It took nearly two months, but American Colin O’Brady has arrived at the end of his 932-mile journey to cross Antarctica unaided, a feat that will take its place among the most notable polar adventures in history. He began on November 3, along the coast of the Ronne Ice Shelf, reached the South Pole on December 12, and finished at the Ross Ice Shelf, along the Leverett Glacier, on December 26.
O’Brady banged out the final 77 miles of his journey in one astonishing 32-hour push. While pulling his supply-laden sled weighing well over 100 kilograms.
“I just woke up on Christmas morning, just thinking about it, and I was like, all right, I have three more days left, how many hours is that of moving?” O’Brady told The New York Times. “People run 100 miles all the time.”
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Day 50: STRUNG OUT BUT STILL MOVING. I can’t believe I been out here all alone for 50 days. Even having lived it, I can’t quite wrap my mind around it. This wind storm still has not subsided so I spent another day getting beat down. Fingers crossed I catch a break on the weather soon. I’ve been writing a lot about the mental game as it’s clearly the most crucial part of this challenge (or any challenge for that matter). However today I want to honor my body and health. I wholeheartedly believe that nothing in life is more important that being healthy. Without that it’s hard to do or do fully. I’m so fortunate to have parents that instilled that in me from a young age, teaching me the importance of healthy eating and exercise. My dad is an organic farmer so I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Despite feeling exhausted and worn out, I’m grateful for having lived a healthy lifestyle, for without that I’m certain my body would have given up by now. And on the health front, I’m glad to be partnered with @Grandrounds who go above and beyond to guide people to the highest quality healthcare. It’s incredible to know they provide access to medical expertise literally anywhere on the planet! #GrandRounds #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible
A good day for O’Brady up until his ultramarathon push was about 20 miles each day. But on Christmas, he just kept going. He was in regular communication with his support team, helmed by his wife, Jenna Besaw, but elected to keep his decision to truck on to the finish in one agonizingly long day a secret until he started receiving messages pointing out he’d already put in a tough day of travel and should pack it in for some needed rest.
But he felt strong and clear-headed and thought he could make it to the finish line in one concentrated effort.
“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 on his Instagram account.
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Day 53: THE BIG PUSH: ANTARCTICA ULTRAMARATHON. I woke up this morning about 80 miles away from the finish line. As I was boiling water for my morning oatmeal, a seemingly impossible question popped into my head. I wonder, would be possible to do one straight continuous push all the way to the end? By the time I was lacing up my boots the impossible plan had become a solidified goal. I’m going to go for it. I can feel it in my body that I am in the zone and want to harness that. It’s a rare and precious feeling to find the flow. I’m going to push on and try to finish all 80 miles to the end in one go. Currently, I am 18 hours and 48 miles into the push. I’m taking a pit stop now to melt more water before I continue on. I’m listening to my body and taking care of the details to keep myself safe. I called home and talked to my mom, sister and wife – I promised them I will stop when I need to. Only 35 more miles to make The Impossible First POSSIBLE. A very merry Christmas to all. Stay tuned… #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible
O’Brady was in an informal race with England’s Louis Rudd, a practiced polar adventurer who embarked on the same route on the same day as O’Brady. For a short time, Rudd was well in front of O’Brady, but after reaching the pole, the American began to pull away. Rudd, as of December 26, was still headed for the Ross Ice Shelf.
O’Brady became the first person to cross Antarctica solo and unassisted since Borge Ousland in 1996-97, though Ousland employed a kite to boost his speed and relieve the burden of self-propelled travel. O’Brady is the first to make the crossing without the aid of wind.
Top photo: Colin O’Brady/Instagram