Hello Reddit! I'm Colin O'Bady, an explorer and author. In 2018, I became the first person ever to walk across Antarctica while pulling a 400-pound sled, solo, unsupported and unassisted. I also just completed the first human-powered row of Drake Passage, the most treacherous body of water in the world.

My book The Impossible First, which recounts my crossing of Antarctica and my life, comes out in five days! You can preorder it here: www.theimpossiblefirst.com

For more, follow me on Instagram: www.instagram.com/colinobrady

Proof: https://i.redd.it/8am5xeshym941.jpg

EDIT: Thanks guys, that was fun! Really appreciated your questions.

Comments: 1901 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

stthicket1084 karma

What type of safety net did you have in case of an emergency?

colinobrady1147 karma

I was in contact with a pilot and team that runs logistics on the frozen continent, so, best case scenario they could find me in hopefully about 5 hours.

However because of the rough terrain I was in, the plane is rigged with skis, and there were a lot of sections where they would never be able to land because of crevasses and huge sastrugi (ice mounds). In those conditions, as well as on the worst storm days, there would have been no hope of rescue. I was all alone.

Evolved_Dojo733 karma

Well, that's the most badass thing I've read today. Serious question though, why? Was it worth it? What did you learn about yourself along the way?

I can only imagine that is a true test of so many human skills.

colinobrady811 karma

People said it was impossible, in fact, many very accomplished explorers attempted this crossing unsuccessfully. One even tragically died 100 miles from the end.

Embarking on the journey I myself didn't even know if it was possible, but I found we grow the most when we step outside of our comfort zones. So success or failure, I figured I would learn some of life's most important lessons, which I did.

colinobrady534 karma

The last chapter of my book is called Infinite Love. After all the pain suffering fear on the last days despite being more exhausted than ever before in my life, I had a moment of clarity and gratitude, feeling connected to the outpouring of positive energy and love people were sending me. That was the most powerful and important lesson the entire journey.

Evolved_Dojo239 karma

Beautiful! I'm probably going to butcher this quote, but it always resonated with me. It's from the movie "into the wild".

"I believe that every man, should test himself, at least once, in the most ancient of human conditions" -Alexander Supertramp aka Chris McCandless

Anyway, keep inspiring people!!! I'm glad you made it in one piece. Live your best life!

colinobrady139 karma

Love that quote! Thank you for sharing.

GorillaGlass07555 karma

How much did the journey cost?

colinobrady337 karma

That's actually a great question and I'm happy to answer it!

In total it cost roughly $250k.

It was funded through sponsorship.

My primary sponsors of the project were Standard Process and Grand Rounds. I could never have done it without their generous support and belief in me.

r3dt4rget530 karma

Wait, you averaged 17 miles a day? That's impressive for regular thru-hikers in normal environments, let alone a dude pulling a heavy sled in Antarctica. My question is about the food you had to pack. Did you pick foods based mainly on calories/gram? Did you have to cook every meal because of the cold?

Also, please post your 400lb sled on r/ultralight and ask for an Antarctica shakedown, just to troll us a little, it would be a hit.

Redskinns2166 karma

I'm curious about the 17 miles a day, seems impossible dare I say to sustain for 54 days straight.

colinobrady124 karma

Yes, 17 miles was my average pace by the end of the expedition. But my first day, due to the weight of my sled, I only did 3 miles. As I ate food and my sled got a bit lighter, I was able to do more and more miles.

coryrenton495 karma

What is the most trivial malady (diarrhea, sprained ankle) that would have instantly terminated your trip?

colinobrady633 karma

Broken ski binding or ski - I had so much weight on my sled that I couldn't bring spare supplies or gear. The skis essentially acted as glorified snowshoes. There was no glide to them as I'm wearing skins for traction gut without them, knee deep snow and extreme cold would have made the crossing deadly.

thebobbyg494 karma

How long did it take to cross?

colinobrady703 karma

54 days, 932 miles in total.

OhYesIDidd440 karma

What was pooping like?

benfranklinthedevil639 karma

I assume, "cold as shit"

colinobrady701 karma

Correct. That pretty much sums it up.

kingproducer409 karma

Was there a point where you reached a mental breaking point? If not, how were you able to stay clear minded?

colinobrady921 karma

On day 48, I have a video clip of myself after being hammered in a storm that lasted 8 days where the windchill was -80 degrees. I was running low on food and I looked straight into my camera, frozen tears in my eyes, saying " I just wanna quit, I don't know if I can continue on."

Fortunately I was able to switch my mindset back to the positive with my mantra: " Colin, you are strong, you are capable", I said that to myself every day and it lifted my spirits.

kingproducer167 karma

Wow thank you for sharing !

Follow up if I may; how long before the trek did you start practicing meditation and focusing on your mantra? Was it an intrical part of your training from the get go?

colinobrady293 karma

I did my first silent meditation retreat in 2011. It's completely free to go! There is are centers all around the world. I highly recommend it to anyone - it's been the biggest game-changer in my life.

Here is the website: www.dhamma.org

I repeated the ten day retreat several times as well as incorporated a daily practice for the better part of the last 9 years.

ru18b4iFu377 karma

But how did you get over the ice wall? jk.

colinobrady390 karma

Shhhh, don't tell anyone...but I carried an ice pick so I could climb the wall and spear the dragon.

ZillaSquad65 karma

But seriously, how did you get over the ice wall?

darwin_thornberry94 karma

If you read his blog he clearly states how he javelin-spears a dragon from 100 yards, uses his un-dead army to pull it out of a lake, then resurrects that ice-dragon bitch to fly it, not over, but up to the wall and melts it with ice-fire.

colinobrady193 karma

I snuck a couple of ice axes in my sled so I could scale the wall when I got there because my biggest reason for doing this is I wanted to meet Jon Snow.

NewRedditSameTaste345 karma

What was the biggest obstacle to actually getting down there and starting your trek? Did you need to get permission from a bunch of Antarctic researchers or something?

colinobrady436 karma

Yes, there is a bit of bureaucracy in visiting Antarctica. So I had to make sure to get all the proper permitting. My recent rowing expedition of Drake Passage to reach Antarctica was actually much more complicated permit wise than my solo crossing by land.

Vixusg313 karma

Did you have any wildlife encounters? If so what was the best or worst for you?

colinobrady826 karma

No wildlife in the interior of Antarctica in my crossing on foot, but last month I rowed a boat to Antarctica across Drake Passage and saw amazing wildlife. Humpback whales jumping five feet next to my tiny rowboat, penguins, dolphins, orcas, albatross..mind blowing!

vale342189 karma

How did you sleep?

colinobrady448 karma

I had a tiny tent (it was a Hilleberg) that I made custom changes to so I could set it up my by myself in major storms (very dangerous!). Once inside, I got into my -40 degrees sleeping bag and tried to get some rest despite the 24 hours of daylight.

indieuh154 karma

How did you go about training for Antarctica? Was it harder than you thought it was going to be?

colinobrady268 karma

I have the most amazing strength coach, check him out on Instagram if you want: @mikemccastle. He's done 5804 pull ups in 24 hours wearing a 30 pound weight vest. Guys a total badass.

He helped me come up with creative ways to prepare to make this attempt - since it was a world first, there was no defined playbook on how to train.

I added twenty pounds of muscle to get stronger. My training was great but even still, the Antarctica crossing was harder than i could have imagined.

coryrenton111 karma

Is there any particular piece of gear, foodstuffs, or equipment that held up much better or worse than you anticipated?

colinobrady231 karma

The food that I took with me was the key to success.

I spent a year in a nutrition science lab with my sponsor Standard Process. They created a custom food based on all of my biometrics that they called the "Colin Bars". It was a whole all organic highly caloric plant based food that fueled me the entire time. I was burning 10,000 calories per day and they kept me going till the end.

jcgam22 karma

How much weight did you lose?

colinobrady66 karma

I lost 25-30 pounds by the end. My ribs were sticking out and my hips were protruding.

I brought enough to eat 7,000 calories a day but I was burning more than 10,000. There was significant caloric debt from day one.

Nomad-3493 karma

How do your loved ones feel about the danger that you put yourself through in your multiple “Impossible Firsts?” How do you help them to make peace with it?

colinobrady151 karma

My mom of course is afraid - but she's also been one of the biggest mentors and leaders in my path towards successfully accomplishing these audacious goals. When people ask her this question, she usually replies with a coy smile, saying "As a mother, be careful what you wish for when you tell your kid they can anything they set their mind to."

Jenna, my wife, has been the backbone of all my expeditions. WE've created and planned them together. My book, The Impossible First, although it's my name on the cover, is really both our stories. Her strength and cunning has made all the difference.

Keith_Creeper89 karma

What was the song that got stuck in your head?

colinobrady123 karma

I listened to Paul Simon's Graceland on repeat, which spawned a really surprising and funny interaction with Paul Simon himself. Check out my book for the full story!

P00FL1NGER87 karma

Did you pull any inspiration or maybe even more so, techniques, from Wim Hof?

colinobrady115 karma

Yeah, Wim Hofs an inspiration, I was so grateful he blurbed my book: "An irresistible read, The Impossible First asks one question: 'With the right mindset what is each of us capable of?'"

Breathing, dealing with the cold, keeping track of my mind...all so crucial to my crossing.

DetoNationPlayz68 karma

One question: Why?

colinobrady98 karma

Couldn't think of anything better to do...jk. I answered this above though!

azdak63 karma

Do you think you'd ever go back to the Himalaya and tackle other 8000ers or was Everest it?

colinobrady108 karma

I've climbed one other, Manaslu, before I climbed Everest - 8000 meter peak climbing is something I think I will do more of. I'm actually climbing the north side of Everest with my wife this year. It will be my first time on that side of the mountain.

Nomad-3460 karma

Are you looking at any future trips that don’t require you to freeze your ass off? A desert first perhaps?

colinobrady78 karma

Hahah - I actually have been thinking my next major project might be in a warm location. But hot can be tough too!

azdak54 karma

How would you describe the difference in the suck-factor between massive over-land expeditions and crossings vs mountain/vertical objectives? Do you prefer one to the other?

colinobrady147 karma

The biggest challenge with the Antarctica crossing was the weight of my sled - 375 pounds to start. And actually, although it wasn't as steep as a mountain, I was going uphill. I started at sea level and the roughly halfway point, the South Pole, was 9,310 feet.

Slight uphill dragging 375 pounds through snow was pretty grueling.

loveisallthatisreal54 karma

I’ve been following you on social media since you scaled the Everest. The first live stream on top of the Everest, correct ? I have not seen anyone of your caliber that is as social media savvy as you are. Do you think that social media given you an edge over other adventurers/explorers, in terms of exposure to an audience and prospective sponsors ? If so, will this be something you will incorporate in your teachings to young people who aspire to follow your steps ?

colinobrady79 karma

Correct, I was the first person to ever Snapchat from the summit of Everest!

I believe in the power of storytelling. I encourage everyone to share their stories with the world because I think the world is a better place when we connect and can learn and be inspired by others. It's certainly a value of mine to use the technology of our time (ie social media etc) to help expose as many people as possible to our magnificent planet.

Joasctorb49 karma

What's next?

colinobrady113 karma

I just got back a week ago from another world first expedition, we because the first people to row a boat gully human powered across Drake Passage. So, so many focus in the immediacy is my book launch next week. I'm so excited to share it with the world, I poured my heart and soul into it.

After that, climbing Everest with my wife this Spring on the Tibet side and we're already scheming on our next major expedition.

zoinks49 karma

How is what you did different from what Aleksander Gamme did? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vC8gJ0_9o4M

From his wikipedia page:

In 2011, he completed the first unsupported solo coast to coast hike across Antarctica,

Dukisjones24 karma

In that video you linked, the guy is picking up some kind of pre-positioned package with food and snacks in it for him:

"This is day 86 on my full return South Pole Expedition 2011/2012. I`m quite hungry and about to pick up my last cache by my second pulk which I left on the way in."

colinobrady40 karma

Exactly - he was able to leave food caches for himself along the way since he was retracing his steps on the way back. Since I wasn't retracing, there were no food caches or ways for me to leave behind weight. What I took from day one, I had to take with me all the way to the end.

colinobrady13 karma

Good question! His project was amazing. The difference is he crossed to the pole and then back to the coast that he started, so the same start and end point. Whereas I was the first person to cross the entire continent. I went via the South Pole but then continued on to the other coast of the continent.

NewRedditSameTaste38 karma

One more question- as I understand it, the middle of Antarctica is a huge, flat expanse. Did you stumble across anything that surprised you? Maybe a weird question but did it ever get boring?

colinobrady72 karma

Yes the polar plateau is just endless white of snow and ice above 9,000 feet. 24 hours of sunlight a day. It was bizarre to be in such an expansive yet never changing landscape.

Boring is not a feeling that I experience, but it did force me to go deep within.

DasFrebier33 karma

I have to ask why? Was it just a personal challenge? Trying to inspire others? Pure spite?

colinobrady34 karma

My biggest goal has always been to inspire others to achieve their own impossible firsts. I also did this project and all other expeditions in partnership with my nonprofit where we've had millions of students enrolled in our stem education curriculums, My goal is to inspire the next generation of to dream big, to set audacious goals and live active and healthy lives.

mchamma72932 karma

Was it cold?

DUIofPussy14 karma

Yes, I’m wondering this very question too.

colinobrady78 karma

The average temperature was -30 degrees and the windchill was often between -50 and -75 degrees.

So short answer, yes haha. It was so cold one time that I took a cup of boiling water from my dinner and it immediately turned into an icy cloud.

djreeled2332 karma

Was there any point where you legitimately thought your life was in danger?

colinobrady87 karma

Yes. If you read the prologue of the book (spoiler alert!) I almost lost my entire tent in a storm, my only shelter. I was hanging onto it with only my fingertips and I saw my life flash before my eyes.

frankynstyn230532 karma

Come across any secret Nazi bunkers? Or crashed alien ships?

colinobrady54 karma

I did but I'm not allowed to talk about them.

theglobalguy29 karma

How much harder would it have been if you hadn't followed the US built compacted snow road on the Ross ice shelf?

colinobrady91 karma

Some media has mischaracterized the ice "road" - true, that the South Pole overland traverse convoy resupplies the South Pole, but there's no "road" - it's a huge ice plateau and glacier. But I did a see few examples of rudded up ice and snow from tire traction.

That said, the vehicles had come several weeks before I was there and the weather and wind blows so hard that even after a few hours, let alone weeks, the tracks are completed gone.

Lastly, the few sections of tracks that I did see were actually harder to cross than virgin ice and snow because the rudded up tracks would catch and trip my skis and sled. So whenever I saw them I skied besdies them not in them.

Mo0fus26 karma

What’s the most surreal landscape you encountered on the way across Antarctica?

colinobrady80 karma

The entire crossing, the entire landscape was roughly the same - jyst endless white for as far as the eye can see. Except in a whiteout, when I could barely see two feet in front of my face. It was like being inside the belly of a ping pong ball.

AceyAceyAcey25 karma

What would have been different about your Antarctica trip if you had planned it in Antarctic winter?

colinobrady74 karma

Antarctic winter has 24 hours of darkness. When I went it was 24 hours of daylight. I was able to use solar panels to recharge my camera, which I wouldn't be able to do in the winter. Not to mention the logistics and even more extreme cold in the endless Antarctic night would have been really brutal.

bigkodack24 karma

Just a random question, what’s your favorite subspecies of penguin?

Also, what are your thoughts on the Australian wildfire?

colinobrady46 karma

A macaroni penguin.

I lived in Australia for several years. It's really devastating how many animals, plants and land is being destroyed. It breaks my heart.

TirelessGuardian19 karma

Why would you attempt this knowing that people have died before? Where you afraid of dying during the attempt before you attempted it, or during the attempt?

colinobrady61 karma

Because I have a deep curiosity for ending the edge of the possible, I wanted to step out into the unknown and test my own limits and hopefully inspire others to do so in their own life, not necessarily through expeditions but take a risk to achieve their dreams. Business, music, love, art...whatever you're passionate about, start today to make your goals a reality.

Builderon6418 karma

What was the reaction of your family whn they heard what you want to do?

colinobrady19 karma

They were afraid of course, but my family has always supported my dreams. I could never have done all of this without their unconditional love and support.

rxFMS13 karma

i have a couple of siberian huskys that would love to have walked with you, could you have done this trek with a dog companion? or wouldnt that have worked?

colinobrady28 karma

Although a dog companion would certainly have lifted my spirits, I don't know if that would have technically qualified as "solo".

It would unfortunately never be possible because the use of dogs in Antarctica is no longer legal due to environmental concerns.

rudyisgodly11 karma

Obviously it must've been scary at times being alone in those conditions, what did you do to calm yourself down?

colinobrady35 karma

The internal journey was very intense, that level of solitude can get to you. I write a lot about this in my book The Impossible First. One of my keys was my meditation practice. I've done several ten day Vipassana silent meditation retreats to prep the most important muscle of all - my mind.

9yroldupvotegiver7 karma

I searched up Drake's Passage and can't understand why it is so dangerous. Why?

colinobrady7 karma

It's the convergence of three oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern. With the force of three oceans funneling narrow passage by ocean standards (700 miles) between the tip of South America and the tip of Antarctica combined with the extreme cold makes for a very treacherous stretch of ocean.

Magic3man3 karma

U been every where it seems ..Come on tell us .. is the world flat or round?

colinobrady7 karma

I walked across Antarctica and didn't fall off the edge of the world so I guess that debunks the myth. The earth is, in fact, round. Haha.

AndreasOcean3 karma

What message in your book are you most proud of sharing with the world?

colinobrady10 karma

That achievement is not for the select few. We all have reservoirs of untapped potential, and with the right mindset, anyone can make the impossible possible.