Colin O’Brady on Conquering Everest and Season 2 of ‘Survivalists’
Nothing strengthens the bond between loved ones quite like a daring adventure without cell phones or the comforts of home. At least that’s what ultimate adventure seeker Colin O’Brady—who returns to host Season 2 of Survivalists on BYUtv—believes. Each episode of the competition series sees two everyday families embark on a three-day survival immersion course in the wilderness. Winning teams leave with not only a lifetime of memories but $10,000.
O’Brady himself is the ultimate survivalist, beating the odds at every turn. The endurance athlete learned to walk again after a fire left him with burns covering 25 percent of his body during a 2008 trip to Thailand. He further made headlines, setting the Explorers Grand Slam (the South Pole to the North Pole) and Seven Summits speed records. A decade after the Thailand fire, O’Brady even crossed 1,000 miles of Antarctica alone, unaided over 54-days.
Ahead of the Survivalists premiere, we caught up with the 36-year-old as he checked in from his current pursuit: another climb of Mount Everest. Only this time, he was with his wife Jenna Besaw — and without supplemental oxygen. Not your typical couples getaway.
How far are you into your Mount Everest journey?
Colin O’Brady: I would have been in base camp for a little over a week. I have about a month left on this expedition. Hoping to summit Mount Everest during the third week of May. I still have a little bit of time to get my body used to the thin air.
What is it like to share this experience with your wife?
I think just like the show Survivalists, just having shared experiences with people you love, your family is an amazing way to make your relationship stronger. There are tests where you are uncomfortable that can make it hard and challenging. But ultimately, it’s so rewarding. Jenna and I have been fortunate.
The trek is hard enough, but then you’re doing it without supplemental oxygen.
Only about two percent of Everest summits are successful without supplemental oxygen. It’s fairly rare. It’s a much bigger challenge to summit the mountain this way. I did summit the mountain with supplemental oxygen in 2016 and am looking forward to trying the extra hard challenge of climbing Everest without supplemental oxygen. The purest way to climb.
Tell me about the families competing in Season 2 of the Survivalists?
We have families from all over the country. Very different backgrounds. Some are very used to being in the outdoors and some have never been in an outdoor environment like this. It’s an eclectic group from different regions of the United States, which is what makes it fun. People coming out to Moab, Utah. It’s really a unique and dramatic landscape. Most people haven’t seen anything like it. The families are really thrown outside their comfort zones, but they were wonderful. They’ll keep you laughing and crying and all the different emotions they go through in this journey.
What’s new this season?
One of the things we did change up is there is a reward for getting to the first camp. I record a video for them and say, “Hey, if you’re the first family to make it to camp today, you get this prize.” It might be an extra meal. It might be something to help them sleep more comfortably that night. There are these sub competitions within the main competition, which I think was a good twist that we switched up from the first season.
What are some of the biggest challenges the families will face?
In Moab, it’s really an interesting environment. It’s super hot during the day where it could be 80 degrees. Then at night, we had snow and cold freezing nights. There was a dramatic temperature shift with mountainous regions, high altitudes. In terms of the physical space they are inhabiting it’s very challenging, In addition to that, the interpersonal challenges of being out there with your family, with your parents, or kids. It’s hard to work together, but it’s also amazing to see them face these challenges and come together as a family in the end.
Anything else you can tease?
I loved Season 1 of Survivalists, but Season 2 is even better. It’s an incredible show. There are so many ups and downs, twists, and turns. Watching back the edits of Season 2 that haven’t aired yet where I was there living it with these people. I teared up watching these families compete and come together and lean into their relationships. It’s a very special show, and this season is extraordinary. I think Moab was such an incredible backdrop for the show.
What is left on your adventure bucket list?
It’s endless. There is adventure around every turn. Whether it’s in my backyard in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where I live, or out here in the Himalayas where I am climbing Mount Everest. There are always different places to explore. My bucket list is quite long.
Do you think the pandemic has brought an added interest to survivalists?
We were able to film Survivalist because the show happens outside. Being outdoors with the families is one of the more safe things you can do at a time when we are trying to be socially distanced from one another. Obviously, this pandemic has been hard for everyone. But hopefully, this show is uplifting and inspiring. Drive out to a trailhead, take certain precautions, but be outdoors. Survivalists is a show that has come at a really unique time.
Season 2 of Survivalists premieres May 4, 9/8c, BYUtv
The first season is available to stream for free on the BYUtv app and at BYUtv.org.