It was determination that helped him shed 150 pounds. And that same attitude helped Eddie Ahyakak survive the harsh Alaskan wilderness.
For nearly three months this summer the 36-year-old, who spent much of his childhood in Vancouver, was pushed to his limits while filming the National Geographic Channel competition show "Ultimate Survival Alaska."
The second season, featuring Ahyakak and 11 other "extreme survivalists," premieres 9 p.m. Dec. 15. The show sent four teams into the wild to race across nearly 1,500 miles with limited supplies. On Team Endurance, Ahyakak was paired with a master mountain climber and an Iditarod sled race champ. The other competitors were organized into Military, Mountaineers and Woodsmen teams.
"It's physically the most demanding thing that I've ever done. But it's also the most rewarding," said the oil refinery operator. He lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, but was raised for most of his youth in Vancouver by dad Dave Moore.
"I couldn't have asked for a better dad," Ahyakak said. "He can't stop talking about (the show)."
To get through the tough expedition, Ahyakak drew on not only his childhood experiences helping out on his family's small Orchards farm, but mountain climbing, marathon running and hunting. Since 2008 he's been getting into shape after letting himself grow to about 320 pounds.
Ahyakak was also inspired by the lessons instilled in him as an Inupiaq Eskimo.
"We live in one of the most inhospitable places in the world. It's extremely hard to survive," he said. "Our people have figured out a way to do that. Persistence, teamwork, sharing and caring for one another, those are the values that helped our people survive.
"I drew on those values in this expedition."
Through the entire journey, Ahyakak carried a heartfelt token with him, a picture of his family: wife Andrea and children Alexis, 14, David, 7 and Allison, 2.
He thought about them often while persevering through exhausting challenges, including rappelling, ice climbing and sled racing. At one point he was set to follow his teammates across a 200-foot canyon in a Tyrolean traverse, a method of crossing gaps with a line and harness. But he mistakenly hooked himself up to only the stretchable secondary line, not the primary cable, causing Ahyakak to drop 20 feet when he stepped off the cliff.
"I knew right then and there something was wrong," he said. He fell out of sight from his teammates who had already made it across. "In their minds they are thinking, 'Eddie is gone.'"
He was able to swing himself across the abyss, and with some quick maneuvering saved himself from smashing hard into the fast-approaching rock face.
Ahyakak faced danger before as an avid outdoorsman and relishes any chance he can get to experience nature. It's in his blood.
"It's the nature of the beast. When you're mountain climbing and doing adventures in Alaska, you're out in the world," he said. "It's such an unforgiving place. I love it."
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