Carleigh Fairchild first rose to prominence in 2016, when she was featured as one of the contestants in the third season of History’s one-of-a-kind documentary reality TV survival game-show series entitled “Alone.” Carleigh almost won the whole season, and was thus featured in the show again in 2018, re-invited to the fifth season thanks to her previous success.
The series is unique mostly due to the way that its content is filmed, with self-documented lives of its contestants making up most of the material that is eventually screened. These individuals are survivalists first and foremost, obviously without camera training. Thus, the quality of shots in “Alone” is up for discussion, but the show brings an unprecedented sense of loneliness and tension nonetheless.
It achieves this by leaving its cast to fend for themselves in the complete wilderness, the area of which changes every season. They are each given a limited survival equipment, which is generally the only help they will get from the filming crew. With only a few basic survival necessities, individuals are thrust into unforgiving nature in quite remote areas, where only their knowledge and survival skills can keep them alive.
At no point throughout the show are the contestants allowed to interact with another human, with the only exception being the medical team that does regular check-ups on each of them, so as to prevent deaths or serious illness or injury in the series.
If the medical professionals determine that a certain cast member is no longer fit to continue, they are immediately removed from the competition and their spot on the survival list is recorded, which would always be between two and ten, with the exception of season four, which had seven pairs.
There is, of course, also the option of simply ‘tapping out,’ wherein at any point in the competition, the contestant can simply forfeit their participation and instantly returned to the civilized world, which is generally frowned upon by most survivalists who ever thought of participating in “Alone.” As a result, most individuals who leave the competition have removed by the medical staff, though not in the first few seasons.
“Alone” was filmed in various remote locations, mostly protected by the government due to being the home of indigenous peoples, some of whom have never had contact with modern humans. These places include the Great Slave Lake, Chilko Lake and the Northern Vancouver Island in Canada, Argentina’s Nahuel Huapi National Park, Northern Mongolia, and Patagonia as a whole, encompassing parts of Chile and Argentina.
The prize, aside from being acknowledged by the entire world as the ultimate survivalist, is a neat $500,000, which was increased to $1 million in season 7. This didn’t seem to be the main incentive for most of those who entered, though, as their goal was pushing themselves to the limit, and seeing just how far they can go.
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This was the case with Carleigh as well, who grew up wanting to eventually live in the wild. A show such as “Alone” was the perfect opportunity for a would-be survivalist, and even though she generally spent her time around animals and homesteads, her season three run was nothing short of impressive.
The show’s third season, in which Carleigh rose to fame, was probably one of the toughest in the series’ history. It was the first time that a contestant had to be removed from the competition against their will, and not just one of them. This season was filmed in the Argentinian part of Patagonia.
She joined the show as a carpenter from Edna Bay, Alaska USA, with a survival resume to boot, one she has been building up since her teenage years. Seeing as she’s from one of the coldest places on earth, and hailing from a family who has been surviving there for generations, she didn’t have much of a choice either way, and had to learn to live off the land regardless.
The problem for Carleigh in particular was the myriad of issues and unforeseen circumstances that would await her in the tropical world of South America – one had been living in the polar opposite. Naturally, this change took a great toll on her in the beginning, but she adapted and ultimately fared better than almost everyone.
In her season three promotional video by History Channel, she can initially be seen doing pull-ups and push-ups at home. She presented the viewers with the name of her place of residence, saying ‘You can only get to Edna Bay by floatplane or boat. There’s no roads connecting to any other part of Alaska.’
She then introduced the audience to her own greenhouse, which is the only way for residents of such cold environments to be able to obtain most vegetables. She said ‘Everybody lives off the grid here, and we grow a lot of our own food here as well. We can’t get super fresh organic produce very easily. Everything in here is edible. We’ve got lettuces, all different kinds. So, if we want really good produce, we have to grow it ourselves.’
Fairchild wasn’t born there, however, and thus explained how she ended up in Edna Bay in the first place, stating ‘I live here on this property with my boyfriend Tyler, and his parents own the property, and we do a lot of family sharing with them. We garden together, we raise chickens and ducks together, and we share all of the produce and eggs that are provided.’
When asked how she feels about being thrust into the South American wilderness to try and survive without human contact, she stated ‘I feel like my entire life has been building me up to this point. I have, like, a really strong survival skills background. When I started in survival skills, at a young age, started at 13, my forte, my strong suits were in shelter and basketry, and skinning and tanning hides.’
She then put on a basket backpack, saying ‘I imagine I’d make something like this when I’m on the trip. It’d be very useful, to have a pack basket, to bring back firewood or to bring back game, or wild edible plants.’
Joining the cast of “Alone” was a lifelong desire finally fulfilled for Carleigh., stating that ‘It’s been a dream of mine since I was a teenager, and started learning about primitive skills to go out and test my skills for a year in the woods.’
When asked about what she plans to get out of “Alone,” she said ‘I’m searching for an adventure. I’m not out there to do any soul searching, or to solve the world’s problems. I’m out there because I really wanna have this experience, and whatever that ends up being is what I want. I want the experience of living out and surviving for as long as I can.’
Of course, prior to joining the cast, Carleigh first had to be selected by the showrunners, and in order for that to happen, she had to convince them that her survival skills are at least enviable. Thus, she sent History Channel a promotional video featuring her practical use of knowledge in the wild.
It starts with her standing in the middle of the forest and describing the weather, while her confidence in it has seen better days, although she remained hopeful, saying ‘Okay, today is a very overcast, windy, dark day, and I’m not sure how well this is gonna do, but we’re gonna give it a shot.’
The video then cuts to Carleigh sitting at home and talking to the camera, explaining what she would have to offer in the show, statingd ‘I would say I have a mixture of primitive and modern skillsets. I can use all primitive methods and that takes a lot longer, so I like to have some modern methods, like a knife, to help make things go a little bit faster.’
She then shows a well-placed tent, saying ‘I can make shelters. I can make friction fires, such as with a bow drill and hand drill. I also have a lot of medicinal and edible plant knowledge.’ She then shows a bundle of green strings to the camera, stating ‘This is a lichen called usnia; I like to use it as an anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.’
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That’s not the ace up her sleeve though, but how good she is when it comes to weaving together useful items. She said ‘I think my basketry skills is probably the thing that will set me apart. This basket I specifically made harvesting clams. I’m pretty proud of this basket. I also have here a pseudo backpack that I made. This is a seeder hat that I made.’
One of the questions for the would-be participants to answer was, of course, what they would lack the most while stuck in the wilderness. To that effect, she explained ‘I live with my boyfriend of two and a half years and I would definitely miss him while I’m out there.’
One’s best effort was also a key factor for the showrunners, so Carleigh added that her ‘greatest accomplishment is hiking 500 miles (800 kms) through Washington State Pacific Crest Trail. This is a physical challenge, but I feel like it’s even more of a mental challenge.’
Finally, while explaining what her drive for joining the show is, Fairchild stated ‘I wanted to do this challenge because it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to live for an extended period of time in the woods. No matter what it takes, I’ll see it through to the end.’ The video was apparently highly effective, as Carleigh was soon granted entry the adventure of a lifetime.
As always, every participant was allowed to bring 10 items into the wild with them, and Carleigh had interesting choices to be sure. She took a negative-three-degree synthetic sleeping bag first and foremost, saying that she’s ‘concerned with the ground getting wet out here.’ Her second was a 64-ounce (1,800-gram) water bottle, chosen because it can be filled with water and then boiled on a fire, which also comes in handy as a heater.
She also brought a metal cooking pot, a much-needed ferro rod to start fires with, a medium-length ax, a foldable professional pruning saw with a long handle, fishing lines and hooks, and a knife. Her last two items were food rations, which she needed to take instead of equipment due to a rather fast metabolism – the same blessing that later ended up being her curse.
Season three’s brutal conditions saw five of its 10 contestants out of the picture at 51 days into survival. The other half of the cast somehow lasted way longer still, with Callie North dropping out on day 72, and Dave Nessia being medically evacuated the very next day due to low systolic blood pressure. Megan Hanacek called it off at 78 days in, unable to cope with jaw pain brought on by two broken teeth.
Carleigh was then one of the last two remaining, but unfortunately had to be compulsorily removed from the wild due to the doctors finding that her Body Mass Index (BMI) had dropped below the acceptable value of 17, to 16.8. She’d lost almost 30% of the body weight she entered with, being pulled out on day 86.
Fairchild joined season five as well, but faced another medical evacuation only five days after being dropped off due to a fish hook piercing her hand and requiring immediate medical attention.
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Carleigh hasn’t been in the spotlight since her unfortunate season five attempt in 2018, but she’s still hard at work privately. Fairchild’s website offers a number of commodities, such as knives with her signature and quote, saying ‘Never Give Up,’ as well as a six-week course on connecting with one’s own place of existence.
Finally, the survivalist also offers hour-long sessions of NIASZIIH healing, which is described on the website as an earth-based integrative healing modality that relies on tracking and awareness to help the person see what they really want. She recommends this treatment for anyone with cancer, as well as autoimmune disease, depression, trauma, heart disease and grief sufferers, or simply anyone who has had an organ transplant or another massive life change.
Perhaps she could be the subject of a TV series of her own – what do you think?