Antarctica 2023-4: Cox Aborts, O’Brady Restarts After Crevasse Drama

It has been a dramatic week in Antarctica. Colin O’Brady survived a crevasse fall, the lone crossing attempt ended with an evacuation, and Vincent Colliard is striving to keep pace with Christian Eide’s blistering Hercules Inlet to South Pole pace.


Like last season, there are no full Antarctic crossing attempts.

Sam Cox’s 2,000km crossing attempt from Berkner Island to the base of the Reedy Glacier via the South Pole is over. There had been no hint of a problem in our last update, but on Dec. 22 Cox’s home team announced that ALE would evacuate him to Union Glacier.

ALE’s doctors suspect Cox has kidney stones. “[Cox had] started to experience some discomfort. As the pain worsened and other symptoms began to show, Sam sought medical advice. Despite Sam wanting to push on, the medical team intervened because of the risk to his physical well-being and the potential implications to his long-term health if left untreated,” Cox’s home team wrote on social media.

“It’s too early to say about another attempt,” Cox said. “However, the first 600km felt good, and there was plenty more in the tank.”

Sam Cox

Sam Cox’s crossing is over. Photo: Sam Cox

Hercules Inlet to the South Pole

James Baxter is enjoying himself. “I cannot believe this weather,” he wrote just before Christmas, as he arrived at the Thiels Corner fuel cache. “It is yet again a beautiful cold, crisp clear day with little wind. I have nothing to compare it to so don’t know if I am being fortunate or whether this is the norm.”

Baxter noted the “multitude of tracks” from both skiers and vehicles heading from Thiels Corner toward the Pole. Though not equivalent to the South Pole Overland Traverse (SPOT) road linking the Pole to McMurdo Station, it’s interesting to consider whether this route could constitute a level of support too. At the very least, no navigation is necessary.

After the run of great weather, Dec. 25 was a whiteout, but Baxter still made 21km before setting up his tent. He is now 485km from the Pole.

A little over a day ahead of Baxter, Georgina Gilbert and Rebecca Openshaw-Rowe are doing well. They’ve been averaging over 25km per day, though the Christmas whiteout resulted in a truncated 20km day. The Brits have completed 813km. At their current pace, they should reach the Pole in a little over two weeks.

After a fuel leak, Pierre Hedan needed to hurry to the Pole to avoid losing his unsupported status. His pace hasn’t increased noticeably, but there’s no word of a resupply yet. He has 258km remaining.

Pierre Hedan celebrated Christmas with some letters from family and friends.

Hedan celebrated Christmas with some letters from family and friends. Photo: Pierre Hedan

Speed record hopefuls

Well, it was a dramatic start for Colin O’Brady! Just 6km into his Hercules Inlet to the South Pole speed record attempt, O’Brady fell into a crevasse.

In an emotional Instagram post, O’Brady recounted how he broke through a snow bridge into a meter-wide hole. The traces on his sled kept him from falling in too deeply — luckily, the sled didn’t follow him in — and he managed to clamber out. A team from ALE arrived to retrieve his lost ski from 25 to 30m down in the crevasse and drive him back to his start point.

He has now set off again, resetting his timer to reach the Pole. He is not sharing his tracker but reports that he covered 48km on his second day, matching Christian Eide’s pace in the early going.

Vincent Colliard, who is sharing his tracker, has started behind Eide’s pace. He is covering over 40km per day, but regularly falling short of the 47km needed to match Eide. “I’m trying to keep up with the incredible pace of my friend…some days it takes me 11 or 11 and a half hours,” he said.

black and white photo of Colliard hauling his sled

Photo: Vincent Colliard


“It has been very, very tough, incredibly hard battle these past two and half days because I was in a very thick whiteout,” he said in a recent audio update. “One day I fell four times and my sled capsized seven times.”

There’s still no word about the woman aiming to best Caroline Cote’s female speed record from last season, but unconfirmed reports identify the skier as Preet Chandi.

Berkner Island to the South Pole

Canadian Patrick Bernier has covered 870km. You can listen to his audio updates (in French) here.

Fat-biking to the Pole

Omar Di Felice has cycled just under 550km and has roughly 600km further to the Pole.


The Christmas period may have spurred some food cravings: “After 37 days, eating the same rations, my head decided to undermine my food balance by increasing the sense of hunger and unleashing unrealizable desires that I struggled to control,” he said in a recent update.

Guided trips

Kustaa Piha, Anders Brotherus, and guide Poppis Suomela are 458km from the Pole and going strong. Their Christmas looked particularly festive. They even managed to bring a tree!

Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.