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North Bend native tackles ‘Ultimate Survival Alaska’

Marty Raney (third from right) is among the eight extreme adventurers starring in the new National Geographic reality series "Ultimate Alaska Survival." (National Geographic image)

Marty Raney has a really sick sense of fun. You’d have to in order to sign up for a reality TV show that drops you 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle with little gear, no tent and virtually no food for two months, and no grand prize to keep you going to the end.

That’s the premise of the new National Geographic series “Ultimate Survival Alaska”, debuting Sunday night on the National Geographic Channel.

Raney, 56, seems like the perfect guy for the gig. His business card says he’s a log builder, stone mason, explorer, mountain guide and has the roughest hands in Alaska.

“What it really says is this guy doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up,” Raney told the Ron and Don Show in an interview Friday.

Raney says the inspiration for the show came from the original National Geographic expeditions of over 100 years ago. Eight extreme survivalists dropped by bush plane into the most difficult conditions imaginable. It makes “Survivor” look like a weekend camp out.

“The idea was 100 years ago they had to subsist off the land salmon, birds, berries, flora, fauna, bark leaves whatever,” he says. And that’s what they had to do for two months last fall as the series dragged them through what the show description calls “treacherous glaciated river valleys, barren ridgelines, and high mountain peaks, battling hunger, hostile predators, and perilous weather conditions along the way.”

“National Geographic got a hold of some nutritionists who said we better throw them about a cup of beans and rice a day per man just so if these guys die we won’t get sued,” Raney laughs.

If anyone is up for the challenge, it’s Raney. The lifelong mountaineer has tackled some of the toughest environments known to man, and scaled North America’s highest peak, Denali, 17 times.

“What you see on this show is legit. 60 days back to back, all of it under a tarp,” he says.

You’d figure at least there be some million dollar reward or other incentive for the winner. But Raney says while some TV executives wanted it to be like many other reality shows, National Geographic and the contestants balked.

“We said we’re not making a show like that. Nat Geo said ‘no, no prize money.'”

Raney says what inspired him was simply the challenge of doing something that hadn’t been done before.

“Even Alaskans don’t go to these places we’re going,” he says.

While Raney has lived most of his adult life in Alaska, he came out of the closet in a way with Ron and Don, revealing he actually cut his teeth in the Cascades growing up in North Bend.

“I went to Mount Si High School, unfortunately I quit school at 16 years old and went logging, he says. And at 18-years-old or so I went to Alaska and virtually never returned.”

Clearly, he returned from the worst Alaska had to offer, but it’ll be fun watching the series to see how he and the others survived.

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