Light & Verity

Holiday on ice

An alum's Christmastime solo trek across Antarctica.

Colin O'Brady ’06

Colin O'Brady ’06

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Many of us scarcely make it out of our pajamas on Christmas morning. But professional endurance athlete and motivational speaker Colin O’Brady ’06 woke up last Christmas alone, in Antarctica, and spent the next 32 hours on skis, dragging a sled 77 miles to the Ross Sea without sleeping. It was a virtuosic end to an unprecedented trip. O’Brady became the first person to cross Antarctica solo, unaided by wind power or supply drops for the entire 54-day, 932-mile trip. 

The feat had been thought impossible by some: a Briton died in a 2016 attempt, and another had to be rescued when his food ran out. O’Brady credits his success to careful planning, and in particular to his food supply—nutrition bars specially formulated for his own physiology. Despite average temperatures of 25 below zero and frequent whiteout conditions, O’Brady says, “the mental side was the most challenging.” He brought music and podcasts, but says he spent 80 to 90 percent of the time in silence, sometimes achieving a “deep flow state” in which “days would go by in a matter of seconds.”

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