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US man completes first solo unaided trek across Antarctica

Colin O’Brady documented his adventure on Instagram.

Colin O’Brady became the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without any assistance (Colin O’Brady via AP)
Colin O’Brady became the first person to traverse Antarctica alone without any assistance (Colin O’Brady via AP)

An American man has become the first person to trek across Antarctica alone without any assistance in an epic 54-day journey that was previously deemed impossible.

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

“I did it!”, a tearful Mr O’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, 33, documented his nearly entirely uphill journey — which he called The Impossible First — on his Instagram page.

View this post on Instagram

Day 54: FINISH LINE!!! I did it! The Impossible First ✅. 32 hours and 30 minutes after leaving my last camp early Christmas morning, I covered the remaining ~80 miles in one continuous “Antarctica Ultramarathon” push to the finish line. The wooden post in the background of this picture marks the edge of the Ross Ice Shelf, where Antarctica’s land mass ends and the sea ice begins. As I pulled my sled over this invisible line, I accomplished my goal: to become the first person in history to traverse the continent of Antarctica coast to coast solo, unsupported and unaided. 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. I was locked in a deep flow state the entire time, equally focused on the end goal, while allowing my mind to recount the profound lessons of this journey. I’m delirious writing this as I haven’t slept yet. There is so much to process and integrate and there will be many more posts to acknowledge the incredible group of people who supported this project. But for now, I want to simply recognize my #1 who I, of course, called immediately upon finishing. I burst into tears making this call. I was never alone out there. @jennabesaw you walked every step with me and guided me with your courage and strength. WE DID IT!! We turned our dream into reality and proved that The Impossible First is indeed possible. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” - Nelson Mandela. #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on

On Wednesday he wrote that he had covered the last roughly 80 miles in one big, impromptu final push to the finish line that took well over a 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,” he said.

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 towards the end of the trek.

View this post on Instagram

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

A post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on

Mr Worsley’s friend and fellow English adventurer Louis Rudd 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 planned to stay on 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 – 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 November 12.

“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 30mph 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.

View this post on Instagram

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 post shared by Colin O'Brady (@colinobrady) on

“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.”

On day 37, or December 9, Mr O’Brady wrote about how much he had changed, along with a selfie in which he looked almost in pain, snow gathered around his furry hat.

“I’m no longer the same person I was when I left on the journey, can you see it in my face?” he wrote. “I’ve suffered, been deathly afraid, cold and alone. I’ve laughed and danced, cried tears of joy and been awestruck with love and inspiration.”

Though Mr O’Brady had initially thought he would want a cheeseburger at the end of his nearly impossible journey, his wife said he had been fantasising about fresh fish and salad because he had mostly been eating freeze-dried foods.

As for what is next for Mr O’Brady, who also has climbed Mount Everest, Ms Besaw said she was 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.”

PA

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