ALONE • Roland Welker (2024)

News article from GantNews:

Before he conquered 100 days in the arctic alone, Clearfield County native Roland Welker, 48, of Red Devil, Alaska, sought the Lord’s blessing at the Shiloh United Methodist Church.

He got it and was able to outlast nine other survivalists on season 7 of History channel’s television show, Alone, to win $1 million dollars.

Welker was dropped off by helicopter Sept. 18, 2019 along the dangerous rocky shoreline of Great Slave Lake’s east arm in the Northwest Territories, Canada.

Each contestant had their own campsite with a rucksack of limited survival tools, emergency radios and camera equipment to self-document their day-to-day experiences.

“You have pretty much nothing,” he said. “I’ve lived my whole life like this but never for 100 days with just 10 items. Living off the land isn’t easy; every day you’re cold and hungry. Alone is 100 percent authentic.”

On his journey, Welker took a ferro rod, gill net, a pot, trapping wire, an axe, a saw, a multi-tool, a belt knife, bow and some arrows and a sleeping bag.

With his tools, he had to build shelter and fire, as well as hunt and forage for food in crushing arctic conditions and with fierce predators lurking in the forest surrounding him.

For Welker, this wasn’t some kind of “spiritual journey.” His mission was simple from day one: survive 100 days and win the largest cash prize in the show’s history.

Over six seasons, no single contestant had ever lasted that long until Welker “got woodsy,” emulating the primitive lifestyle of the old-timers he deeply respects.

Welker grappled with massive boulders and logs – some of which weighed over 200 pounds – expending around 500 calories an hour to build “rock house” that he later insulated with a coating of snow.

He said once he started, he had to finish; otherwise, it would’ve been a waste of energy to “live under a tarp.” He figured he put in at least 150 hours of work before moving in prematurely in the middle of the night to escape the weather.

“I’ve spent a number of far-north winters in primitive cabins and wall tents. Those were brutal, just brutal; I wanted to have a substantial shelter because I know what 50-below zero feels like.”

When it was “hyper-cold” during filming in the latter part of December, temperatures plummeted to 30-below zero for probably 10 days straight and then to 40-below zero for the last couple of days.

Welker was well-prepared with “a winter’s worth” of firewood stacked outside, a fireweed root cellar and a berry cache, and on day 29, he had an epic big-game kill when he hit a bull musk-ox with his bow.

He tracked the wounded animal two miles from camp and waited for it to bleed out and die. Out of arrows and with daylight getting thin, he stabbed it to death with the only weapon he had left – his belt knife.

“Outside of the [million-dollar] factor, there was so much pressure. I could hardly think right. It was so unreal,” he said. “I started at age 8 in Shiloh and there was my 40-year career coming to a head.

“There I was, there it was – very much alive and far from dead. These are extremely tough animals … it was either sleep there or finish it off. I thought about it for another five minutes and just went for it.”

Welker said when the musk-ox’s legs went out and it fell to the ground, he let out a loud “war hoop” that may have been heard in the next contestant’s camp five-plus miles away.

“I’ve had many hundreds of trophy big-game kills over the years – both for myself and with hunting clients – but I’ve never slayed anything this big with my knife.”

Over three days, he trekked probably 40 miles packing meat, then impressed Alone fans with his meat crib. More robust than most shelters, it kept out hungry predators like bears and wolverines that ravaged the other makeshift food caches.

Living off the land took a lot out of Welker, and by Day 48, he looked like a scraggly old-timer on a hardscrabble homestead after having lost 44 pounds, or 20 percent of his body weight.

But he got a fat porcupine on Day 66 and ate the musk-ox from the horns to hooves including the contents of its stomach. “Whatever the musk-ox was eating, we’re eating now – ‘rock house spinach.’”

Late in the competition, Welker struggled to get daily necessities like food and water and to cut enough firewood to fuel his fire for the next 18 hours so he hunkered down in his sleeping bag.

“When I got that musk-ox, I know people thought ‘he’s got it made now,’” he said. “You do and you don’t. You don’t know that though until you’ve eaten tough, dry meat for 80 days straight and at 40-below.”

Throughout the show, Welker often talked differently than the other nine contestants, using the word “we.” “Maybe, I mean me and you … maybe I mean me and my departed mother.”

His mother, the late Mona Welker, passed away June 30, 2019 when he was in Montana training for the show, leaving him to “dodge” her funeral services and resolve to be the victor of Alone’s most extreme challenge yet.

Six months later as his days waned at rock house, Welker reflected upon life and all the time he’d lost with his family, particularly his mother, whom he kept a photograph of close by.

And then on Dec. 26, he emerged and carved out “100” on his calendar tree. But amidst the silence and solitude, he wasn’t alone as he could hear his mother singing her “treasured” church hymn –Standing on the Promises– from 30 years ago.

“My mom was a very, very strong Christian woman,” Welker said, “[and like her], I put my faith in God Almighty. All my days He’s been with me and praise the Lord, I was able to do this for her.”

ALONE • Roland Welker (2024)
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