Ore­gon man first to cross Antarc­tica solo, un­aided

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY AMANDA LEE MY­ERS

An Ore­gon man be­came the first per­son to tra­verse Antarc­tica alone with­out any as­sis­tance on Wed­nes­day, trekking across the po­lar con­ti­nent in an epic 54-day jour­ney that was pre­vi­ously deemed im­pos­si­ble.

Colin O’Brady, of Port­land, fin­ished the bonechilli­ng, 930-mile jour­ney as friends, fam­ily and fans tracked the en­durance ath­lete’s progress in real time on­line.

“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.”

O’Brady, 33, was sleep­ing near the fin­ish line in Antarc­tica late Wed­nes­day and could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment.

He doc­u­mented his nearly en­tirely up­hill jour­ney – which he called The Im­pos­si­ble First – on his In­sta­gram page. O’Brady wrote Wed­nes­day that he cov­ered the last roughly 80 miles 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,” 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. Wors­ley’s friend and fel­low English ad­ven­turer Louis Rudd is cur­rently at­tempt­ing an un­aided solo in Wors­ley’s honor and was com­pet­ing against O’Brady to be the first to do it.

Be­saw said O’Brady plans to stay on Antarc­tica un­til 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.”

O’Brady de­scribed in de­tail the ups and downs along the way since he be­gan the trek on Nov. 3. He had to haul 375 pounds of gear largely up­hill and over sas­trugi, wave-like ridges cre­ated by wind.

“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 Nov. 12. “It’s a frus­trat­ing process at times to say the least.”

On Nov. 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 30 mph 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.”

Though O’Brady had ini­tially thought he’d want a cheese­burger at the end of his nearly im­pos­si­ble jour­ney, Be­saw said her hus­band has been fan­ta­siz­ing about fresh fish and salad, since he’s mostly been eat­ing freeze-dried foods.

As for what’s next for O’Brady, who also has sum­mited Mount Ever­est, Be­saw said she’s not en­tirely sure.

“We are just so in the mo­ment cel­e­brat­ing this right now,” she said.


Colin O’Brady

Colin O’Brady via AP

Colin O’Brady, of Port­land., Ore­gon, lugged his sup­plies on a sled as he skied in bone-chilling tem­per­a­tures and buf­fet­ing winds dur­ing his 54-day, 930-mile trek across Antarc­tica.

Colin O’Brady via AP

Colin O’Brady on Wed­nes­day be­came the first per­son to tra­verse Antarc­tica alone with­out any as­sis­tance.

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