News / Two Attempt First Solo, Unsupported Antarctica Crossing

There are many ways to slice things to get your own “first” these days. But surely there are some true firsts left, right? Here’s a hefty one.

Crossing Antarctica solo, unsupported. It’s been done by kite—recently by our own Mike Horn (see our Roam Report video on the expedition). And unstoppable Norwegian Borge Ousland. Though technically, even wind support removes it from the category of truly unsupported.

But the first could be won.

Right now two very different explorers are making a ski for it. Young gun Colin O’Brady, 33, was first to cross the South Pole on December 12. Also on the ice is British Army Captain Louis Rudd, 49, who is on a mission to finish what killed his friend Henry Worsley in 2016. Rudd made it to the pole the following day.

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Day 40: SOUTH POLE!!! I made it!!! What a day. I expected to be happy reaching the South Pole, but today has quite honestly been one of the best days of my entire life. It was whiteout conditions approaching the pole as it’s been for days. I spent about an hour there – taking photos and soaking in the moment before continuing onward. I am deeply honored to be adding to the 100 year lineage of the @explorersclub flag. Just having that fabric in my hand at the pole, knowing all of the other hands it’s touched over the generations, gives me chills. Shortly after leaving the pole the sun came out and I was overcome with one of the deepest feelings of happiness and calm that I have ever experienced. I truly felt I was tapping into all of the love that was being sent my way from all over the world. Deep, deep, deep gratitude – I’m shining my love right back at you. Some perspective on today’s accomplishment (which for me feels completely humbling, putting me in rare company.) Only 28 people before me have completed coast to pole crossing; skied from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole, solo, unsupported (no resupplies), and unaided (no kites). Only 2 people before me have done so on this route. For all of these people the South Pole was a very worthy finish line, but I still have unfinished business as I try to be the very first to complete a full traverse and reach the opposite coast. Onward!! #TheImpossibleFirst #BePossible

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

The 900-mile journey has no certainties. Will Rudd’s previous experience on Antarctica serve him well? He has skied 2,500 miles total prior to this solo sufferfest. Or will O’Brady’s zeal get him to the other side? The consequences could quickly be fatal should anything go wrong for either man.

We asked our own polar guide Doug Stoup, founder of Ice Axe Expeditions, for his two cents on the double adventure taking place at the bottom of the word. Doug is one of the world’s leading polar guides and has skied both the North and South Poles. Says Doug:

I find it interesting that these adventurers call this a race? These two individuals are doing amazing polar crossings and should be celebrated in the achievement and not a race. There have been others to cross Antarctica by similar routes such as Ryan Waters, Cecille Skog, Arved Fuchs, Reinhold Messner, Borge Ousland. Some used wind support. Others have traveled further like Rune Gjeldnes, Mike Horn, Sebastian Copeland, and Eric McNair-Landry, to name a few. Kites do aid in how fast you can travel and Amundsen [the first person to reach the South Pole in 1911] used sails on his pulks [sleds] over a hundred years ago. Technology and sponsorship have changed the game, and let’s just raise our glass to the accomplishment.

Our Earth is in serious peril, and I’m not sure the North Pole will ever be “conquered” again. I believe we should should concentrate on fixing the problems here on Earth and not look to fly to space or cross the poles faster than others or by new routes in certain style? Let’s look at the big picture! Congratulations, Mr. O’Brady and Mr. Rudd for a fine crossing!

Currently they are both lamenting serious weight loss. Rudd lips are bleeding, making it painful to eat and drink. Best of luck, fellows!

Follow their progress at National Geographic.com >>

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