Jasin Boland, NBC
Austin Vach, 24, and his father, 61-year-old Jim Vach, of Maple Valley, Wash., members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are one of the six remaining teams going into the fifth journey of survival through New Zealand’s South Island.
The winning team receives $500,000.
“It’s time to welcome them to my playground,” host and British survivalist Bear Grylls said.
Each episode includes a journey into the New Zealand wilderness where the teams have different responsibility, which are selecting by drawing knives with their tasks — obstacles, food, shelter or fire — written on the blade. The Vachs drew shelter for the third time.
This week, the seven teams were brought via helicopter to a 300-meter waterfall. The two obstacle teams were tasked with helping all the teams up the face of the mountain next to the waterfall.
“One mistake up there and it’s a long way down,” Grylls said.
The food team, mother and daughter Donna and Canden Jackson, of Fairhope, Alabama, then had to help navigate across marshy terrain to a pond where their food was duck eggs, which Lucky Larson found. The Jacksons then had to carry the eggs to the overnight camp and cook them.
From there, the two shelter teams, the Vachs and the husband-and-wife team of Wilson and Robin Sheppard of California, had to guide the group 500 meters up a 45-degree climb over a ridge to the overnight camp.
Many of the team members, including the Sheppards and Donna Jackson, struggled to get to the top, and Grylls stepped in to encourage them up to the ridge.
“You’re beat. You’re bruised. But these mountains will give you strength if you let them,” Grylls said when the team made it to top.
After reaching camp, the shelter, food and fire teams were able to set up camp before dark.
When the team members cracked open the duck eggs, there were baby ducks inside that Donna Sheppard couldn’t quite handle. Then Grylls brought maggots for the teams to eat for dessert.
The Vachs and Sheppard had tarps and sleeping bags for each team. They arranged sleeping bags on the tarps, and then folded the tarps over the bags in a type of burrito shape. Their fellow competitors weren’t all pleased with the shelters as not everyone slept well or stayed in the shelters.
“We feel like it’s very important for us to win the Survival Test, because not everybody was happy with the shelters and that put a little bit of a target on our backs,” Austin Vach said.
The next morning for the Survival Test, the teams had to make a rope stretcher with 12 loops in a single length of rope and then a clove hitch in each loop. Then race across a river to the stone marker where they had to pick up a log in their stretcher and bring it back across the river.
Back at the base camp, the Vachs went to the Feast Pit, where there were pasta, fresh fruit and dessert along with the chance to take a bath. They also received shaving supplies.
“Food, shaving again, taking a bath, getting our armpits smelling decent — it’s just rejuvenating,” said Jim Vach, a former federal agent and former Scoutmaster.
“(F)elt very fortunate to win the survival test. We knew we were on the bubble,” Jim Vach tweeted during the show.
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