In the rugged wilderness of Alaska, where nature reigns supreme, there are individuals who’ve chosen to live life on their terms, embracing the challenges and beauty that come with it. One such figure who has captured the hearts of many through his life’s journey is Otto Kilcher, known for his resilience, resourcefulness, and charismatic presence in “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” In the 11th season premiere, devoted fans were hit with a shocking revelation – Otto Kilcher had sustained a life-threatening injury amidst a ferocious snowstorm. As the series continues to enthrall global audiences, the burning question remains: Will it be renewed for another season?
- 1 Early life and family heritage
- 2 Personal life
- 3 “Alaska: The Last Frontier”
- 4 What happened to Otto Kilcher?
- 5 What lies ahead for the beloved reality show?
Early life and family heritage
Otto Kilcher was born on 19 April 1952, in the village of Homer, Alaska, the sixth child to Swiss immigrant parents Yule Kilcher and Ruth Weber. He grew up in a family that had a rich history of homesteading in the state, dating back to the 1930s. Yule was christened with the name Julius Jacob Kilcher, but upon his arrival in Alaska, he adopted the name Yule Forenorth Kilcher.
At the age of 16, Yule hitchhiked through North Africa and Europe, immersing himself in the simplicity of diverse ways of life. During his travels, he honed his skills in log cabin construction, all the while harboring aspirations of emigrating. In 1936, he made his inaugural voyage to Alaska in pursuit of suitable farmland. It was just outside the picturesque town of Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula, that he discovered the land he’d been seeking. His tenacity was rewarded when the government granted him a generous 160-acre plot of land for cultivation.
In 1941, Yule married Ruth Weber in Anchorage. Their pivotal moment came in 1944 when the couple made the former fox farm near Homer their permanent residence. Here, nestled within the embrace of nature, the extended Kilcher family, which eventually grew to include eight children, embarked on a life of self-sufficiency, relying on the bounty of their land and the resources of the surrounding forests. It was a life untethered from modern conveniences, devoid of electricity and running water, but rich in spirit and natural beauty.
The Kilcher Homestead became the foundation of Otto’s upbringing and the setting for his many adventures throughout his life. His early years were filled with hands-on experiences, learning essential survival skills, and developing a deep connection to nature. Otto excelled as a carpenter, mechanic and farmer, with cattle raising as his primary livelihood. His dedication to the land’s sustainability showcases resilience and ingenuity.
Otto Kilcher had two failed marriages, to Olga Von Ziegasar and the other to Sharon Mckemie; he had two sons with the latter, named Levi and Eivin. Fate, it seemed, had a different plan for Otto when he met his now third wife, Charlotte Adamson; their love story has spanned over 30 years, and continues to thrive.
In her early 20s, around 1978, Charlotte, originally from Berkeley, California, moved to Alaska to pursue a career as a wildlife biologist. Otto and Charlotte shared a dedication to wildlife rescue during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, which reached Kachemak Bay due to ocean currents. Their genuine connection blossomed into a deep and enduring love, and in 1994, the couple exchanged vows and later welcomed a son named August into their family. Charlotte also brought her son from a previous marriage, Torrey, further enriching their blended family’s tapestry.
Here we are on our trip to Switzerland in November meeting up with Otto's relatives in the castle above the town of Nunningen where the Kilcher family has its origins.
“Alaska: The Last Frontier”
In the past, Yule Kilcher captured his family’s life on 16-millimeter film and slides, resulting in the creation of the films called “A Pioneer Family in Alaska” and “The Last Frontier,” which he displayed in Germany. As a result, being filmed was nothing new to the Kilchers, which may explain why they didn’t have second thoughts about participating in a reality show.
Otto along with his brother Atz Kilcher and their respective families, became the stars of “Alaska: The Last Frontier.” The show premiered in 2011, and chronicles the Kilcher family’s daily life on the homestead, highlighting their struggles and triumphs as they continue the tradition of self-sufficiency.
What happened to Otto Kilcher?
The opening scene of Season 11 plunged viewers into an atmosphere of foreboding, with the camera capturing an unsettling image: a cow gazing directly into the lens. As the narrative unfolded along the winding Kilcher Road, the tension escalated when an emergency vehicle raced toward the hospital, sirens blaring. Eivin, driving with a concerned expression, relayed the distressing news that his father, Otto, had suffered a serious injury from a cow’s attack.
Anxiety hung in the air as Eivin disclosed the gravity of the situation – Otto lay incapacitated, his mobility compromised, and the extent of his injuries unknown. The fear loomed that his back might be broken, and the crushing force of the cow’s assault had left his ribcage shattered. The uncertainty deepened as questions swirled about the possibility of internal bleeding, and all of this unfolded against the backdrop of an unforgiving blizzard, one of the most severe in the town’s recent memory.
In the confines of a hospital in Homer, Otto’s family gathered, their faces etched with worry. The medical report was disheartening: both of Otto’s lungs had been punctured, and the count of broken ribs had soared beyond 16, with some perilously close to major arteries. Remarkably, Otto remained conscious and able to communicate, though his words painted a stark picture of his condition – he admitted he was far from well.
The tragic cow encounter
Eivin, grappling with shock and disbelief, recounted the day that had begun like any other. A simple text message from his father’s friend had shattered the normalcy. The message bore the urgent cry of ‘911. Otto was hurt,’ compelling Eivin to make the fateful call that confirmed his father’s perilous encounter with a cow.
The circumstances leading to Otto’s injury unfolded during his efforts to assist a friend in herding cows from the head of the bay to another location. It was on the final day of this task that the calamity struck. The cows were unaccustomed to human presence and displayed a wild disposition. One particularly aggressive cow charged at Otto, ramming him forcefully in the chest and sending him tumbling backward, causing him to slip and then fall over a stump. The relentless cow, undeterred, came at him once more, slipping on the icy ground and rolling over him, further exacerbating the damage to his ribcage, compounded by the presence of the unforgiving stump beneath him.
The logistical challenge of getting Otto to a hospital
Reaching his injured father proved to be a daunting task, as the location was accessible only by four-wheelers – no conventional vehicle or ambulance could navigate the treacherous terrain. Even the prospect of a helicopter rescue seemed implausible. Otto had found himself in one of the most remote spots imaginable, far removed from the convenience of the road system.
When an animal attack leaves Otto Kilcher in critical condition, the younger generation has to step in for their homestead’s survival.
— Alaska: TLF (@AlaskaTLF) September 26, 2022
As his son Eivin embarked on the journey to reach his father, a wave of concern washed over him. Thoughts swirled about the logistical challenges of extricating Otto from this remote location and whether he would endure long enough to make it to a hospital. Upon finally reaching his father’s side, the critical nature of the situation became unmistakably clear – Otto’s injuries were life-threatening. In a poignant moment, Eivin leaned down and planted a kiss on his father’s cheek, conveying his love and concern.
The ordeal stretched on, with an agonizing hour and a half passing before an ambulance and paramedics could arrive at the scene. Otto’s injuries were so severe that attempting to transport him via an ATV was out of the question. Instead, they had to carefully carry him on a stretcher for more than 100 yards, navigating a steep and treacherously slippery slope, all while battling the adverse conditions of a whiteout snowstorm. It was a painstaking journey that demanded over an hour to reach the pickup truck, on which Otto could be loaded onto the bed.
Further complications arose as the ambulance struggled to make its way to the scene, hindered by the icy road conditions. It was only after an additional 20 minutes that Otto was finally loaded into the ambulance, with every passing moment marked by the urgency of the situation, and the relentless battle against the elements.
Airlifted to a Level 2 trauma center
Due to the gravity of his injuries, Otto necessitated urgent airlifting to a level 2 trauma center located in Anchorage. Unfortunately, the local hospital in Homer lacked the expertise of a cardiothoracic surgeon, making this long-distance transfer imperative. As night held its grip and they awaited the break of dawn, Otto’s sons huddled together, their words weighed down by the uncertainty that hung in the air. At this juncture, the fear of losing their father loomed large.
August, one of Otto’s sons, found himself grappling with emotions he had never encountered before. While Otto had faced injuries in the past, none had been as severe as this. The emotions coursing through him were a turbulent mix of fear, sorrow, and anger. It was an uncharted territory, for children often perceive their parents as unwavering pillars of strength, a constant presence in their lives. Witnessing their father, the embodiment of resilience and vitality, now immobilized, shattered their perception of invincibility, revealing a disquieting vulnerability.
Amidst the darkness of the night, questions weighed heavily on their minds. Would they ever see their father alive again? COVID-19 restrictions further complicated matters, preventing them from visiting him at the Anchorage hospital. All they could do was hold onto hope, clinging to the belief that, somehow, their father would pull through this ordeal.
The waiting game
Back at the homestead, in the confines of their home, Otto’s wife grappled with a sense of unease that had settled over her. In an effort to quell her anxiety and divert her thoughts from the harrowing events, she busied herself with tasks around the house. Her knowledge was limited to the fact that Otto had reached the hospital in Anchorage, and was being prepared for surgery.
As they anxiously awaited further updates on Otto’s condition, the rest of the family rallied together to ensure the homestead continued to function smoothly. It was a testament to their unity and resilience in the face of adversity, a way of channeling their concern into productive action. After a nerve-wracking wait that stretched on for six or seven agonizing hours, the hospital finally delivered a call that brought relief tinged with caution – Otto had emerged from the worst of it, but the journey to recovery stretched before him like a long and uncertain road.
It would be nine days post-surgery before Otto could return home, a journey facilitated by Eivin, who undertook a four-and-a-half-hour drive to Anchorage to retrieve him. As Otto arrived and upon seeing his family, he cried as he was overcome with emotions. He confessed that he gained strength from them, and doubted his ability to carry on without their unwavering support.
Three weeks after his hospital discharge, Otto finally mustered the strength to venture beyond the confines of the house, even if it meant simply sitting out on the porch. There were days when pain still nagged at him, serving as a reminder that he needed to exercise caution and not push his limits, confronting the stark reality that his mortality was ever-present, and he wasn’t invincible.
Facing his fears
As two months elapsed since the accident, Otto began to entertain the idea of returning to work. However, his first foray back into the world of tending to his cows didn’t unfold as smoothly as he had envisioned. The trauma of his recent ordeal had left him more cautious around these animals; his heart raced as he found himself in close proximity to them in a confined space. Despite believing he was prepared to confront his fear, Otto came to the sobering realization that he wasn’t quite ready to resume his former level of comfort around cows.
Otto, accompanied by his son Eivin, returned to the site of the accident at the base of Switchback Canyon. This symbolic journey was Otto’s way of confronting his past and finding closure, enabling him to move forward with his life. Not long after this cathartic visit, Otto found himself back in the saddle, herding cows to pasture at the head of the bay, as well as putting GPS trackers on them. This marked a significant step in his recovery, demonstrating his determination to overcome the emotional and physical challenges that lay in his path.
Starting a hemp farm
With the foresight of an uncertain future, Otto and his family embarked on a new venture – a hemp farm, poised to provide an alternative plan for Otto’s well-being when the day inevitably arrived that he could no longer mount a horse. Otto had experienced the perils of prescription narcotics during his hospitalization, enduring side effects that proved more distressing than his broken ribs. It was during this time that he turned to CBD oil, a natural remedy derived from the cannabis plant, known for its potential therapeutic properties.
The revelation struck Otto that they could cultivate hemp themselves, an opportunity perfectly suited to their unique homestead setting. Fortuitously, they had a friend with the necessary permits and expertise in hemp cultivation and CBD oil extraction, who generously offered to assist them and guide them through the entire process. Their objective was clear – to grow sufficient hemp to produce CBD oil, with the hope that it would become a valuable addition to their homestead.
Otto regarded this new venture as a significant diversification in their homesteading journey, a step in an alternative direction that held promise not only for his own well-being, but also as a potential boon to their homestead’s sustainability and future prospects.
What lies ahead for the beloved reality show?
One of the reasons behind the show’s immense popularity is its authentic portrayal of homesteading in the Alaskan wilderness. Viewers are drawn to the Kilcher family’s resilience, resourcefulness, and unwavering commitment to a lifestyle that has been passed down through generations. The show’s emphasis on sustainability, hunting, fishing and farming resonates with those who appreciate the beauty of living in harmony with nature. As each season of “Alaska: The Last Frontier” leaves fans eagerly awaiting more, the question on everyone’s mind is whether the show will be renewed for yet another season.
Throughout its run, “Alaska: The Last Frontier” has given us countless memorable moments. From construction projects and hunting expeditions to encounters with Alaskan wildlife, the show has showcased the Kilchers’ unique skills and challenges. It has also highlighted the family’s strong bonds, with each member contributing to the collective effort of maintaining their homestead.
Discovery Channel hasn’t officially announced the cancellation or renewal of “Alaska: The Last Frontier” for its 12th season. Given the passionate fanbase it’s garnered over the years, many fans remain hopeful for its return to their screens.
Otto Kilcher’s legacy extends beyond the TV screen. He’s living testament to the enduring spirit of Alaska’s pioneers, and the importance of preserving a connection to the land. His dedication to self-sufficiency and his ability to adapt and thrive in the harshest of conditions serve as an inspiration to those who seek a simpler and more sustainable way of life.