It's one of the 20th century's greatest survival epics: A plane crashes high in the Andes leaving 32 people stranded with little food except the bodies of the dead. As even that ghastly supply dwindles, three survivors embark on a make-or-break journey to find help. No one has ever recreated their daring escape. Until now.
To report and photograph our April 2006 cover feature "Alive! Then & Now," Contributing Editor James Vlahos
(left) joined expedition leader and Boulder-based guide Ricardo Peña
(center) and guide Mario Perez
(right) for the first retracing of the escape route used in 1972 by rugby players Roberto Canessa, Nando Parrado,
and Antonio Vizintín
two months after their Fairchild 571 crashed in the Andes. The event spurred the book and film Alive.
Conceived by Peña and sponsored by the National Geographic Expeditions Council, their modern-day quest to quantify the distances and difficulty of the trek involved horseback riding, rafting, snowshoeing, mountain climbing, and hiking. For Vlahos, the expedition surpassed all expectations. "After months of studying maps and old photos, I met many of the survivors," says Vlahos. "Following in their footsteps blew the doors open to an incredible story."
Editor's Note: In February 2006, survivor Eduardo Strauch joined Peña and Vlahos on a second expedition to search for the lost remnants of the Fairchild and uncover new secrets about the accident. Stay tuned for more online coverage of the story, including video from the crash site. For information on the foundation started by the survivors, go to www.viven.com.uy.
Now read the extensive coverage of the Alive expedition in our April 2006 issue. Subscribe now to begin your year of Adventure with this exciting Alive edition.
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