoes and an axe. Using Tyler’s “MacGyver” toolbox, they hook up their boots and hit the snow. In no time, they catch up to Military, leaving Rudy shaking his head and muttering, “Those freaking jerks blew by us on skis.”  See ya, Military!

MOUNTAINEERS take to their newly rigged skis.
MOUNTAINEERS take to their newly rigged skis.

At the end of the day Mountaineers have a solid lead on second place Military and third place Endurance. However, Endurance has something none of the other teams have, Eddie’s flask of seal oil for energy. Yum? Sean says it tastes great, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s just being polite.

On extraction day, the teams are in a close race. Military is on the other side of the lake from the LZ, inflating their rafts when they spot Endurance in a foot race to the finish line. Jared, deciding there is no time to inflate a third raft makes fins out of his snowshoes and plunges in. (Brrrr!!! Am I the only one who needs to watch this show under an electric blanket?)

The Mountaineers now in sight as well, cross the lake by hopping from iceberg to iceberg. It looks like anyone’s race, but it’s the Mountaineers who take it, followed by Endurance and Military. While Military may have lost, everyone is impressed they didn’t lose more — like pieces of Jared — to the astoundingly cold water. Mountaineers take their first victory, passing around the bottle they find in the beer barrel in celebration.

Everyone may as well celebrate now, because next up they face the Swan River Valley and 80 miles of raging whitewater. Tune in to Ultimate Survival Alaska: River of Fury to see who takes the advantage on the water. Who do you think will win?

Mountaineers fly the Alaskan flag at the extraction point.
Teams MOUNTAINEERS, MILITARY, and ENDURANCE celebrate at the extraction point.


  1. Travis
    sandpoint, Idaho
    January 7, 2014, 10:22 pm

    Sorry but this week made it so apparent that this show is so setup by the producers it turns my stomach.
    Marty just happens to have his skis with him and they stumble upon two more pairs on a peak in the wilderness. ..give me a break.

  2. Gary O
    January 8, 2014, 8:54 pm

    I literally laughed when they supposedly stumbled on two sets of skis in the wilderness. How dumb do they think we are??? Why would someone leave skis ON THE TOP of the mountain? It literally makes no sense.

    Then the topper was the military team member who didnt have enough time to blow up his boat so he swam in the glacier filled water. Give me a break.

  3. Raymond Deza
    San Diego, CA
    January 9, 2014, 3:09 am

    I have a feeling this show as shot in a Hollywood back lot- LOL. The mountaineers climbed a mountain to get to the other side, then to the LZ. But why the heck climb a PEAK (where they flew the flag)? If you’re trying to get to the LZ, you climb a PASS, not a peak.
    Then the endurance athletes climbed a snow field without a rope because there’s no anchor, so if one fell, he would take the others with him? Have they heard of the self-arrest?
    In the canoeing episode, why wear your life vest INSIDE your jacket?
    On another episode where they were walking on a crevasse-filled glacier, they were roped. Were was the anchor? In that situation, as in the above snowfield situation, the ice axe used in self-arrest is the anchor. Where was it? Stowed on someone’s backpack.
    I watch this show not because I enjoy it; I enjoy looking out for the Hollywood moments- which abound- LOL!

  4. Ayleeann
    January 10, 2014, 11:26 pm

    I watched the episode twice, Sunday and rerun this eve. WHERE WAS THE KEYWORD? I was glued both times, kept my eyeballs on the screen, zip, nada. I see others are saying the same on the shows FB page. Did anyone see it? Or are we just supposed to guess? I also agree with Travis and Gary, them finding those skis was so planted on purpose….is this whole thing scripted? Is there no keyword and it’s also a farce to get viewers?

  5. Scott
    January 12, 2014, 3:11 pm

    I just wasted five hours analyzing Episode 4, “The Climb from Hell”. It should have been titled, “What the Hell?” The show synopsis says “the 30 mile trek up and over the snow-covered Tordrillo Mountains proves problematic for all teams.” What’s problematic is National Geographic’s understanding of geography. The teams were dropped off on the Triumvirate Glacier, ONLY 3 MILES WEST of the extraction point on the shore of Frustration Lake (at least they got the name of the lake correct). Two of the teams immediately headed in the direction of the lake, but they inexplicably took a detour to go across a Tyrolean traverse (basically, a rope zip line stretched across a gorge), and which was only about 3/10ths of a mile from the extraction point. It’s plainly obvious that the Tyrolean traverse was set up by the show’s safety crew, yet one of the military guys looks straight into the camera and says, “Some mountaineers must have come and set this thing up and left it for themselves to use at a later date.” Then the narrator states, “But there’s no way to know how long this one has been in place.” Yeah, right! THE SHOW’S SAFETY CREW SET IT UP! Meanwhile, the camera pans across the rope going from one side of the gorge to the other, and you can plainly see that all they had to do was simply walk around the head of the gorge on easy ground! What? But wait, there’s more!!!

    So, of the three teams in this episode, two went toward the extraction point and did the unnecessary Tyrolean traverse. What about the other team? Well, instead of heading east to the extraction point, they headed north and did a completely unnecessary rock climb up a peak. Why did they go the wrong way? Apparently it was so they could meet up with the other two teams which, after finishing the Tyrolean traverse ONLY 3/10ths OF A MILE FROM THE EXTRACTION POINT, decided they wanted to turn around and head off IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION from the extraction point! So now we have all three teams doing a circle tour going the wrong way, up on to a high glacial plateau. Eventually, the Mountaineers team finds a rock cairn marking the location of two pairs of old wooden skis, a pair of snowshoes, and an axe. Oh, how convenient! I’m sure it wasn’t placed there by a helicopter at the direction of the producers – no, they wouldn’t deceive us like that, would they? Yes. Yes, they did.

    Eventually, on the third day, all three teams are finally headed in the right direction back toward the extraction point at Frustration Lake, which is marked by a “trapper’s cache” next to the lake. This “cache” (placed there by the producers, but portrayed as being a real cache of trapper’s supplies – which begs the question, why would a trapper have a trapline on a glacier?) is comprised of some rusty traps, a pair of old wooden snowshoes, a hand saw, and of all things, a WASHBOARD! At one point, the Military team is on a grassy knoll overlooking the lake, looking for the cache using the scope on Rudy’s AR-15 sniper rifle (you heard that right boys and girls – they carried their full complement of firepower on a glacier. But hey, you never know when you’ll be ambushed by a deranged marmot, so better be prepared, right?) So there’s Rudy, spread-eagle on the ground scoping his target, and the cameraman is directly behind him showing the view ahead, and lo-and-behold, there’s the Tyrolean traverse across the gorge directly ahead! The same place they were at two days previously!

    Amazingly, all three teams managed to reach the extraction point within mere minutes of each other (oh, how convenient!), with the Mountaineers reaching Frustration Lake first and winning. So, another completely contrived “race” is in the bag. And MAN, it is one for the record books! They covered 30 miles on their trek, right? WRONG! The Mountaineers covered 10 miles. Endurance, 13 miles. And Military, 14 miles. In 60 hours (2.5 days). Wow, such SPEED! That’s like doing the NYC marathon in something like 111-156 hours (4.6 to 6.5 DAYS!). So like I said at the top of this review, don’t believe everything (actually, ANYTHING) you see. It’s all contrived and pre-scripted, in an effort to present pointless challenges that real outdoors-people would never undertake if they were in a race to the finish line. After all, if it was a REAL race to the extraction point, why would two of the three teams essentially get there on the first day (with the other team actually starting out in the wrong way), and then turn around and spend almost TWO MORE DAYS going in the OPPOSITE DIRECTION?! It makes no sense at all.

  6. mel
    Kelowna BC Canada
    February 17, 2014, 12:19 am

    If I had not known that the show was scripted the episode “Climb from Hell” confirmed it. Still, the photography is excellent, the scenery beautiful, and for that alone it is worth watching. So in spite of the obvious set up situations and the total lack of credibility, I enjoy the show and let’s be honest … I don’t think National Geographic ever intended for people to believe the show was for real. It’s meant to be entertaining and it is.