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Colin O'Brady, First To Trek Unassisted Across Antarctica: 'I'm A Little Bit Tired'


There's been a milestone at the bottom of the world. Professional endurance athlete Colin O'Brady of Portland, Ore., successfully traversed Antarctica. He became the first person to cover the 900-plus-mile expanse alone and unassisted. After almost two months of hauling a sled behind him weighing hundreds of pounds, O'Brady finished with a 32-hour sleepless sprint to the end. And Colin O'Brady joins us now from Leverett Glacier. Welcome to the program, and congratulations.

COLIN O'BRADY: Hi. How are you? Yeah. I'm sitting here in a tent in the middle of Antarctica, waiting to get picked up, hopefully, in the next few days.

FADEL: So how are you feeling? This seems absolutely superhuman what you've done.

O'BRADY: You know, admittedly, I'm a little bit tired. And I seem to be a smaller version of myself. I think I've lost something like 30 to 40 pounds.


O'BRADY: So it'll be nice to get back to civilization and eat some proper food. But, you know, I'm feeling elated.

FADEL: So for us mere mortals, give us an idea of what your daily routine was out there.

O'BRADY: Yeah. You know, every day, I was outside pulling my sled for about 12 to 13 hours - was an average day. My sled started out, you know, 375 pounds. And then, at the end of the day, I would stop and set up camp and kind of boil water and eat food and go back to sleep. And I did every single day, never took a single day off even when it was, you know, really stormy. You know, the average temperature was probably somewhere around minus 25 the whole time. And when the wind kicked up to 40, 50 miles per hour, that puts the wind chill at about minus 75.

FADEL: Three hundred and seventy-five pounds - what were you carrying with you?

O'BRADY: Almost all of that weight is food and fuel. I didn't have much extra gear. I actually don't - didn't even bring a change of underwear or a change of shirt. I've been wearing the exact same clothes the entire time to save weight.

FADEL: Now, you were alone. But you weren't cut off. You were able to stay in touch with your wife on a sat phone, send her pictures. So you must be looking forward to being reunited with her.

O'BRADY: Oh, my gosh. I can't wait. Yeah. I have to get picked up in a plane here and driven back to a - flown back to a small encampment. And then from there, if the weather's good, it looks like I might be able to get off Antarctica by January 3. And that would be the day I would see her in South America. I'm just counting down the minutes until I can wrap my arms around her.

FADEL: Do you have - did you have any moments of fear along the way of like, what did I get myself into? What am I doing?

O'BRADY: Oh, my God. You know, as physical as a challenge this was, more than anything, it's a mental challenge, you know, to be out there day after day alone. There's, you know, so many moments of fear and just, you know, questioning, what am I doing? Is this worth it? Why? Why? Why? But also, one of the beautiful things was finding that peace and calm in my mind. Even in the midst of some really challenging moments, I was able to find peace and calm. And it truly gave me the strength and power to continue.

FADEL: Now, we should mention that you were actually in a race. You were racing your friend British army Capt. Louis Rudd. And he came in on Friday about two days behind you. So you two are waiting for that plane together to come pluck you off the ice. That must've been a nice reunion to greet Capt. Rudd. What did you say to him when he finished this trek?

O'BRADY: There's just, you know, a lot of respect and camaraderie between the two of us. Lou is an incredibly experienced polar explorer. And so yes, certainly, having him out here was pushing me to want to be the first one to cross the finish line. And I'm certainly proud that I did that. But I was also extraordinarily excited to (unintelligible) him across the finish line safe and sound. And I think he summed it up really well when he said to me, like - he's like, wow. People have trying this project for so many years. It's amazing that, in the same season, both of us were able to complete it in a couple of days. So it's been a really great reunion. We're both sitting here waiting for the plane now and, you know, recounting our various experiences. And, you know, he's the only person on the planet now that knows what I've been through. So it's definitely a bond that will last a lifetime between the two of us.

FADEL: Colin O'Brady, who just trekked across Antarctica alone and unassisted, thanks for speaking with us.

O'BRADY: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.