Switzerland to Alaska: Just to Die

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More About This Title Switzerland to Alaska: Just to Die


In May 1982 a young man from Zurich, Switzerland headed west across the planet to spend a year in Alaska. His name was Ruedi Glauser. He took with him $5000 purposely saved for the journey, a mini-survival kit wrapped around his waist, a few woolen clothes, and a stout belief that he had the skill required to survive a year in the Alaskan wilderness. Five months after abandoning his mother, sister, friends and job as a graphic designer, Ruedi found himself hunkered down in the Ray Mountains, having every one of his survival skills tested to the limit. How this Swiss explorer faced much more than he bargained for in the wilderness of Alaska is the extraordinary story of Just To Die. Glauser had wandered up and down the mountains and valleys of the Swiss Alps in his youth, always confident in his ability to endure whatever Nature sent his way. But Switzerland had become too tame. He needed a greater challenge. Settling into a routine lifestyle might have been more comfortable, but “settling” would never have forced him to face up to the insecurities so deeply entrenched in his being. Ruedi’s initial intent was to go it alone in Alaska, or to have with him at most a pack of dogs. But in the end he opted for one solitary companion to go with him. What challenged Ruedi were not only the unrestrained forces that nature presented, but the constant inward journeys his circumstances forced him to undertake --- journeys that required him to crawl deep into his soul. Ultimately, Just To Die is a book about survival. It is about what happened when one human being decided to test his ability to survive at one of the far ends of the earth. It is about one man who wanted to discover what his limits were. How far into darkness was it necessary to go to prove how tough he was? What were his limits? He would have to find out. What was the coldest temperature he could function in? He’d have to learn. What animals could he elude or defend himself from? He’d have to wait and see which ones crossed his path. And if bears, wolverines, or even mosquitoes found him, would they be the death of him? Every circumstance could be dangerous, but he would test himself and see how he’d come out on the other side. Ruedi’s trek from Switzerland into Alaska is a story of contrasts… a story that will take you from Switzerland --- a tiny country full of well-mapped-out Alpine Mountains…quaint villages…well-honored traditions… to Alaska…a vast land of shifting rivers… frigid towns… unpredictable wildlife...and winters of unending darkness. The immediate question Ruedi had on his mind before leaving was: If I go in prepared, will that be enough? Will I survive?


After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis with a degree in Graphic Design, Kris set off to explore the world, feed an artist temperament, and satisfy a voracious curiosity --- by taking a job as a flight attendant. But because Kris is an LLL (life-long learner) the opportunity for study is always an attractive suitor. So when her flying career allowed her the chance to further her education in graphic design at the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule in Basel, Switzerland, she flew at the chance. Who wouldn't want to study with some of the most well-known graphic artists and typographers in the world? Upon arriving in Basel Kris first became enchanted by – you could even say distracted by – the Swiss people in general, their craziness for order and precision, and the incomprehensible Swiss dialect which calls all big things small. But as the teachers patiently imparted their knowledge of design and typography to her and other foreign students like her…slowly directing them along their path of perfection…she turned her attention toward the rest of Switzerland. The mountains were where physical and emotional senses she hadn’t even known she possessed were awakened. Taking trips into the mountains and learning about the traditions that enliven them caused her to develop a profound respect for this "tiny" country. It is in Basel that Kris met the subject of this book, and knew instinctively that because of this artist's way of seeing, because of this artist's way of expressing himself, because of this artist's extraordinary journey into the wilderness, that the world would be a poorer place if his story weren't told.