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Report casts doubt on Colin O'Brady's claims about Antarctic trek

The report claims O'Brady took a truncated route across the continent, and traveled about a third of his trek on a guided path used as a polar highway.

PORTLAND, Ore. — An investigative report from the National Geographic published this week casts a series of doubts about the trek Portland resident Colin O'Brady took across the Antarctic in 2018, dubbed, "The Impossible First." 

O'Brady recently released a book about the 932-mile trek, and with it came a slew of criticisms from the "adventuring" community.

In a media blitz over the past year or so, O'Brady claimed to be the "first person to ski alone and unsupported across Antarctica," according to the National Geographic article

In fact, KGW News has covered O'Brady multiple times upon his completion of the trek.

According to Aaron Teasdale, the author of the National Geographic article, Norwegian polar explorer Borge Ousland crossed the Antarctic in 1997, trekking more than 1,800 miles by himself. 

During the trek, Ousland used a "kite-like" device to boost his speed when time was right. At the time, the device didn't count as a form of assistance. 

Fifteen years later, counting wind as assistance was introduced -- hence O'Brady could call his crossing the first "unassisted and unsupported" trek.

Next, Teasdale reports O'Brady's trip "across" the Atlantic was truncated. 

Instead of going from one side of the ice shelf to the other, O'Brady trekked the span of the continent of Antarctica, buried underneath ice caps. That distance is shorter than going from one edge of the ice to the other.

Teasdale also writes O'Brady finished the last third of his trip, about 366 miles, along the South Pole Traverse, or the McMurdo-South Pole Highway. 

The polar "highway" is a haul route to bring supplies from the coast to a research center. 

The website Adventure Stats commented, “using tracks created by motorized vehicle is considered support," while a guide said, "it more than doubles someone's speed and negates the need for navigation."

KGW obtained a statement from O'Brady Thursday. He said, “I stand by every word in my book.”

KGW spoke with the author of the article, Aaron Teasdale. He said he stands by his reporting, and that he didn't mean to attack O'Brady, but wanted to asses his claims. 

"I was struck by the disrespect that that showed to some of the legends of polar exploration that have done truly astounding feats in Antarctica," Teasdale said. "And it seemed to me that by Colin making claims like, 'People have been trying to do this for a 100 years, people thought this was impossible, I cracked the code,' was insulting to the people that had done much more impressive, truly pioneering feats across uncharted terrain, when in fact what he was doing was a very truncated, a more achievable crossing of what isn't the entire ice cap of Antarctica."

O'Brady also posted on Instagram saying in part, "A couple of days ago I was stunned to see a confusing article in Nat Geo about my expeditions. I’m not sure how or why they got the facts so twisted around, but I assure you the article is full of inaccuracies .... I’m putting together a letter to the Nat Geo editor providing them with the supporting materials they can use to correct the record."

KGW also had an interview scheduled with O'Brady before the National Geographic article was published to discuss his book. When we told his publicist we would be asking questions about the article, we were told we will have to delay our interview until they could draft a letter refuting claims in the article.

The publicist ensured us they will re-schedule our interview once the letter is published and O'Brady's schedule allows for it.

O'Brady is scheduled to attend a live podcast recording Thursday evening, and speak at Powell's Books on Friday. 

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