Seven summits, two poles: Portland endurance athlete Colin O'Brady sets new world record
At the end of May, Portland endurance athlete Colin O'Brady crisscrossed the globe, setting a record by climbing all seven of the tallest peaks on all seven continents in the Beyond 7/2 Explorers Grand Slam.
He also skied the last degree to the North and South poles.
Along the way he was inspired to set the record by students at Hearthwood Elementary School in Vancouver. He returned to the school recently to recount the journey and thank the students for encouraging him during his brutal ordeal.
"The truth is, they inspired me out there, they sent me letters and cheered me on," O'Brady said during a recent assembly at the school. "I was hoping to inspire them but it was reciprocated fully. I didn't' want to let them down."
The Yale graduate began his epic journey in January at the South Pole and finished on the summit of Denali in Alaska on May 27.
In between he reached the summit of Mount Everest and the tallest peaks on the five remaining continents. The kids at Hearthwood followed the journey online, urging O'Brady on with their words.
The 31-year-old O'Brady endured extreme cold and high winds, snowstorms that buried his tent, limited oxygen and mind-numbing fatigue to complete the challenge. It was not his first physical challenge, however.
In 2008, O'Brady suffered second- and third-degree burns over 22 percent of his body after tripping over a kerosene lantern. Doctors told him he might never regain full use of his legs. A year later he won back-to-back triathlons.
O'Brady says his message is not about making kids into world record endurance athletes, but to set goals and dream big.
"For me the message here is not about, hey look at me I'm a world record holder you should aspire to be an endurance athlete or world record holder yourself," O'Brady explained. "The message is way more universal than that. It's about, hey, 'I'm a guy from this community who set himself a big goal, dreamed big and went out and achieved that.'"
In addition to setting a new record for the Explorer's Grand Slam, O'Brady set speed record for the Seven Summits, summiting the highest peak on every continent in just 132 days. The time to beat was 134 days.
Seven summits, two poles. O'Brady's itinerary:
South Pole - January 10, 2016
Mt. Vinson (Antarctica) - January 17, 2016
Aconcagua (South America) - January 31, 2016
Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa) - February 9, 2016
Mt. Kosciuszko (Australia) - February 17, 2016*
Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania) - March 4, 2016
Mt. Elbrus (Europe) - March 10, 2016
North Pole - April 19, 2016
Mt. Everest (Asia) - May 19, 2016
Denali (North America) - May 27, 2016