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The DAILY DIRT - The nitty and the gritty of outdoor news

Woman Drowns in Alaska Near McCandless's Magic Bus

'Into The Wild' fan from Switzerland swept into Teklanika River while attempting to reach McCandless's death place

14 years after the book and three years after the movie Into The Wild, wilderness maverick Christopher McCandless still inspires devotees to attempt to follow in his footsteps up the Stampede Trail to his notorious "magic bus"—the place where he wintered and starved to death. Several have needed rescue, and one died on Saturday: Claire Jane Ackermann, a 29-year-old from Switzerland, drowned while attempting to cross the Teklanika, the same river that vexed and trapped McCandless on the edges of Alaska's Denali National Park.

Ackermann and a 27-year-old French man attempted to cross the river by tying onto a rope attached to trees and branches. When they were swept under by the swollen river, the Frenchman was able to cut himself free and get to the bank, where he cut Ackermann free. She floated for about a half mile downstream before he could pull her to shore. By the time he did, she was unresponsive.

The unidentified Frenchman denied going to the bus after being rescued by Alaska state troopers, but locals note there's little other reason to visit the Stampede Trail. Locals say visits to the discarded Fairbanks city bus where McCandless squatted for an Alaska winter increased after the release of the film.

Headed out to the bus? Our advice is don't—it's dangerous, tired, and the cool parts of Denali are within spitting distance. But if you must, brush up on crossing swollen rivers right here.

—Ted Alvarez

via Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


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Their recklessness cost them dearly.

Jan 22, 2011

From Wikipedia: His official cause of death was starvation... extensive laboratory testing proves conclusively there was no toxin present in McCandless's food supplies.

Sep 06, 2010

"And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death."

Sep 01, 2010

I met Claire and her friend on the Chilkoot Trail in July. A really kind and gentle person. A tragic loss.

Aug 26, 2010

The Legacy of McCandless is that of a fool, and his story attracts other fools. He tried to survive the wilderness with second hand knowledge of survival skills, without ever trying them firsthand. ( such as his botched attempt to cure giant junks of meat )If it wasn't for the kindness of a AK resident ( who thought he was crazy ) lending him some minimal gear (rubber pack boots and a firearm, Chris wouldn't have got as far as he did, he probably would have been trying to amputate his feet with a dull knife. Though he had plenty of time, he never practiced any of the skills shown to him but rather tried "On the Job Training".
Chris was going to walk in one of the extremest enviro on the planet during spring break up,alone wearing keds. denim pants and a woolly hat. Never practiced skills and burned thousands of dollars that could have outfitted him properly carrying a bag of rice for supplies. Chris McCandless was a egotistic fool and paid the price for being foolhardy, and in the end he knew he was a fool. Oh and the Author is right technically he starved to death because he poisened himself because he never tried foraging before.

tracy m clark
Aug 23, 2010

what a tragic story!!

Aug 20, 2010

Hindsight is always 20/20. Sadly history is doomed to repeat itself.

Aug 19, 2010

It wasn't winter

Aug 19, 2010

I run a site devoted to getting people the information they need to try and safely hike the Stampede Trail

( )

I was actually in contact with a guy who was out there at the time of the accident. According to his description, the river is VERY VERY high. This summer has been incredibly rainy, and most of the rivers in AK have been high all summer.

Really a sad story.

Andrew Wheeler
Aug 19, 2010

How sad! What a terrible lost of life! She was to young to die! I will keep her and her family and friends in my thoughts and prayers.

Aug 19, 2010

The author is mistaken in stating that McCandless "starved"... He ate a very poisonous plant that basically paralyzed his gut. He'd have been alright (though very skinny) had he not eaten those berries. Also, he'd have at least had the ability to get snow for water. And in a couple more weeks, he'd have been rescued by the hunters who unfortunately found him dead.


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