Colin O’Brady Announces South Pole Speed Record Bid

At the eleventh hour, controversial American adventurer Colin O’Brady will attempt the unsupported solo ski speed record from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole.

Norwegian Christian Eide currently holds the fastest time in 24 days, 1 hour, and 13 minutes, set back in 2011. It is one of the few truly impressive polar speed records. 

O’Brady is publicly well-known but not well-respected in the polar community because of his past exaggerations. With this last-minute announcement, O’Brady has gazumped the attention from French polar veteran Vincent Colliard. Colliard flew out to Antarctica for his own bid on the same record yesterday.

O’Brady is no stranger to keeping his expeditions quiet until the last minute. In 2018, the American announced his Antarctica crossing just five days before Lou Rudd embarked on the same journey. Rudd had openly declared his plans a year earlier.

O'Brady pulling sled beside packed road

O’Brady in Antarctica in 2018-19, manhauling beside the well-packed SPOT road. Photo: Colin O’Brady

 

Another secretive skier

In addition to O’Brady, a secretive female skier, name not yet released, is trying to lay down a fast time on the same Hercules Inlet route. This is presumably an attempt to break Caroline Cote’s female speed record from last year.

While the late announcement from O’Brady may reflect a cute move to attract more eyeballs, it could also be a relatively last-minute decision when he learned that Colliard was going for the record. A potential race between the two, as effectively occurred between O’Brady and Rudd in 2018, is a quick way to regain the spotlight. The American has hosted a reality TV show but has otherwise been relatively unheard of since an unsuccessful attempt on Winter K2 in 2021.

Creating a head-to-head race is a gamble for O’Brady unless he has meticulously scoped out Colliard’s strengths and weaknesses. But if neither manages to break Christian Eide’s long-standing record, a victory over the other man on the ice is worth the risk of defeat to craft a compelling story for sponsors.

Breaking Eide’s record will be a tall order, though. At the time, the Norwegian was running an expedition company and had been training and planning extensively.

“In the year leading up to the attempt, I had skied across Greenland twice, and just before starting from Hercules Inlet, I climbed Mount Vinson and skied the Last Degree,” Eide later recalled.

In addition to this, Eide had been cross-country skiing since the age of two. Unlike most polar shufflers, the Norwegian knew how to get the most out of his boards.

Christian Eide during his record setting expedition in 2011 Photo: Christian Eide

 

Secrecy not new

Eide remains humble about his peerless record and has encouraging words for Colliard and O’Brady. 

“It will be exciting to follow their journey,” he told ExplorersWeb. “The main challenge is the mental thing. Keep on skiing even if your body hurts and the weather is poor. One day or another, my record will probably be beaten. I wish them both a great trip south.”

Games of secrecy and racing to the South Pole are nothing new, of course. Amundsen started it with Robert Scott in 1910. It appears that this trend is alive and well over 100 years later. Ironically, the secrecy seems to be greatest among those most focused on publicity.

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is a writer for ExplorersWeb. He has been writing about Arctic travel, mountaineering, science, camping, hiking, and outdoor gear for 6 years. As well as ExplorersWeb, he has written for Red Bull, Outside, The Guardian, and many other outlets. Based in Leicester, UK, Routen is an avid backpacker and arctic traveler who writes about the outdoors around a full-time job as an academic.