"Ultimate Survival Alaska," the eight explorers journey through the Nizina River Valley, a picturesque region rich with salmon, hungry predators, and bold homesteaders. The teams have 72 hours to traverse 35 miles, cross the river's glacial waters, and navigate the foothills of an abandoned mining town. They will rendezvous in McCarthy and drive to the airstrip.On day 32 of Nat Geo's
The game plan
Survivalist Austin Manelick joins dog mushers Dallas and Tyrell Seavey in a straight path along the low hills. They plan to cross the frosty river as far upstream as possible. Father-son duo Marty and Matt Raney, and mountain guide Willi Prittie choose a direct route along the gravelbar. Dog musher Brent Sass and climber Tyler Johnson plan to tackle the treacherous river crossing first.
While hiking through an area covered with bear and wolf tracks, Marty, Matt, and Willi spot a large animal in the distance. They soon realize the ominous brown mass is a small group of horses en route to McCarthy. Marty uses his gift of gab to broker a deal with the fellow driving the horses: The explorers will ride the horses to the homestead, and the stranger will avoid the hassle of a round-trip journey. This win-win arrangement leaves Willi stunned but grateful for the transportation.
Willi worries how the horses will react to the river's rushing water, but the majestic beasts effortlessly move across the slick rocks. The explorers reach the McCarthy homestead with plenty of time to relish some hearty bear chili with the owner of the horses.
Austin's group is eager to feast on the Nizina River's bountiful fish, but their modest gear means they must improvise. Austin retrieves undigested berries from a pile of fresh bear scat and uses the caviar-like pellets as lures. Dallas takes the tidy approach, clipping beads from his jacket's zipper pulls, and Tyrell uses a .357 bullet casing to create a shimmering lure. The fishing adventure is successful, but they must rush to make up for lost time.
A trumpet blaring in the distance draws them to a nearby cabin. While Austin wonders if this is a "Twilight Zone" moment, Dallas calls out to avoid surprising the mysterious musician. The homesteader, Cliff, is a friendly fellow who invites them to spend the night. After spending weeks at the mercy of Mother Nature, the men are happy to enjoy the warm, dry accommodations.
Socializing puts the group further behind schedule, but Cliff tells them about a shortcut. His hot tip seems helpful until the group reaches a dangerous impasse. Trapped between a wide expanse of rushing water and a sheer cliff, they decide to climb the rocky path. Crumbling shards cause Tyrell to tumble into the water, but the men eventually manage to cross the wall.
Lost and found
Brent and Tyler link together with a rope before heading into the river. Brent follows Tyler's tentative steps, but the rapids soon overpower both men. Tyler steadies himself and manages to pull Brent to safety. They spend the next day traveling along the gravel bar, looking for a safe crossing. They find a muddy, worn backpack washed on the shore. After they discover a loaded pistol among the contents, Brent deems it the find of the century. Tyler happily replaces his shredded sneakers with a pair of worn boots found in the bag.
Equipped with the pistol, they venture into the bear-laden woods to forage for food. As darkness falls, they realize they are lost and must spend the night huddled beneath a small bundle of fallen limbs. They emerge at dawn and regain their bearings. They have less than 24 hours to travel 24 miles and cross the river.
The finish line
Thanks to the horses, Marty, Matt, and Willi are first to arrive at the rendezvous point. Austin and the Seaveys are surprised to come in second. When Marty hears the plane land, the group has to head to the airstrip or risk being left behind. After waiting as long as possible, the plane leaves without Tyler and Brent.
Meanwhile, Tyler and Brent make a mad dash across the river and find their way to the lonely airstrip. They meet a pilot who confirms their crew left about 20 minutes earlier. Undefeated, they convince him to let them tag along to Yakutat. If they can somehow reach the insertion point on Admiralty Island in time, they can continue the adventure with their teammates. Will Alaskan hospitality deliver them to their destination?
"Ultimate Survival Alaska" airs Sundays at 9 PM on National Geographic.