Have you heard about the intrepid men currently attempting to cross from one side of Antarctica, passing over the South Pole, completely unsupported, dragging all their food and supplies with them? Nobody has ever successfully done this before and now two men, Colin O’Brady, a 33-year-old American, and Louis Rudd, 49, a British Army Captain, are, even at this moment, trudging across the great frozen continent. If successful, one or both men will have crossed at least 921 miles. They will also ascend from sea level to well over 9,000 feet in elevation.
Because the journey is unsupported, they both haul very heavy sleds with all the gear they’ll need. At the beginning of the trip, their haul was nearly 400 pounds each. They won’t be resupplying at any point. They’re on their own.
Both men are taking the same route, so it’s something of a race, though informally. Rudd and O’Brady both set out on the Ronne Ice Shelf, due south of Patagonia, and are heading for the South Pole, more than 650 miles away. Once there, they plan to head, well, north, though every direction from the South Pole is north, technically, to make for the Ross Ice Shelf, completing their journey.
Rudd has fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo since enlisting in the British armed forces as a teenager. He’s no stranger to cold weather exploration or Antarctica either. In 2012, he traveled to the South Pole with Henry Worsley, following famed explorer Roald Amundsen’s 920-mile route. Worsley died of illness while attempting an unsupported crossing of Antarctica back in 2016.
O’Brady is a professional adventure athlete and veteran of extreme mountaineering feats. He’s climbed all Seven Summits—each continent’s highest peak—and has skied to both the North and South Poles.
Their crossing began on November 3, so they’ve had roughly ten days of travel thus far. Both adventurers are posting updates on social media so we can track their progress. Incredible, really.
Their first serious obstacle has been sastrugi—ridges of ice blown up by snow that skiers must move over or around, and as you can imagine, are a major pain in the butt to deal with.
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Day 10: SASTRUGI – That’s the word to best summarize the theme of the last few days. Contrary to popular belief, Antarctica is not flat. The South Pole is above 9,000ft. I started at sea level on the Ronne Ice Shelf so I’m going uphill all day, every day. But, the real challenge is the sastrugi. This picture gives an idea of my daily struggle. Not only am I pulling my 300lb sled all day, but I’m pulling it up and over thousands of these sastrugi speed bumps created by the violent wind. It’s a frustrating process at times to say the least. Good news is it’s Day 10! I said to @jennabesaw the day I left “I can’t wait for it to be day 10.” The first 10 days have been full of ups and down, mistakes and magical moments. It always takes some time to adjust and adapt to a long expedition, but every day now I’m feeling more in rhythm. Most importantly, my mind is quieting down as I become one with the environment and tap into flow more and more often. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible
Next, dreaded whiteout conditions have seriously slowed their progress.
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Day 7: ME AND MY SHADOW. Another day out here in this whiteout, staring at my compass. At least I have my yellow friend to keep me company. When the weather is this poor, I literally have to stare at my compass on my chest mount all day long, keeping the compass needle pointed in the right direction. Sounds silly, but try closing your eyes and then try and walk in a straight line. It’s nearly impossible. Without the compass to guide me, I’d basically be wandering around with my eyes closed. It’s white in every direction. Good times on the Frozen Continent… #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible
The journey could take as long as two months. We’ll be following their progress and posting updates as we see them.