Mormon father-son team reflects on being on 'Get Out Alive'

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Austin Vach and Jim Vach on the raft they built during the final journey Monday of NBC's "Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls."

Jasin Boland, NBC

A Mormon father-son team survived the final journey of NBC’s “Get Out Alive with Bear Grylls” and said the experience helped strengthen their relationship.

“Strong bonds that have been made even stronger. You guys leave with your heads held high,” host and survivalist Bear Grylls said of 24-year-old Austin Vach, technical accounting manager at Microsoft, and his father, 61-year-old Jim Vach, a retired fraud investigator, both of Maple Valley, Wash.

“We’ve got three very strong teams,” Grylls said before he chose a winner. “You’ve all earned my respect the hard way.”

In the end, it was the father-daughter team of Andrew “Lucky” Larson, 58, and Andrea “Louie” Larson, 24, of Illinois, that won the $500,000 prize.

The Vachs, of the Maple Valley Washington Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, watched the finale with about 200 people, tweeted during the show and answered questions during commercial breaks.

“We really appreciate the outpouring of support that we’ve felt,” Jim Vach, who serves as bishop in the Cedar River Ward, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Austin Vach, who is the elders quorum president in the Green Valley Young Single Adult Ward, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he had watched Bear Grylls on television growing up and it was one of his favorite times on the show to meet him.

“He never gives up and keeps going until the job is done,” Austin Vach said. “He’s a genuine guy.”

Ten teams started the season and one was eliminated each week until there were three teams, including the Vachs, the Larsons and Dallas friends Chris Winter, 28, and Jeff Powell, 29, who survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident several months ago.

Each episode included a two-day survival journey in New Zealand’s South Island where each team drew a knife with a task — obstacle, food, shelter or fire — etched on it for their assignment. On the second day, there was a survival test where the winner got immunity from elimination and a trip to the Feast Pit. The Vachs had won three of the survival tests during the season.

“What you’re about to experience is about as close to a survival scenario that I believe is possible to create,” Grylls said.

It was the final journey that both Jim and Austin Vach said was the most difficult.

When they drew knives, they were blank — meaning that while they would be traveling as a group, they were responsible for their own shelter and fire.

The final journey during Monday's episode included jumping from a helicopter in a lake in a rainstorm, swimming to shore, navigating and bushwhacking through a rain forest, and floating down a cold, swollen river without a raft to the overnight camp. The next morning, they hiked through the marsh, built rafts, navigated to the coast of the Tasman Sea and built a signal fire.

“The vines seemed to be alive and trying to ensnare me! Chris (Winter) started calling me ‘Jungle Jim,’ ” Jim Vach tweeted during the show.

The ground was covered with puddles, some of which were waist-deep.

“All of these guys, it’s their first time in the rain forest,” Grylls said. “It really is a baptism of fire.”

At the riverbank, they tied their packs together so they could float as a group.

“The scary thing about floating down that river was that the river level had been elevated due to heavy rain,” Austin Vach said. “So, you could very easily run into hidden objects underneath.”

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