- Crystal Cox/Business Insider
- Colin O’Brady, the pro-triathlete turned adventurer who became the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided has released a new memoir about his journey, titled “The Impossible First.”
- The book is a raw and vulnerable report that O’Brady said he hopes will motivate others to get “fired up” about their own lofty goals.
- Next up, O’Brady and his wife are hoping to scale Mount Everest together, this spring.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
At the bottom of the world and completely alone in a sea of white powder, Colin O’Brady took out his satellite phone, and made a call to a mysterious number his wife had read across the line to him, moments before.
“Trust me, call this number,” she’d said.
O’Brady was exhausted after a 35th straight day of skiing and sled pulling, and the ringing when the call finally clicked through to the other hemisphere annoyed him. A man’s voice came across the line.
“Um, hi, this is Colin from … um … Antarctica.”
“Hey! I’ve been expecting your call. This is Paul.”
It was hard for O’Brady to believe his ears. One of the only voices he’d been listening to along his isolated, frozen journey was now speaking directly to him, and not just in a song.
O’Brady had been skiing across the southern continent for more than a month at that point, toting a 375-pound sled that carried everything he needed to reach the other side of the vast, icy expanse. For the first few weeks, alone out on the frozen tundra where the “summertime” temperatures of Antarctic November and December often dip to -30 Fahrenheit, O’Brady skied in quiet meditation.
But after 17 days of trudging across the barren landscape – in a silence only broken by the wind – O’Brady finally plugged in to one of the six albums he’d kept on his phone for musical support (Bob Marley and The Grateful Dead were on the device, too). The first notes of “Graceland” echoed through his headphones, piercing the stillness.
The athlete didn’t know it then, but he was 36 days away from becoming the first person to ever cross Antarctica, alone and unsupported by a resupply. It was a project he called “The Impossible First,” because every person who’d tried it before him had either turned back, or died trying.
O’Brady was on a quest – from one side of the southernmost continent to the other; from a paralyzing fire to a prognosis-defying career as an elite endurance athlete and motivational speaker.
Now, he’s readying for another daring hike, this time, back to the top of the world to Mount Everest, where he’s headed this spring with his wife.
- Courtesy of Colin O’Brady.
“The Impossible First” is an intimate trek through O’Brady’s Antarctic crossing, and his entire life to date
O’Brady’s Antarctic passage is the epic crescendo of a lifelong journey chronicled in a new and intimate memoir, “The Impossible First,” which intersperses details of his trek across Antarctica with his larger life story. The account also includes the origins of his romance with Jenna Besaw, who’s since become his wife and business partner.
The book tells the tale of how the two decided several years ago to quit their day jobs and put their stash of $10,000 in savings towards O’Brady becoming a full-time mountain-climbing and pole-darting adventurer with a trail of admirers and corporate sponsorships (currently including Canada Goose, Sleep Number, and the Wisconsin-based supplement and nutrition company, Standard Process).
In addition to his Antarctic feat, O’Brady has now rowed across the fearsome Drake Passage from Antarctica to Chile, shattered the time record for scaling the highest peaks in every US state (in a mind-boggling 21 days), hiked the world’s highest mountains on all seven continents in record time (though he’s now been beaten by several others), and trekked at both the North and South poles.
None of those victories of the former high school soccer star and college swimmer might’ve come to be if O’Brady hadn’t caught fire.
At the age of 22, jumping in to a flaming rope during a Thai beach party, O’Brady’s body was instantly engulfed in flames that soared up to his neck. His bare legs were burned into pus-filled purple stumps so unrecognizable that he was told by his doctors that he’d never walk normally again.
Laying in a Thai hospital bed for weeks, O’Brady began visualizing himself training for and running in the Chicago triathlon, which he not only completed 18 months later, but also finished in first place (in the amateur division).
He said he hopes his life journey in the book will motivate others into “taking action in their own life,” whether in sports, business, or their own entirely different challenge.
Besaw and O’Brady are heading on their first expedition as a couple to summit Mount Everest
It’s the same “growth mindset” that the athlete hopes he’ll embody this spring as he heads back to the world’s tallest peak, this time alongside Besaw.
“Everest was not something I thought of when I was a little girl,” she said. “I grew up with a single mom, only child, and the outdoors really wasn’t something that I was super exposed to.”
- Crystal Cox/Business Insider
In April, the two plan to head to Tibet, for a six week trip that will cost them each tens of thousands of dollars. O’Brady summited Everest (from the Nepal side) once before, as part of his race to the highest peaks on each of the world’s seven continents. This time, however, he will be hiking from the far less crowded Tibetan side of the mountain, along with his wife.
“It feels a little out of reach,” Besaw said, “exciting to pursue.”
She’s been training for the summit with lots of lunges and squats, and climbing smaller mountains, including two of the tallest in the lower 48 US states: Mount Rainier in Washington (which the couple completed in a single, grueling 16-hour push), and Mount Whitney in California.
Besaw’s also been practicing for what an Everest climb might feel like, going up and down ski hills for hours and days at a time near the couple’s home in Wyoming. The idea is to simulate what it might feel like to cover the 29,029 feet of incline on Everest, hiking up and up and up.
- Read more:
- An American explorer just became the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided, finishing with an ‘ultramarathon’: Photos show his spectacular 932-mile journey
- The 33-year-old who crossed Antarctica alone once got horrific burns at a Thai beach party – and he says it’s the reason he sets world records today
- We tried the 1,250-calorie survival bar that powered Colin O’Brady’s record-shattering 932-mile solo journey across Antarctica
- An American adventurer has become the first person to cross Antarctica alone and unaided. His training included Buddhist retreats and a 400-mile trek in Greenland.