O'Brady's Sled Next to a Sastruga
O’Brady’s Sled Next to a Sastruga. Photo: Colin O’Brady

Sastrugi” has been both the word of the day and the single largest pain in the ass so far for American Colin O’Brady as he tries to become the world’s first man to traverse the Antarctic unsupported.

Even if not immediately familiar with the word (originally drawn from a Russian dialect), most skiers will recognize a sastruga (plural: sastrugi) when they see one. They are “speed bumps” of frozen snow blown by the wind into a wavelike pattern (*in thinking of an inbound example of where they tend to form, I’m reminded of where A-Basin’s Pallavacini lift crests the ridge shortly before unloading.)

More Sastrugi. Photo: National Snow and Ice Data Center

Sastrugi may be nothing more than a natural curiosity for most of us, but when you’re dragging a 300-pound sled all day, day after day, for more than 900 miles as you ascend from sea-level to 9,000 feet, as O’Brady is, they can be a titanic bummer. Especially when calories are a major concern.

He explained the challenge on Instagram Monday:

So keep an eye out for sastrugi and impress your friends and strangers on the lift with your new word.

And if you’d like to follow along on O’Brady’s journey, he’s documenting it meticulously on Instagram and even fielding questions on Twitter.

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