In a historical first, an Oregon man has become the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without any assistance. Colin O’Brady, of Portland, finished the bone-chilling, 930-mile journey across the polar continent in 54 days, way ahead of his 70-day goal. O’Brady documented his journey, dubbed The Impossible First, on his Instagram page.
Though others have traversed Antarctica, O’Brady is the first to do it alone. Previous explorers all either had assistance with reinforced supplies or kites that helped propel them forward. Everyone who tried to accomplish a solo feat before O’Brady either gave up or died. In 2016, British explorer Henry Worsley collapsed from exhaustion and died attempting an unassisted solo trip across the continent.
O’Brady, who also has climbed Mount Everest, had to haul a sled weighing nearly 400 pounds at the start to carry all of the gear needed for the trek. His sled mostly contained food, along with a tent, a sleeping bag, cameras, a satellite phone, and 30 pounds of fuel for cooking. O’Brady said he ate the same items every day to consume a total of about 7,000 calories. Those foods included oatmeal, freeze-dried meals, and special “Colin Bars” that his sponsor, Standard Process Supplements, made for him.
Friends, family and fans tracked the endurance athlete’s progress to the Ross Ice Shelf in real time online. He covered the last roughly 80 miles in one big, final push to the finish line, moving for about 32 hours with short breaks for rest and food. After he finally reached the finish, O’Brady posted a photo of himself calling his wife, Jenna Besaw, with tears in his eyes. O’Brady commented, “The biggest challenge was the mental challenge of this, without a doubt.”
Worsley’s friend and fellow English adventurer Louis Rudd is currently attempting an unaided solo in Worsley’s honor. He was actually competing against O’Brady to be the first to do it. As of Thursday afternoon, Rudd was roughly 50 miles away from his finish line at the Leverett Glacier. O’Brady plans to stay in Antarctica until Rudd finishes his trek.