Bears, glaciers: Show pits man against Alaska
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Dallas Seavey knows what it's like to mush across the wilds of Alaska. Now it remains to be seen how he survives being dropped off in the middle of that wilderness and navigates his way out without the help of a dog team.
Seavey, 26, who became the youngest Iditarod champion ever when he won the 1,000-mile sled dog race across Alaska last year, is among eight mushers or outdoor adventurers featured in the latest reality show set in Alaska.
"Ultimate Survival Alaska" premieres Sunday (10 p.m. EST) on the National Geographic Channel.
"We took eight of the toughest outdoorsmen in Alaska and actually did something that was true to the nature of National Geographic," Seavey said. "Anybody who appreciates the outdoors is going to enjoy the show."
In each episode, the eight participants are taken by plane or helicopter to a different part of Alaska. They must find their way to a pre-arranged landing zone within three days, fighting the harshest elements the state puts in their way, from bears, mountains and raging rivers to guiding their way along a glacier. Spoiler alert: It's not easy.
In the first episode, titled "Arctic Hell," the men are dropped off in the Brooks Range, in northern Alaska above the Arctic Circle, and must make their way almost 50 miles on foot to Takahula Lake.
The men break off into three teams, with brothers Dallas and Tryell Seavey choosing to take a barren ridgeline to the lake. Mountain guide Willi Prittie, musher Brent Sass and explorer Tyler Johnson decide to travel the high mountain route only to find wolves blocking part of their path.
Mountain guide Marty Raney and his son, survival expert Matt, along with wilderness guide Austin Manelick choose the most direct route, through a river valley, but have to contend with the swift-moving river and swamps.
All eight men are expected to live off the land for any food beyond the two pounds of rice and beans they carry.
Manelick, 24, supplemented his diet by eating a live wood frog. "I wish I could find some more," he said, and so might viewers after his next culinary choice — snarfing down cranberries he picked out of bear scat.
"A little bit tart," he says.
Future episodes will have the men competing in two teams and building rafts to take down the mighty Yukon River, the nation's third longest river. Another episode has the men rappelling down a cliff on a summit in the snow-capped Tordrillo Mountains, then traveling eight miles over the Triumvirate Glacier.
The series was filmed over two and a half months last fall in 10 locations in the vast state.
For Tryell Seavey, 28, the series was a chance for him to reconnect with his younger brother. A decade ago, they dreamed of doing things like this but couldn't because they had to spend two- to three hours a day cleaning up after the dogs at their home in Seward, Alaska. Their father, Mitch Seavey, won the Iditarod in 2004 and this year became the sport's oldest champion at the age of 53.
"As Alaskans, we sure talk about doing all this stuff, but who does all these things, visits all these places?" Tryell said.
Both Dallas Seavey and Sass, a Minnesota native who was the Iditarod rookie of the year in 2012, said their experiences from the race helped prepare them for the survival challenge.
"The sleep deprivation, pain tolerance we endure and the constant problem solving we do during the race was a great prep for the show," Sass said in an email to The Associated Press.
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