American man becomes first to solo across Antarctica unaided
Mr O’Brady is the first to cross Antarctica without assistance or reinforced supplies. (AP: Colin O’Brady)
A 33-year-old American explorer has become the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unassisted, after an epic race across the ice.
Day 41: I’VE GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN MY HANDS!! Man trying to hold up the weight of the entire world from the bottom is quite heavy
Colin O’Brady finished the 1,500-kilometre journey in 54 days, lugging his supplies on a sled as he skied in bone-chilling temperatures.
“I did it!” a tearful Brady said on a call to his family gathered in Portland for the holidays, according to his wife, Jenna Besaw.
“It was an emotional call,” she said. “He seemed overwhelmed by love and gratitude, and he really wanted to say ‘Thank you’ to all of us.”
Mr O’Brady documented his nearly entirely uphill journey — which he called The Impossible First — on his Instagram page.
He wrote on Wednesday that he covered the last 129 kilometres in one big, impromptu final push to the finish line that took well over an entire day.
“While the last 32 hours were some of the most challenging hours of my life, they have quite honestly been some of the best moments I have ever experienced,” Mr O’Brady posted.
The day before, he posted that he was “in the zone” and thought he could make it to the end in one go.
“I’m listening to my body and taking care of the details to keep myself safe,” he wrote.
“I called home and talked to my mom, sister and wife — I promised them I will stop when I need to.”
Though others have traversed Antarctica, they either had assistance with reinforced supplies or kites that helped propel them forward.
In 2016, British explorer Henry Worsley died attempting an unassisted solo trip across Antarctica, collapsing from exhaustion toward the end of the trek.
British Army captain Louis Rudd, Worsley’s friend and fellow English adventurer, is currently attempting an unaided solo in Worsley’s honour and was competing against Mr O’Brady to be the first to do it.
Ms Besaw said Mr O’Brady plans to stay in Antarctica until Mr Rudd finishes his trek, hopefully in the next few days.
“It’s a small club,” she joked. “His intention is to wait for Louis and have kind of a celebratory moment with the only other person on the planet to have accomplished this same thing.”
Mr O’Brady described in detail the ups and downs along the way since he began the trek on November 3. He had to haul 170 kilograms of gear largely uphill and over sastrugi, or wave-like ridges.
“Not only am I pulling my … sled all day, but I’m pulling it up and over thousands of these sastrugi speed bumps created by the violent wind,” he wrote in an Instagram post on November 12.
Mr O’Brady finished the 1,500-kilometre journey across the world’s coldest continent in 54 days. (AP: Colin O’Brady)
“It’s a frustrating process at times to say the least.”
On November 18, he wrote that he awoke to find his sled completely buried from an all-night blasting of wind and snow. That day he battled a 48 kph headwind for eight hours as he trudged along.
“There were several times I considered stopping, putting my tent back up and calling it a day,” he wrote.
“I wanted so badly to quit today as I was feeling exhausted and alone, but remembering all of the positivity that so many people have been sending, I took a deep breath and focused on maintaining forward progress one step at a time and managed to finish a full day.”
As for what’s next for Mr O’Brady, who also has summited Mount Everest, Ms Besaw said she’s not entirely sure.
“We are just so in the moment, celebrating this right now,” she said. “Then we’ll see what’s next on the horizon.”