Colin O’Brady’s 50HP World Record Attempt

Colin O’Brady is currently on Denali, in Alaska, on the first leg of his 50HP World Record, a project to climb the highest point in each of the 50 states in the US in record time.

A former professional triathlete turned mountaineer, O’Brady was the record holder for the fastest completion of the Seven Summits at 132 days, until Australian Steve Plain topped that this year in a blistering 117 days. “Steve did a great job,” says O’Brady. “It was amazing to see him perform so well on such a cold journey.”

O’Brady on Denali

Colin is aiming to complete the 50HP in 30 days; the current record stands at 41 days. The challenge began the moment he set foot on his first peak, 6,190m Denali. From this point, the race is on. He hopes to summit Denali by June 28. He will then descend as fast as he can (“I hope to ski down”) and hop on a flight to Hawaii to climb Mauna Kea (4,207m).

Next follows a mighty road trip, as he hurries from Florida up the East Coast to Maine. From there, he flies to the Upper Midwest and continues by vehicle down to Texas and Arizona, then through western states. He will finish on his home mountain of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

Colin O’Brady’s route for summiting the 50 High Points

Not all of the high points are mountains – swampy Florida boasts a top elevation of just 105m, a flattish, nondescript rise called Britton Hill. Others are mountains in the true sense. Denali is, of course, one of the Seven Summits and has a success rate under 50%, according to NPS data. Each year, climbers suffer frostbite and high altitude sickness. The last two mountains on O’Brady’s itinerary – Rainer and Hood – require ice climbing skills.

Trail running in Forest Park, Portland

But this is not a technical climbing project. The challenge will be dealing with mounting fatigue as he climbs, hikes and runs up as many as six mountains a day, then tries to recuperate in a van while driving to the next trailhead.

One four- to five-day stretch near the end is particularly grueling. Linking Mt. Elbert (CO), Kings Peak (UT), Gannett Peak (MT), Granite Peak (MT) and Borah Peak (IO) means running 170 km by trail and climbing a total of 20,000m.

Although he will “only” be covering 500km in the 30 days – a feat that seems achievable for a former pro triathlete – the massive total altitude is the hard part. How much elevation O’Brady will gain over the month is elusive, due to the way the climbs are defined. They start from the trailhead and finish at the highest point, so the percentage of each mountain or hill climbed differs for each.

Colin O’Brady prepared with a mixture of running and strength work

To prepare for the challenge, O’Brady trained by running 65-80km a week, at a mix of aerobic and anaerobic paces. He added strength work in the gym and even  physiotherapy. “I know that my physical condition will be deteriorating steadily over the course of the project,” he said. “So I need to be starting this in nothing less than peak condition.”

You can follow Colin’s world record attempt via his website or on Instagram.
He will also provide updates on his YouTube channel. He is encouraging people to join him as he climbs in their locality.