Through local and national media outlets, Jim Gallien and Wayne Westerberg hear about the discovery of a young hiker’s body in the Alaskan wilderness. Believing the body to be “Alex’s,” they each call Alaska State Troopers separately in an attempt to help authorities identify the body. The officers do not take either seriously until Westerberg provides Chris’ social security number from work documents. This clue leads authorities to Chris’ half-brother Sam McCandless, who confirms Chris’ identity and must tell Walt and Billie the terrible news.
For the authorities and those who meet him on the road, Chris’ real identity is difficult to confirm and ever elusive. The search to confirm Chris’ identity also reflects Chris’ own journey for self-discovery, as well as parallels Krakauer’ mission to get to the bottom of Chris’ mysterious death and understand what drove Chris to his final end.