Adrenaline junkie aims to be first person to walk across Antarctica solo
A few months after doctors told him that he probably would never walk again, now-33-year-old Colin O’Brady won first place in a triathlon in Chicago. And that was just the beginning of a chain of stunning achievements. Now, the full-time adventurer sets his sights on making history in one of the most remote places on Earth: Antarctica.
What O’Brady calls “Project Impossible,” to traverse Antarctica solo, crossing the South Pole, from one coast to the other, with no aids of any kind or supplies dropped along the way, has never been achieved by anyone ever before. Though, as recently as 2015, explorer Henry Worsley died trying.
O’Brady set out Thursday on the 70-day, 1000-mile journey, which was described as “thermodynamically impossible” by Wired. Average temperatures are often as low as -40 degrees C (-40 degrees F).
The ambitious trekker (also a motivational speaker) began his series of adventures about 10 years ago, after a foolish stunt in Thailand caused serious burns to 25 percent of his body—he had decided to play jump rope with a kerosene-soaked cloth that got wrapped around his leg. Thankfully, he survived, despite his injuries.
When his mother asked him to set a goal to inspire his recovery, O’Brady said he wanted to compete in a triathlon.
“My mom is the hero of this story. She said, ‘What do you want to do when you get healthy again?’” O’Brady told National Geographic in an interview. “And I said, I want to race a triathlon. And instead of her being like, ‘No, I meant a more realistic goal,’ she just said, ‘Yep, let’s work on that.’”
And the rest is history. Eventually, after successfully summiting Mt. Everest, he decided to turn his sights southward.
Of course, others have journeyed across the Antarctic on foot before. Norwegian Cecile Strong and American Ryan Waters together crossed the continent in 2010. English researcher Felicity Aston also made the trek in 2012 with supplies dropped at 2 points.
In order to undertake the expedition solo, unaided or supplied, O’Brady will haul a 400-pound sled filled with supplies behind him.
However, the 6-foot, 165-pound trekker spent over a year in preparation, bulking up, and putting on 20 pounds (approx. 9 kg) of muscle. As far as mental readiness goes, O’Brady told National Geographic, “There’s a little bit of pre-expedition nerves as per usual, but I kind of expected it to be worse. More or less, I’m just feeling relaxed and in flow.”
31.5 Miles today on the trail completing the full point to point of the famous Wildwood trail. I've spent a lot of time…
While most cross-continental Antarctic expeditions run North to South, O’Brady decided on the reverse direction of South to North, starting from Ross Ice Shelf and ending at Ronne Ice Shelf, which means a steeper ascent for his first 400 miles, until reaching the apex near the South Pole, then descending gradually the rest of the way, 700 miles to the opposite coast.
Explaining his strategy, he told National Geographic, “The predominant katabatic winds spill downhill, so I figure it’ll be slow going at the beginning, because my sled will be heaviest, but I’m hoping it pays off in the long run with having the wind at my back once I’ve passed the pole.”
#TBT Throwback Thursday to when I trekked to the North Pole. That expedition is a good metaphor for success in life….
The risks are very real, though, and O’Brady is equipped with a satellite phone and is fully prepared to call for help should it be needed. He plans to stay connected with his wife, Jenna, too, throughout the journey, and has given her full authority to hit the “ejector button” if she sees him stationary for too long or hears something in his voice that sets off warning bells.
The inspired traveler summed up his vision in a few words, “As humans, I believe we have these reservoirs of untapped potential inside of us and that we can achieve incredible things when we set audacious goals and commit to the process of going after them.”
Godspeed brave O’Brady.
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“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…” I suppose there is no saying more apropos than this one for me right now. With just a few days to go before I depart for the Frozen Continent, I’m busy ticking all of the last boxes on my to do list and double checking all of my gear. This has been well more than a year in the planning. Once I’m dropped off in Antarctica I’ll be completely alone with no resupplies, so every item I take with me is carefully considered and measured. But the first step in the journey happened long before my actually first steps on the ice. Turning dreams into reality requires daily dedication to your purpose even when the end goal seems far beyond the horizon. I want to hear about your dreams and goals. What are you now taking your “first steps” on, to one day turn into realty? #BePossible #TheImpossibleFirst
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