The Impossible First

From Fire to Ice—Crossing Antarctica Alone


About The Book

Colin O’Brady’s awe-inspiring memoir recounts his triumphant recovery from a tragic accident and his gripping 932-mile crossing of the landmass of Antarctica solo, unsupported, and human powered—the first to accomplish this extraordinary feat.

Prior to December 2018, no individual had ever crossed the landmass of Antarctica alone and without any outside assistance. Yet Colin O’Brady was determined to do just that, even if, upon taking the first steps of what was to be a nearly two-month journey, he had his doubts. He was compelled by a curiosity for the unknown, his own competitive instincts, and the encouragement of his wife. His challenge was made even more intense by a head-to-head battle that emerged with British polar adventurer Captain Louis Rudd—also striving to be “the first.” On skis, pulling a sled that at first weighed 375 pounds, in complete isolation and through a succession of whiteouts, storms, and a series of near disasters—O’Brady persevered. Somewhere in the vast white landscape was Rudd.

The Impossible First is the story of O’Brady’s spectacular, record-breaking journey across the continent and it is the story of the journey that led him to this endeavor. After a burn accident in his early twenties, he was told he might never walk again. From the depths of that crisis, he fought his way back and went on to set three mountaineering world records. With Everest and the tallest peaks on each continent already conquered, he felt driven to further explore his potential, which now brought him to this historic Antarctic challenge. His triumph over adversity and his stunning dedication have inspired millions.

Set against the backdrop of one of the most extreme environments on earth, The Impossible First reveals how anyone can reject limits, overcome immense obstacles, and discover what matters most.

About The Author


Colin O’Brady is a multiple world record holder and is considered one of the world’s premier endurance athletes.  Among his feats are a first-ever solo, unsupported and unaided crossing of Antarctica; the speed record for the Explorers Grand Slam—summiting the tallest peak on each continent and journeying to both Poles; and topping the highest point in all fifty US states in just twenty-one days. A Pacific Northwest native, he now lives in Portland, Oregon, and Jackson, Wyoming, with his wife, Jenna Besaw. He is the author of The Impossible First.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (February 4, 2020)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982133115

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Raves and Reviews

The Impossible First is a uniquely perceptive, first-person account of how an ordinary person, when loved and supported, can accomplish the extraordinary. A jaw-dropping tale of passion and perseverance, it will have you furiously turning pages to see not just what will happen to Colin, the athlete who tests physical limits, but Colin, the man driven to find his best self. If your dreams sometimes seem beset by doubts in equal measure, read this book. It will tip the balance.”

—Angela Duckworth, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Grit

“Colin O’Brady’s world first accomplishment in solo crossing Antarctica is a triumph of lasting importance, and The Impossible First, his narrative of how it all unfolded, is an adventure classic full of appealing honesty—one that conveys exactly how it felt in the moment.  I especially loved the portrayal of Colin’s relationship with his wife Jenna and their ecstatic victories together, as well as a family scene at Christmas that is filled with poignancy.  I cried multiple times in the book’s second half. Colin’s voice and vulnerability are bound to spark a connection in anyone who picks up this phenomenal book.”

Aron Ralston, New York Times bestselling author of Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The Impossible First challenged me to rethink everything about my life and work. Like millions of others, I watched from afar as Colin attempted his crossing, reading the reports he filed and staring with wonder at the photos he posted. But until now, I only knew bits and pieces of what actually occurred. Somehow, I finished this book feeling even more in awe. In describing Colin’s achievements, words like ‘epic’ and ‘incredible’ seem too small.”

Chris Guillebeau, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Non-Conformity and The Happiness of Pursuit

“As Colin O’Brady learned while crossing the icy expanse of Antarctica in a record-smashing feat, willing oneself to push forward into extreme cold can be the hardest challenge any human faces.  But at the other end of the ordeal lies exhilaration. An irresistible read, The Impossible First asks one urgent question: With the right mindset, what is each of us capable of?”

Wim Hof, creator of the Wim Hof Method

“Colin inspires the sh!@ out of me. His ‘The Impossible First’ trek was the capstone of a decade spent breaking records. With each fastest-ever conquest, from the Seven Summits to the highest peak in each American state, to the 932-mile gauntlet across Earth’s most remote continent, Colin continues to show that there’s virtually no limit to what humans can achieve when they have a will that can’t be broken. He’s a model—both for his staggering accomplishments and his drive to motivate others.”

—Tom Bilyeu, CEO of Impact Theory

“Colin’s story and his 54-day, record-setting trek across Antarctica show that great triumphs often spring from personal challenges.  Definitely recommended as morning reading to feel inspired and take on your own impossible firsts.”
—Hal Elrod, bestselling author of The Miracle Morning

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