A Brief History of the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon

On July 18, 100 runners will attempt to take on one insane 135-mile race through Death Valley. Called the Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, this event is not for ordinary runners (or ordinary ultramarathoners, for that matter). Racers have 48 hours to reach the finish line at Mount Whitney, while battling extreme temperatures from bottom to top. Death Valley is considered one of the hottest places in the world, with average temperatures over 110 degrees in July. The 14,505-foot mountain, on the other hand, regularly has freezing temperatures, giving night-time runners an unpleasant arctic blast on their way to the finish line.

A Brief History of The Race Across America, Cycling's Most Insane 12-Day Competition[1]

Despite the fact that entrants have to qualify — with at least three 100-mile races under their belt — roughly one fifth of participants won’t cross the finish line.

To stay up-to-date on the latest about the race, follow the 2016 webcast[2] on Badwater’s website. You can also look for time splits and results on AdventureCorps’ website[3]. For more on how to follow this year’s race, visit Badwater’s Facebook page[4].


In Search of a Long-Lost Cherokee Trail: An Excerpt from 'On Trails'

Credit: Getty Images

Have you ever caught yourself on a long hike thinking about the trail? Like really thinking about it — who first walked it, how it meanders, and why no one put a switchback on that last never-ending, lung-burning climb. While through-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Robert Moor caught himself doing just that. So once home, he started digging. Over the next six years, Moor, a writer for Harper's and New York magazine, kept picking away at those questions, and his search became an existential one about the very nature of trails. What's the first path ever made by a human? What about an animal? How do ants know what tiny roads to follow? And what can we make of our highways and the future of transit? The result of these queries is On Trails[1], a deep — at times dense — study of the biological, anthropological, and geographic history of trails. It's the kind of read that's full of facts and insights that will change the way you look at any path — whether you're backpacking in the Rockies or walking through Forest Park. Here, in an exclusive excerpt from the book, Moor teams up with historian Lamar Marshall to look for long-lost Cherokee trails, some of the oldest man-made paths in the world. –Tyghe Trimble[2][3]

How Kelly Starrett and Japan Fixed My Running Form[4]

The following is an excerpt from Robert Moor's On Trails.[5]

As the trail began to ascend the ridge, [historian Lamar] Marshall became more certain that it was an old Cherokee trail and not a modern addition. For one thing, it followed the ridgeline, which is a telltale feature of Cherokee trails. He explained that once a walker was high atop a ridge, it was possible to walk for “miles and miles and miles” without encountering serious obstacles. In wintertime, the ridges saved a walker from having to cross through frigid waters, and in summer, they stayed high above the low-lying thickets of ivy, laurel, and rhododendron, which the locals call “laurel hells.”

The trail tilted upward, slowing our progress. Marshall calculated that for every mile we hiked, we climbed a thousand feet. He said, between huffing breaths, that this was another good indication that the trail had been made by Cherokees and not Europeans. The English hated Cherokee trails, because they were too steep to follow on horseback.

The 50 Best Trails[6]

Though we often speak of the “path of least resistance,” a single landscape contains countless paths of least resistance, depending on the mode of transportation. The Plains Indians carted goods using a sled-like device called the dog travois, so their trails gravitated to areas of slick grass, like prairie wool, and avoided steep inclines, because the travois would lift the dog’s hind legs off the ground. After Europeans introduced horses to the Americas, some tribes also began using a horse travois, which can climb steeper inclines than the dog travois. However, horses cannot climb as steeply as llamas, which meant that farther south in Peru, Spanish conquistadors could not follow many of the Inca trails.

The Cherokee traveled primarily on foot, wearing soft-soled moccasins that allowed their toes to grasp the ground. “The footwear was intimately connected with Indian trails,” Marshall said. “It’s an aspect that nobody thinks about.” On his feet, he wore a battered pair of rubber-soled hiking shoes, halfway between a boot and a cross-trainer, with seams held together by yellow, foamy glue. He had tried wearing moccasins before, but he discovered that his feet weren’t strong enough to grip the ground effectively.

The trail rose higher through the brightening air. Gray trees held the husks of dead leaves, shakily. On the side of the trail lay the remains of a chestnut tree, hollowed out by fungus. Chestnut trees were once the most abundant in the region; each summer, they showered the Appalachians in flurries of pale blossoms, and they grew so large that when they toppled over, the sound was known as “clear day thunder.” But around the turn of the twentieth century, they started becoming infected with an invasive blight and died off by the millions.

In this and a hundred other ways, the forest we were walking through would have been unrecognizable to the ancient Cherokee. Tyler Howe, a Cherokee historian, pressed this point home when I spoke with him. “The forests today are nothing compared to the forests then,” he said. “The natural environment of the Cherokee world has been completely changed.” For one thing, nearly all the land had been intensively logged, so the trees would have looked shockingly young to an ancient Cherokee. Moreover, the Cherokee regularly burned the woods, which would have cleared out many of the thickets of rhododendron and multi-flora rose, so, to them, a modern forest would look sloppy, unkempt.

The first European visitors to North America were stunned by the forests they found—not just by the age and grandeur of the trees, but also by the lack of undergrowth. Early observers frequently noted that the forests of the Eastern seaboard resembled that of an English park. Some stated that a man could ride a horse (or according to one source, a four-horse chariot) at full gallop through the trees without a snag. A great many colonists ignorantly assumed that this was the natural, divinely ordained state of the forests. Indeed, it may well have appeared that way, because infectious diseases, imported by the earliest explorers, had already killed off as much as ninety percent of the indigenous population before settlers arrived en masse. Those second-wave pioneers had stepped into a vast garden, it seemed, with no gardener in sight.

Even early on, though, observant Europeans cottoned to the fact that the park-like appearance of the forests was the result of careful maintenance. William Wood, who published the first comprehensive natural history of New England in 1634, noted that “in those places where the Indians inhabit, there is scarce a bush or bramble, or any cumbersome underwood to be seen in the more champion ground.”* Meanwhile, he noted, in those places where Native communities had died off from plagues, or where rivers prevented wildfires from spreading, there was “much underwood,” so much so that “it is called ragged plain because it tears and rents the cloths of them that pass.”

In addition to easing foot travel, fire was used to clear farmland, to hunt, to encourage the growth of berry bushes and deer grass, to drive off mosquitoes, and to deplete the natural resources of neigh- boring tribes. When the British put an end to the practice of strategic burning, millions of acres of open oak savannas reverted to dense forests within two decades. It is now widely understood that, rather than existing in a blissfully “natural” state, the native inhabitants of North America thoroughly altered the landscape, patiently molding it, as a foot breaks in a new moccasin—and being molding by it, as a moccasin toughens a foot.

We stopped for lunch at the top of the ridge, where the trail crossed a dirt road. Off in the distance the mountains were isoprene blue. White sun filtered down through high clouds, as sweet and clear as ice melt.

Marshall opened his backpack and pulled out five different plastic baggies. One had a baked potato in it, wrapped in aluminum foil, still warm. Another held an apple. Another, a peanut butter sandwich.

Another held pale cloves of raw garlic, which Marshall popped into his mouth and crunched without grimacing. Another held a slab of blackened bear meat. He had smoked it for two hours then broiled it in the oven to leach out the remaining fat. He cut me off a piece. It was delicious, reminiscent of Texas smoked brisket. For himself, Marshall saved a huge bear rib, which he gnawed at like a wild, white-muzzled dog.

He lay on his side, propped on an elbow, telling stories from his youth. When he was in fifth grade, he said, he became obsessed with stories about American Indians; he would hide recollections of frontier life inside his textbooks so he could read them while pretending to study. Naturally, he gravitated to the Boy Scouts, where he learned to hike, canoe, and camp out. When he was eighteen, he built a raft out of fifty-five-gallon drums (complete with a sail, a detachable canoe, and a ten-foot Confederate flag), which he and two friends floated down the Alabama River from Selma to the Gulf of Mexico.

Soon after, he befriended an “old mountain man” named John Garvin Sanford. As the two went “prowlin’” through the woods in search of ginseng and goldenseal, Sanford would sometimes lead Marshall to the site of old Cherokee villages. On one occasion, San- ford dug down into a fire pit in an abandoned village and recovered a pile of tiny, charred corncobs. (Ears of corn, he explained, were much smaller before Europeans began cultivating them.) Marshall canoed to various former townsites to see if he could find shards of pottery or remnants of tomahawks. Sometimes, standing in a plowed field, he could see the dark circles and squares where Cherokee houses had once stood; even after being tilled countless times, the ground was still blackened from centuries of cooking fires. He puzzled over the old Cherokee trails, where they went, and why.

'On Trails' is out now on stands everywhere.


  1. ^ On Trails (
  2. ^ Forest Park (
  3. ^ Tyghe Trimble (
  4. ^ How Kelly Starrett and Japan Fixed My Running Form (
  5. ^ On Trails. (
  6. ^ The 50 Best Trails (

Adventures on the Alaskan Railroad's Little-Known Flag Stop Train

Credit: Getty Images

From just a few hundred miles below the Arctic Circle in Fairbanks, all the way down to the coastal city of Seward 467 miles south, the Alaska Railroad offers up wilderness from the comfort of a cushioned chair. But why end there? It's also the perfect platform to launch an adventure. Simply pull the flag and you're on your way. From mid-May until late September the Hurricane Turn train operates along a 56-mile stretch of rail from Talkeetna to Hurricane Gulch as a flag-stop train, meaning it will let you off anywhere you ask. When you want to get picked up, just stand next to the rails waving a white flag. Most riders are homesteaders that use the train to access their properties, but you will see a few savvy adventurers with camping or fishing gear. “This stretch of track has long been a secret kept by the residents of the state, the fishing and rafting are some of the best we have,” says Warren Redfearn, the long-time conductor of the train. Here are a few recommended stops.

17 Reasons Alaska Is the Adventure Capital of the United States[1]

Places to Pull the Flag on the Hurricane Turn Train

Mile 266.7: Fishing

At mile 266.7 is the 4.5-mile long Indian River, home to salmon, rainbow trout, graylings, and dolly vardens. The water is fresh and clear, with a canopy of green lining the riverbanks. It is possible to fish — either fly or spin — for days during the week without seeing anyone. The train will drop you, and whatever gear you want to bring, right next to the river. From there you can pitch your tent, start searching for the perfect fishing spot, and relax. 

Rafting at Mile 264.4

Just a few miles down the tracks, at mile 264.4, the Indian River joins the Susitna River, offering close to 40 miles of rafting through state park land where the chances of seeing a moose are higher than seeing another person. The trip can be done in one day — about nine hours — but why rush? “The fishing is ridiculous with numerous backwaters and lagoons to stop at,” says Redfearn. “You could spend two to three days exploring the river, camping in the middle of nowhere, all the time basking in the views of Denali Mountain.” The river will deposit you right in downtown Talkeetna.

Mile 248.5: Mountain Biking

This is the former home of the Curry Hotel, a luxury destination in the middle of nowhere that burned down in 1957. Now a large spot of level ground, the stop is used as a camping site for rafters and the occasional hiker. Directly east is an old mining road that winds and weaves close to thirty miles, to remote Stephan Lake, hidden deep inside the Talkeetna Mountains. “The trail is rough climbing out, you will walk your bike a few times, but once you get above the Susanna drainage, the terrain is beautiful,” says Billy FitzGerald owner of Denali Trekking. You could easily be on the trail for days on this out-and-back trip.

Flying into Backcountry; Walking to the Train

The area surrounding the train tracks, like much of the state, is pure wilderness. One of the best ways to experience it is on foot. Denali Trekking will fly you into Plover Lake. Once there they will guide you back to the railroad through the high alpine tundra where grizzly’s, wolves, caribou, and moose are the only residents. There are no trails to follow, only a compass heading leading you west until you finally site the railroad tracks four days later. “The remoteness of the land will amaze you,” says Billy FitzGerald.


Your beginning and end point, the town of Talkeetna[2], is a worthy destination on its own. Just 2.5 hours north of Anchorage, this place sits in the shadow of two mountains: Foraker (17,400 feet) and, North America's highest, Denali (20,320 feet), and has solid food options (like Mountain High Pizza), live music, and bars. 


  1. ^ 17 Reasons Alaska Is the Adventure Capital of the United States (
  2. ^ Talkeetna (

Explorer Roman Dial Talks About the Two-Year Search for His Missing Son

Credit: Photographs by Peter Bohler

After two long years of searching, legendary adventurer Roman Dial has learned the truth about his son’s disappearance. Dial, 55, is an Alaskan mountaineer, paddler, and backcountry racer renowned for surviving grueling feats, like trekking 620 miles through the Arctic with only a single bag of food in 2006. “My first trip to Alaska was in 1974, and you just heard stories about him,” Jon Krakauer told Men’s Journal in a 2014 feature story about Dial's search[1] for his son, Cody Roman. “He made people rethink what you could do, how far you could travel.” Along with his wife, Peggy, Dial raised his two children, Cody and his sister Jazz, to embrace an adventurer’s life. So when Cody decided to backpack alone from Mexico to Central America in 2014, Dial supported his 27-year-old son’s wanderings. “We traveled the world not because we were rich, but because we were frugal,” Dial says. “I was able to take my kids camping and exploring in Australia, Borneo, Latin America, Europe. [Cody] Roman traveled like that too. He knew what he was doing.”

FEATURE: Lost in the Jungle, The Search for Cody Dial[2]

In July 2014, Cody disappeared while hiking alone in Corcovado National Park — a dense and dangerous Costa Rican rainforest full of venomous snakes, steep ridges, and flash floods. Along with a group of trained search-and-rescue friends from Anchorage, Dial flew to help local authorities search the park, located in the Osa Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean. After weeks of rappelling down waterfalls and chopping through jungle with a machete — at one point nearly getting killed by a falling tree limb — Dial found no trace of his son. But he refused to give up. For the past two years he has continued to search remote trails and chase leads, considering theories ranging from murder to Cody simply deciding to disappear and create a new life. Last May, a documentary crew began filming Dial’s search. The resulting six-part series, Missing Dial[3], debuted in May and is currently airing on the National Geographic Channel. Last month, in an interview with National Geographic, Dial said he and the show’s investigative team had finally solved the case. “We know that Cody was murdered,” Dial said.

But in an incredible twist, Cody’s body was found in Corcovado just days before the show’s debut. Dial, accompanied by the show’s producers, flew down to finally confirm what happened — and he says it wasn’t murder. Dial has an agreement with National Geographic to not reveal the exact details of Cody's death — which will be aired in an upcoming episode of Missing DialBut now, in his first major interview since finding his son, Dial tells MJ about his rocky experience filming the show, his self-doubt and battles while unraveling the mystery, and his relief in finally finding his missing son. “I felt like I had been underwater for two years and couldn’t breathe,” Dial says, “and I’d finally come to the surface for air."

ALSO: Remains Found in Costa Rica Jungle Suspected to Be Cody Dial[4]

Let’s start at the beginning. What happened after the Men’s Journal article[5] came out in 2014?

Some television production companies approached us wanting to make a show, and I ignored all of them except for one. Paul Lima at This Is Just a Test productions[6] reached out to my wife, Peggy, and said that his father had been murdered in Honduras and he had been unable to get his father’s killer convicted over a ten-year period until he involved television cameras. So he said, "Why don’t you let us try to help you solve this?"

How did the production company offer to help you?

They approached us with this two-pronged approach. Ken Fournier, a parajumper, and Carson Ulrich, a retired DEA agent, would help with the search. I knew Ken from my adventure racing days. Parajumpers are a branch of the Air Force who can do everything. They’re medics but they can shoot guns too, and in Alaska they’re legendary for their rescues. I wouldn’t have to fear for my friend’s safety. In the early days, I had been taking my friends down there [to Corcovado], and it just became increasingly obvious that it was dangerous to bring people who didn’t have a lot of experience. I mean, a big tree fell down and almost killed these guys while they were asleep in their tent. And so the idea would be that Ken and I would continue searching in the jungle, and then my wife Peggy and this guy Carson would do some criminal investigation in town. I had worked with TV before and realized that there’s a lot of resources that television can bring. In particular, television’s usually really good with permits for getting into national parks.

"He was off trail and I found his compass and I found his little map — the remainder of his rotten map — and the rotting passport, and it’s the same map that he’d sent me online." Photograph by Peter Bohler

And that was a huge issue for you at the beginning of your search. Corcovado is so wild that it’s difficult to get permits from the government to explore it.

Yeah, exactly. I made 20 trips into the jungle over the last two years, and maybe four of those were legal. And so I thought this would be helpful.

Did you have any concerns about enlisting TV in your search?

I mean I’ve done TV stuff before. I don’t really like doing it that much. They said they wanted a documentary, and so I asked the producers right off the bat, “Well, what to you is the difference between reality TV and a documentary?” Because I really didn’t want to be in some sort of reality TV show. And they told me that reality TV is over-produced. So that became kind of my code word whenever I felt that they were manipulating me or making me do something I didn’t want to do. I just said, “This feels really over-produced.” And they weren’t paying us to do anything, so I felt like it was sort of a mutual exploitation thing. They wanted to get my story and I wanted to find my son. At first, I didn’t really know these guys, so sometimes I was a bit antagonistic. But over time I realized the main producer, Aengus James, his heart was really big. I think he was coming from a good place.

When did you discover Cody’s backpack?

It was almost July 1, and we were about to head down to Costa Rica with the production crew when we heard from the Embassy that they found our son’s pack. I was like, “What? You found our son’s pack?” It kind of suggested that he’d come back from the jungle and I was really annoyed, because they had the pack for like six months. And then they’d given it to the Embassy, who had it for two months before they even called us. I was really irritated about that.

Of course.

And so we went down and looked in the pack, and it had [Cody’s] blue Jetboil stove, which I had interpreted was the stove that he’d taken into the jungle when some miners encountered him, cooking in the middle of the jungle, cooking his breakfast. And I thought, “OK, well he did come out of the jungle and then he must have gone back in.” I don’t know if you remember from [MJ contributor] Damon [Tabor’s] story, but you know there was this local bad guy named Pata de Loro [who had claimed he had guided Cody in the jungle, leading to a theory that Cody had entered and exited the jungle at least two times]. I had discredited that story. I went through the jungle, I talked to people, asked Pata de Loro questions, and then I hired a private investigator and I gave him a list of 35 questions to ask Pata de Loro. And I was 99 percent certain that [Cody] Roman had never been with him.

But then this guy Carson Ulrich picked up the story. Carson was a DEA agent for 25 years and he’d just retired. He spoke Spanish and was pretty much the kind of guy I wanted — big, muscular, and intimidating. He was 10-feet tall and bald and tattooed and maybe 50 or so. I wanted someone who could push buttons and get answers. But generally he just pushed my buttons and didn’t really get great answers. He just got this Pata de Loro story, and he sunk his teeth into it and I was exasperated: Hey, Pata de Loro wasn’t with our son. [Editor’s Note: Pata de Loro had been seen with another young white backpacker, but Roman didn’t think the descriptions matched his son. For example, the backpacker seen with Pata de Loro had been smoking pot and carrying a lot of money.] And Carson got all huffy and says, “This is why we don’t let next of kin get involved in investigations — they’re all emotionally clouded.” When I first went down there, the guy who was directing the search for the Costa Rican Red Cross, a guy named Gilbert Dondi, wouldn’t even let me into the jungle. He eventually just said, “We don’t think your son ever went into the jungle.” [Cody] was never in the park because they couldn’t find any sign of him. And they were all convinced that he had never gone into the park, and he certainly wouldn’t go off trail.

But the thing is, I know my son. I raised him, and he had been in constant communication with me. Maybe a lot of fathers don’t know their sons, and a lot of children and their parents kind of lead separate lives, but we were quite close. So the fact that he’d written me and told me what he was going to do made it clear to me that he was really letting me know what was going on. [Editor’s Note: Cody had emailed his father that he intended to hike across Corcovado to the Pacific shore, then walk to a village and catch a bus back to Puerto Jiménez, the town on the edge of the jungle where his backpack was later discovered.]

So you were convinced Pata de Loro had nothing to do with Cody’s disappearance?

I knew my son, and he would have never gone with Pata. Number one, Pata de Loro, as I got to know him, is not the type of person my son would have hung out with. And then number two, Everybody who saw him said “Oh, he had a GPS.” So [Cody is] on a trail with a GPS and a guide? That’s kind of like wearing a onesie with suspenders and a belt.

That’s just not your son. He wouldn’t be doing that.

That’s not my son. But this guy Carson, he had none of it. And he would get in my face. On this television show, they captured him just getting in my face about it, you know? And he would accuse me of beguiling everybody.

There were all these things that just didn’t add up, and I would try to explain that to Carson, and he would just push them all aside. He just dismissed them and dismissed me. But ultimately, you know, I was right. My son was doing what he said he was doing.

How did your and Carson’s differing viewpoints affect the show?

The original idea was that Carson was going to do all this kind of urban criminal investigation, and Ken and I were going to go back into the jungle. But the TV people were never able to get permits that work in the jungle. They thought they would be able to do it but [the authorities] wouldn’t give them the permits. So that whole side of things was sort of nixed because I wasn’t going to go look around some jungle that was open just to make TV. Ultimately, they wanted to get some pictures of me rappelling down waterfalls and stuff like that, and I was like, "Yeah let’s go back to where I rappelled down a waterfall, let’s go look over there again." I was always going back to that area, which is ultimately where he was found. Where my son was found was within a half a kilometer or kilometer of where we had been looking.

So I was forced into this “Carson show” because they couldn’t get permits to go elsewhere, and the director was sort of lured into Carson’s approach. Carson is a forceful guy, and I think he wanted to be involved with television and production. So he would try to make TV to make things happen. To his credit he worked really hard to solve the case. He was exactly who I wanted, and even though I didn’t really agree with him, I appreciated what he was doing. Ultimately, I showed him respect even though I didn’t believe in Pata de Loro’s story. I didn’t believe it, but I was willing to accept Carson’s efforts, and support him. If you hire a consultant, you don’t hire a consultant to argue with him.

In some of the clips from the show, we see you and Carson doing exactly that.

Right, well I mean that makes for dramatic television, and I did [get upset]. In the beginning I was like, “Hey, you’re going the wrong way.” And [Carson] would just get louder and storm off. You know, ultimately I thought, “Well he is exactly the kind of guy that I asked for, and maybe he is right.” Even though in my heart it didn’t make sense, but eventually we looked in that backpack and there was that blue stove and I put the tape together so that Roman could of gone into the jungle, turned around, came back, and met up with Pata de Loro. Personally, I just had to push aside all of these details that didn’t match my son. I had to push aside him walking in sandals, you know Crocs, and my son would never walk in Crocs. He went on a trip with me when he was 12, and I had a group of college students. One of the college students was walking around in Tevas and jumped off a log and a palm spine went into his foot to the bone, and he had to wear a waist pack of antibiotics for six months. They had to evacuate him out of the jungle, and [Cody] Roman, at 12, was super impressionable. He would be like, “Yeah, I am not going to walk barefoot or in opened-toe shoes or Crocs in the jungle, that is about as stupid as you can get.”

So basically, you had to suspend your own disbelief to go along with Carson’s theory.

Yes, exactly, because I wanted to show him respect. He was working for me, he was trying to solve my case, and he was doing everything he could. I don’t want to disrespect him. I am disappointed that I was dismissed, but he did a good job doing what he does. What he does is investigate and get people to look around for him, and he did everything. But I think when the cameras were there… I don’t know. I kind of have a sense that he was looking for a career, a second career in the entertainment business. He seemed kind of over-dramatic to me. Honestly, I felt like I was just being myself. I was just trying to find my son.

Dial in 2014, preparing to head to the jungle to look for his son. Photograph by Peter Bohler

You began to believe Carson’s theory.

I got tired of arguing with him. Here is another thing that happened: The production company had hired these former FBI guys who were kind of like Hollywood consultants, and we would get on these Skype calls with them, and Carson would say what he was doing and what he was finding. They would just say, “Oh yeah, you’re right Carson.” And then they would always validate what Carson had done. So you’ve got the whole town basically saying, “Oh yeah, your son was with Pata de Loro.” You’ve got Carson who’s tracking all these leads down going, “Everybody is saying it’s Pata de Loro.” And then I would have my doubts because of what I heard and what I knew, I was worried in my disbelief. This happens to all of us all the time. When you believe something to be true but social pressures kind of make you accept otherwise. You know what I mean?

So last month, just days before the premiere of Missing Dial[7] on National Geographic, you learned that they found remains where Cody went missing. What happened next?

I think it was on Tuesday, May 17, that someone stumbled on camping gear and a skeleton in the jungle. Two days later, I was meeting with the FBI in Washington, D.C, trying to spin the Carson story about Pata de Loro and get the FBI to put pressure on the Costa Ricans [to press charges]. I got out of that meeting and got a call from the American Embassy in Costa Rica. They said, “Hey, we got some news: a body was found and it was with some equipment, but we don’t know anything else.”

So on Tuesday a body was found. Thursday I hear about it. Friday, they send me photographs on my phone and I look at them and say, “Yeah that is my son’s stuff.” Saturday I fly down [to Corcovado]. Sunday, I walk in to the site and meet [authorities] as they are carrying up my son’s gear and his remains. I can see the gear in these plastic bags. There is a foam pad that I know was his. There was this red strap that we use for packrafting. I have a whole bunch of them. I know he got them from me. I saw the backpack, I saw all of the stuff he had. And [the location where he was found] was very close to where I had camped. Where Damon had been turned around [in his 2014 MJ story]. 

When I got out of the jungle, the producer was there and he said, “Hey you need to get all this stuff checked by the FBI.” And I said, “No, I don’t need to get this stuff checked by the FBI.” Because he was still kind of convinced there was foul play involved, and it was one of those things he wasn’t sure. He wanted to make sure that A) It was [Cody] Roman and B) Somebody hadn’t placed it there. Honestly, there is no way that somebody would of planted it there because it is in a very remote spot. Secondly, all of his money in his pack was there. So nothing was missing. I was kind of bothered that they wanted to keep pressing on this sort of murder [theory].

How did it feel to finally find your son?

I was – I can’t say I was shocked. I definitely wasn’t shocked because I’d expected him to be dead for the last 18 months or so. So I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t crushed that he was dead. I mean, I have the chronic pain that will never go away, but I have to say that, maybe, I was a bit relieved. The worst thing that could happen to you as a father is to have a son commit suicide. I can’t think of anything worse than that, honestly. And then the next worse thing is to have him killed by somebody, because then it’s not about your son anymore. So if he kills himself, then you’re going to hold yourself responsible for the rest of your life. And then next is, you know, somebody kills your son, then, you’re just really torn. Believe me, I felt like I wanted justice, and maybe I wanted revenge. But I was never 100 percent sure. Every time I talked to Pata de Loro, I just couldn’t really believe his story. 

I was relieved that it looked like it was just a natural death. That it wasn’t murder. And also, I was, um, the word’s not "satisfied," I’m not quite sure what the word is... but he was where he said he was going. He was doing exactly what he said he was going to do. He was off trail, and I found his compass and I found his little map — the remainder of his rotten map — and the rotting passport, and it’s the same map that he’d sent me online. And his compass had the bearing over to the Madrigal River that you get if you’re going to go to the coast. I don’t want to say that I found him, because I didn’t really find him. But I think that if I had more access to the park, [I may have found him]. I just feel like all I needed was a few more trips, and if the Red Cross had said, “Yeah, okay, Roman, let’s look for him; where do you think he would be?” instead of saying, “Hey, we’re worried about your mental state and you have to stay out of the jungle or we’re going to arrest you.”


I think this is sort of a bigger problem with today’s society. What we’ve done is just hand over all of our responsibilities. He’s my son. I feel responsibility if he goes missing, I feel it’s my responsibility to look for him, not society’s. And the only reason I was trying to get your help, like in the beginning when you reached out to me [for a 2014 interview about Roman’s efforts[8] to search the park], the only reason I was trying to get more help was because they wouldn’t let me into the park. I had to sneak in. And so we’ve handed it over. If something bad happens, well, “family members get out of the way, let the professionals take over” — even though the professionals might not really have the best information or know the best approach. And when everybody says, “Your son was with this guy Pata de Loro, everybody says so, everybody knows,” I couldn’t say anything, I was completely dismissed because I was apparently an emotional parent. Even though I really wasn’t. I thought I was pretty rational.

What did it feel like when you saw his stuff in person? It had been such a long journey.

There was a certain finality to it that was sad, but actually more of a relief than anything else. I felt like I had been under water for two years and I couldn’t breath and I’d finally come to the surface for air. 

And the film crews were back with you the whole time?

Yeah, as soon as it happened they went down. They had to change the whole ending [of the show].

In the 2014 MJ feature, Jon Krakauer said: "A lot of parents would be appalled to think of letting their kids take those kinds of chances. But I got it with Roman — his kids were the same way he was. The whole family had this philosophy that is really admirable. To live an overly cautious life in many ways is as dangerous as its opposite.” Do you agree with that idea, or have your feelings on that approach to life changed?

I don’t want to say, “Well it’s great that [Cody] died doing what he loved.” I would never say that. I don’t think it’s great to die anyway. But there are risks anywhere. You know there’s risks when you cross the street, and there’s risks that you take when you’re in the wrong part of town, and I guess that we all have to die and, you know, if you’re going to die a natural death, his was about as natural as it gets. And the fact that he was doing what he said he was doing, you know, like he was off trail in the wilderness... I guess I feel a lot better now than I did two years ago. And I feel way better — far far better now — than I did just in May when I was trying to convince the FBI and Washington, D.C., that they needed to push on the Costa Ricans more to go after murderers. So yeah, I feel so much better.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


  1. ^ 2014 feature story about Dial's search (
  2. ^ FEATURE: Lost in the Jungle, The Search for Cody Dial (
  3. ^ Missing Dial (
  4. ^ ALSO: Remains Found in Costa Rica Jungle Suspected to Be Cody Dial (
  5. ^ Men’s Journal article (
  6. ^ This Is Just a Test productions (
  7. ^ Missing Dial (
  8. ^ 2014 interview about Roman’s efforts (

A 66-Year-Old Climber Dies on Denali: What Went Wrong

Credit: Menno Boermans / Getty Images

When you’re in the remote wilderness, even the most minor illnesses and injuries can rapidly morph into matters of life and death. When a climber fell ill between 18,400 and 19,000 feet on the highest peak in North America on Tuesday, a descent to camp and a high-altitude rescue was not enough to save his life.

Masayuki Ikeda was part of a four-person climbing team attempting to reach the summit of Denali in Alaska. He became ill while ascending the West Buttress route, which is the easiest and most common route on the mountain for amateur climbers — more than 90 percent of climbers use this route. Additionally, it is the only route that allows a helicopter to access base camp. But just because it’s accessible doesn’t mean that it’s controllable. No matter where climbers are on Denali, they are exposed to the mountain’s harsh conditions. Unstable weather causes temperatures to routinely fall to -40 degrees and wind speeds pick up rapidly. That — along with the extremely high altitude — makes for unforgiving terrain and contributes to the bleak summit rate of 52 percent[1].

RELATED: Why Obama Changed Mount McKinley's Name to Denali[2]

After Ikeda became ill, a descending team attempted to assist the 66-year-old climber and continued to a camp at 17,200 feet, where they used a satellite phone to call rescue and park officials. A high-altitude helicopter was able to fly Ikeda in a basket from 18,400 feet to 14,200 feet, where he was brought into the helicopter before being flown to base camp at 7,200 feet. There, resuscitation efforts failed, and Ikeda was pronounced dead, of unknown causes.

While causes of Ikeda’s death are unknown, the chances of falling ill in high alpine climates are high. According to a study[3] conducted by neurologist Nicolás Fayed and published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, climbers experience serious altitude sickness and suffer lasting brain damage from hypoxia than most realize.

Fayed and his colleagues performed MRI brain scans on 35 climbers (12 professionals and 23 amateurs) who had returned from high-altitude expeditions. Thirteen subjects had attempted Everest, and each of them tested positive for brain damage. Additionally, many climbers of lesser peaks showed brain damage, and had returned unaware that they had injured their brain. Climbers of high mountains, whether weekend warrior or high-altitude professional, face the same risk of returning home from high peaks with injuries sustained to their brain due to oxygen deprivation.

Regardless of age, fitness level, or physiology, no one is immune to hypoxia (lack of oxygen). The first stage of hypoxia is known as acute mountain sickness. This is the altitude sickness many feel on their first few days skiing in Aspen or hiking in Telluride. It's symptomized by headache, insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. The next (and much more serious) stage is known as HACE (high altitude cerebral edema) and causes brain swelling that is potentially fatal.

RELATED: Colin O’Brady Completes Everest, Makes His Final Push to Denali[4]

HACE causes the walls of blood capillaries to leak at high altitudes. This leaked fluid can cause dangerous swelling of the brain, pressing it against the skull. Additionally, blood becomes concentrated from dehydration and thickened by increased red blood cells at high altitude. This causes clotting, which when paired with hemorrhaging from the capillaries, causes strokes. A climber with HACE may experience amnesia, confusion, ­delusions, emotional disturbance, personality changes, and loss of consciousness.

When rescuers found Ikeda, he was rendered to be suffering from symptoms similar to those who suffer from HACE. "(Ikeda) had an altered mental status and was non-ambulatory," Denali Park spokeswoman Maureen Gualtieri said in a statement[5]. An autopsy has been ordered to determine exact causes of Ikeda’s death.