Nate Weber was unceremoniously left behind at Lake Chilko, a 40 mile-long body of water running north to south in British Columbia, Canada. He was allowed to bring the clothes on his back, several tools of his liking, and a camera to record his journey, and was told to endure for as long as possible.
He was among 10 people who took the risk for season 8 of “Alone,” a History Channel survival series, and for a crack at the $500,000 prize.
But Weber, a 47-year-old Wauseon native, high school sports star, and longtime military man, was never in it for the money. He purely wanted the challenge.
“For me, it was all about the mission, it was all about the challenge of just facing it , seeing if I could make it happen, seeing if I could make it to the end,” he said.
The 1991 Wauseon High School graduate and Athletic Hall of Fame inductee was designated a five-mile stretch around Lake Chilko to hunt, fish, fashion a shelter, and do whatever else it would take to outlast his opponents for the money award. He had selected from a list such items as a sleeping bag, a pot, a fire starter, an axe, a saw, a fishing kit, and a bow and arrow set to assist him in a remote area where, as weeks passed, temperatures that started in the 40s and upward began plunging.
Weber had signed a contract to remain in-country for five months, or until the last of the 10 contestants was standing.
Now living in Upper Michigan with Lisa, his wife of 23 years, and their five children, Weber can’t reveal the outcome of “Alone,” which is currently airing its final episodes on Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. EST on the History Channel. At the time of this writing six of the contestants, including Weber, remained in the challenge. Due to the nature of the program, he could provide few details.
He did say, per the program’s title, “You’re really alone. It’s a personal challenge that really wakes you up.”
Weber joined the U.S. Navy at 17, reporting for duty two days after graduating. After a 12-year stint, he switched alliances and joined the U.S. Army to be an aviator. After 12 more years he retired from active duty in 2017.
After that, “It was always in the plans to just buy land somewhere and build a homestead. We wanted to lay roots somewhere.”
Weber took a job as a maintenance test pilot and settled into life.
But while still in the military, he had watched the first two seasons of “Alone” and found the challenge – to be left somewhere remote and cold to survive by your wits – intriguing.
Knowing he had the skill set and the athletic prowess to compete, Weber drafted an email to the program but let it sit for five years, knowing it wouldn’t be permitted during active service. In 2019, two years after his retirement, he sent it, and was chosen to appear in “Alone: The Beast.”
The premise: three people are dropped into the Northwest Territory for 30 days with no gear, no weapons, no protection from the elements, and “the beast” – an animal carcass to feed off of. “It was primitive survival,” Weber said.
He became friendly with members of the show’s team, and through a process was selected for the current season of “Alone.” It presented an entirely different dynamic than his first experience, This time Weber, although armed with a camera, and despite periodic medical checks, was entirely on his own.
The show’s premise always places contestants in a remote location with a nearby body of water, and always in a cold environment. There are restrictions on what they can and can’t kill for food. Contestants must have a sense of the land and how to use it for their survival.
“The longer you stay, the colder it will get, so there’s more challenges,” Weber said. “It’s just self-footage. There’s no camera crew, there’s no assistance from anyone. You’re truly by yourself.”
He said the challenge was exactly what he expected. “It’s a personal challenge, so it’s not like a competitive sport,” he said. “You’ve got to pay attention to your body. To me, it was a trade-off all the time how to bring in the calories in the primary food source. You have to carefully balance caloric intake with work expenditure.”
As for the fear factor, “I guess a long time ago I changed my dynamic on how I view things, and fear, I learned early on, holds people back, and so I chose that I knew fear would be present but I never accepted fear,” he said. “You should be cautious when you do things but to be afraid of failure – it limits people.”
What contestants soon realize, Weber said, is that being alone, without everyday distractions, can cause personal demons and insecurities to surface.
“When you put yourself into a personal challenge, where it’s just yourself and there’s no (distractions), those insecurities are going to rise to the surface,” he said. “All those unresolved issues or things you’ve done in your past that you haven’t resolved…. they come to the surface. For me, its not an issue; I live my life he same as I see myself.”
Weber concedes, however, that he still had to grapple with several realizations of his own.
“This gives you pause. This challenge allowed me to just take a break and pay attention to the things that were important, and when you do that you start to see things that you’re overlooking,” he said. “For me, that was such an interesting challenge in that sense. It’s an eye-opener, that we should probably all slow down a little bit and get off the train every once in a while and look around. Anything we do that challenges ourselves – even to face our own fears and insecurities – is cathartic. I think we need more of that.
“Go be by yourself for three days. Even that small amount of time will change your life. It forces you to really see yourself.”
A spokesperson for the History Channel said the network does not comment on those who participate in their programming.
Regardless of how “Alone” ends for him, Weber said there’s no such thing as win or lose in a competition such as this.
“Failure is inevitable. You have to learn from that,” he said. “The only way you learn from life is to take ownership that you chose that outcome.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.