“After 15 years in obscurity, Nolan’s 14, a hundred-mile traverse of 14 14,000-foot peaks in 60 hours, emerges as a new test piece for elite mountain runners.” –National Geographic Adventure
Yes, that’s correct — completing Nolan’s 14 entails traversing 14 summits, each over 14,000 ft (nearly 100 miles in distance!), in under 60 hours.
Ben shares what this particular group of 14 peaks means to him and how this traverse has shaped the last three years of his life:
In all my life, I have never been so prepared. But in all my life, I have never found the right sequence to complete this unending task, a three year commitment of endurance fitness topping 33 previous years of hard knocks and tussles with progress through the mountains. “Is this time different? Is it worth it?” I have to ask myself — this is the grandest journey on foot of my life — through them and through these years and it has taken longer than I ever thought. It has ground me down while building me up. It is so long, so enormous.
The last two summers I have “gone for it” 4 times on ultra marathon distance traverses over 10 mountains in central Colorado, on a route known as Nolan’s 14. In that two years I have seen my hopes of finishing crushed more than 75 of 93 miles into it twice.
Despite the setbacks along the way toward reaching an understanding of visiting all 14 of Nolan’s 14’s fourteen thousand foot summits in one push, its mystery and magnetism continue to compel me because I love the mountains and big days. I have made mistakes out there but had a satisfying and safe time pursuing this adventure and don’t want to give up on my original purpose for engaging with the line in it’s totality. It’s the biggest effort I can reach for these days and I feel like is suited to the most focused strengths I have trained for and within reason. Now that the time approaches for another long stretch, I’m happy to be exploring it on the best terms I can-those grounded on experience gained on the line and preparation refined each time.
My plan is to start at the north end of the trail and go in one long push from the Fish Hatchery in Leadville, Co. to the summit of Mount Shavano near Poncha Springs, Co. I’ll have no crew, but will have one pair of shoes, one pack (my Osprey Rev 12) and some pretty sweet food, enough gear to do all 14 of the fourteeners. I’m psyched about this. You might be wondering, how the hell is that possible if it took so much crew before to not finish? It will, after all, be me alone.
And this brings me back to the point of this journey, to answer my own questions, to staying committed to a purpose, to answering “is this time different?” No. This time is the same. I began my journey as a mountaineer in this same mountain range 16 years ago, before a decade committed to high altitude Himalayan exploration. In that time I lived many impressionable memories and shared moments with friends that indemnify a lifetime of happiness. It is worth it to know the mountains, and also their uncertain moments. I stopped taking physically consequential risks in the mountains when i became a father 3 years ago. I will always love the mountains and I wanted a safer way to explore them when pushing myself. Nolan’s 14 is for me, that path.
It is a return to my roots as a climber, I view it as the biggest climb in the world. It is minimal and asks for a high level of concentration and accountability during the experience. I will need to be present and own the outcome of every decision for days on end…and nights. I perform my best and truly enjoy the mountains when I have to do that. So many great friends helped me learn it is possible, only in the doing of this would we have known.
With 4 attempts already under my belt, the first 3 adhering to a set of pre existing conventions that led to 13 others completing sub 60 hour finishes on the line since 1999, and 6 since I first attempted it in 2013, I have learned a thing or two. Organized more like a competitive event than a mountain traverse, those rules can lead to success if the timing is good. But with so many opportunities to figure it out in that way specifically and still not completing it due to my own timing and logistical complications, I’ve had to forget those conventions and slowly develop my own personal style based on my experiences on it, what mountaineers would call our “fair means”. The means is a simpler version of things than what I had been doing or what might normally be done. Fewer things to line up means better chances, I believe, and still a whole lot of fun. I hope to flow over it now and to just “surf the chaos” as a good friend would say. I’m excited about the start rather than coordinating a party of people.
I will do my best with what knowledge I have to “finish” with as little time on my feet as possible and per the schedule below, which is still below the 60 hour goal I have had previously. This is not implied to be a “solo” journey as there are many people climbing fourteeners every day of the week and being alone out there any time other than night would be rare, it is just an unsupported trip alone and based around the most ideal weather window. I am heading out there to finish safely, under my own power with all my stuff on me and within a single push. There are no guarantees, but if history is any indicator and the X factor I have been missing is present then I believe it’ll go!!!!
Ouray is famous for ice climbing in the winter months, but during the late summer becomes home to many amazing waterfalls tucked away inside hidden canyons.
Filmed during the 2014 Ouray Canyon Festival, “Ouray” features some of the best Class C (flowing water) canyoneering that Colorado has to offer.
World Falling Away is an outdoor adventure series with a focus on canyoneering and kayaking in the Southwest U.S.
My name is Paul McDaniel, and I have been with Osprey Packs for over 2 years. Currently I am the Business Process Manager, where my focus is on continuous improvement for all of Osprey’s business processes.
I was born and raised in Arkansas, where I was reared on a steady diet of whitewater, climbing, and general outdoor shenanigans. After living in Florida, South Carolina, and Washington state (due to a 6 year stint in the Navy) I ended up in the Southwest US (Arizona & Colorado), where I was introduced to a relatively obscure sport: canyoneering.
Armed with a climbing background and overconfidence, I set out on my newfound passion, where following a couple of close calls and dumb luck, I quickly discovered about the only thing climbing and canyoneering have in common were the helmet and the harness.
Soon after however, I was able to find a training pipeline that allowed me to bring my technical skillset up to my level of ambition. At this point, I was introduced to some rather talented individuals, with amazing canyoneering expertise, and after introducing them to whitewater kayaking, World Falling Away was born.
With the help of my friends, I started World Falling Away as a way to showcase the unique experiences that culminate from mixing a rugged Southwest environment with the most basic of elements — water. Monsoon storms turn canyons that are normally dry into something else entirely once they flash flood, creating canyoneering experiences only for the brave at heart. Spring-filled creeks surrounded by desert provide year-round kayaking where there shouldn’t be any. Late summer alpine lakes become the headwaters for waterfalls so intense they not only test a person’s rope skills, but also how long that individual can hold their breath. World Falling Away is the about experiencing the moment, and letting everything else fade into obscurity.
I currently live in Cortez, Colorado, where I am also an avid mountain biker, trail runner, and ice climber.
Wheelies Rule. Period.
Is it the coolness/radness factor? For sure.
Fun and thrilling? Yep.
We’re back. We pulled into Peterborough, Ontario late one night last week, ending the journey by reversing into the same parking place in which we had loaded up the van one and a half months ago. There was an overwhelming rush of emotion – a strange concoction that never quite revealed what it was, but felt like a bittersweet mixture of relief, accomplishment, emptiness and slight anti-climax. We think they all stemmed from the fact that we never thought we’d actually do it. There were too many variables, too many ways in which something could go wrong. In the end, it all went fine. The things that went wrong had solutions better than the original plan
We last left you on our way to the Grand Canyon. We made it there as planned and cooked ourselves a simple meal whilst watching the shifting light of the sunset slowly leave the canyon floor and then its walls. We returned to Page, Arizona that night but not before seeing the moonrise opposite the setting sun above the eastern side of the canyon. Beautiful symmetry.
As the sun set in the west, the moon rose in the east. Photo by Sam
The setting sun burns up the walls of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Sam
The next morning we drove into Colorado, to Mesa Verde National Park. Robbie, our archaeologist had suggested this stop and we are thankful to him for it. Mesa Verde was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. The park is home to some of the world’s best-preserved Ancestral Puebloan archaeological sites. It was almost as fun to explore the area and listen to the ranger-led talks, as it was to just watch Robbie walk around smiling. Absolutely in his element and so happy about it, his good mood was entirely infectious. We spent two days at Mesa Verde, a stay that unexpectedly became one of our favorites of the entire trip.
Robbie, a happy archaeologist. Photo by Sam
We left Mesa Verde to begin a journey that was ultimately the last homeward leg of the journey. Almost. First, we had one last stop to make – we had been talking about white water rafting for the longest time and our last chance to do that was before we left Colorado. We got out on the Lower Animas River after a period of extended rainfall. The water level had fallen enough for tours to restart just earlier that day. The rapids were insanely fast compared to how we’d imagined they might be and the water still rose to frightening heights at times. We made it though, thanks to the help of an awesome guide, who despite leading us through the most turbulent sections of water, managed to keep us all safely aboard. It was crazy good fun, a great last activity to do together before we got back into prairie country.
A break in the rainclouds, Colorado. Photo by Sam
We zoomed across Nebraska and Iowa to reach Chicago the next evening. It was here that we would be saying goodbye to Dian. She was flying back to Europe ahead of us to take up a great opportunity to work at a Dutch festival that had suddenly presented itself.
Having a quick (long) splash in Lake Michigan the day before Dian’s flight home. Photo by Sam
Saying goodbye hurt. It signaled the end of the road trip and the six weeks of fellowship that the five of us had shared. The journey back to Peterborough that followed was not the same, it was something different – it served no purpose other than getting us home.
The final tally. In a straight line around the equator that’s almost halfway around the world.
We’ve all gone out separate ways now. Robbie home to Scotland for summer, Lara to Indonesia for a research project, Sam to Indiana to visit friends and Ciaran to Washington D.C. to meet up with friends for another month’s worth of North American travels. After so much time together you begin to expect one another’s company forever. Now that we’re all apart it’s comforting to think that the journey we shared and unforgettable experiences that came with it will bind us together strongly enough that ten, twenty or fifty years down the line when we’re all grey and old, we can do it all again.
Of course, we plan the next trip to be much sooner than that – hopefully you can all join us when that time comes. Thanks for reading, and thank you to Osprey for the fantastic gear!
If you’ve never attended the largest ice climbing festival in North America, we can certainly give you a few reasons to come out for the 20th Annual Ouray Ice Fest. This celebration of ice climbing takes place in our beloved backyard of Southwest Colorado, January 8th-11th. Osprey Packs has been attending the Ouray Ice Festival for almost a decade and each year the festival manages to outshine the previous year with exceptional clinics from professional athletes, gear demos from over 20 sponsors, and, most importantly, awe-inspiring ice climbing competitions featuring top competitors from all over the world.
The park itself is an attraction worth seeing — for months preceding the festival, the Ouray Ice Park “Ice Farmers” have been cultivating immaculate, deep blue pillars of ice. The pillars stand a few hundred feet tall, towering above festival-goers in the small box canyon outside of Ouray. The stent of the ice-formed “hallways” provides over 200 ice climbing routes and makes a perfect playground for every ice climbing enthusiast, from skilled professional athletes to aspiring first-timers.
Need another reason to head to Ouray? How about demos from some of the top outdoor industry companies in the sport? Each day of the festival includes the opportunity to demo the latest and greatest from gear and apparel companies like Outdoor Research, Petzl, La Sportiva and of course, Osprey Packs! If you find gear that you like, you can test it out in one of the many clinics offered by San Juan Mountain Guides. All of the clinics offered during the Ouray Ice Festival are taught by world-class ice climbers and athletes, including Conrad Anker, Will Gadd, Kyle Dempster, and Osprey’s very own Ben Clark and Marcus Garcia!
After an exhilarating day of watching the competitions, testing gear and perfecting your ice techniques in the park, you’ll want to check out the additional events happening after-hours in the town of Ouray. There will be a celebratory kick-off on Thursday, a fashion show on Friday and “Prom Night” put on by Petzl on Saturday! Here’s a complete list of events.
Osprey Packs will be located in the Gear Expo area just above the park and we will have several great on-site activities that you won’t want to miss:
Demo our packs: Whether you own an Osprey pack or in the market for a climbing pack, come try out our updated Mutant or Variant packs. Both of these provide unique features that can complete your ice climbing experience, whether it’s in the backcountry or at the park!
Win a pack! Take our 3 minute Event Survey and you will be entered to win an Osprey Packs Limited Edition Trip 20, ideal for multi-pitches, day-hikes and everything in between. We will select a winner each day of the festival at approximately 3 PM.
Fit Specialist on Site: Our staff are the cream of the crop when it comes to finding and fitting the perfect pack for you. Feel free to stop by and ask questions, geek out on our gear, or receive advice on what is best for your upcoming travels, treks & endeavors.
20% off all Osprey Packs at Ouray Mountain Sports: It’s a “Win-Win” if you’ve found the right pack for you: after trying on and testing out a demo pack you’ll receive a 20% off the at local Osprey Packs retailer Ouray Mountain Sports, located conveniently in town.
Clinic With Osprey Athlete Marcus Garcia: San Juan Mountain Guides is a premiere guide company in Southwest Colorado and a longtime partner of Osprey Packs. SJMG works with top-tier athletes from all over the world to bring you the highest quality clinics and experiences. Maximize your experience at the Ouray Ice Festival by signing up for one of SJMG’s clinics, taking place Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday. Most of the clinics are full or filling up rapidly, but check out the remaining clinic, “Introduction to Ice Climbing” with Osprey Athlete and local CO legend, Marcus Garcia.
Don’t delay — get your axe in gear and get to the
20th Anniversary of the Ouray Ice Festival!
20th Anniversary, ben clark, CO, Colorado, Conrad Anker, demo, festival, fitting, ice climbing, January 2015, Kyle Dempster, La Sportiva, Marcus Garcia, Osprey athlete, Ouray, Ouray Ice Fest, Ouray Ice Festival, outdoor research, Petzl, Product, San Juan Mountain Guides, southwest colorado, Trip 20, Will Gadd
I love and I hate farming. It all started with a quest to grow and raise all our own food five years ago. I even remember the last month I needed to actually go to the grocery store – April 2010.
Certainly there are a few key exceptions – coffee for my hubby Jason, chocolate for me, spices that we can’t grow, and life-maintaining Real Salt from Utah – for ourselves and the animals.
But back to the love and hate thing – I adore having this connection to our land, this feeling that we are doing something immensely important, and this incredible sense of self-reliance. Everyday I learn something new that my grandmother must have done her whole life.
She never had to figure out make all this garden/orchard/pasture bounty to last for months – to render lard/tallow, make butter, dry herbs and veggies, can tomatoes, ferment peppers/cucumbers, cure squash/pumpkins/nuts/shallots/onions/animal forages (corn, sunflowers, barley, wheat)….the list is endless.
The days are long, tedious, exhausting – feed, water, harvest, cook, feed, water, irrigate, harvest again, dry, preserve, freeze, jar, vacuum seal. When tasked with putting up all our food for the long winter, quitting is not an option. Skipping out for a bike ride and leaving the tomatoes to freeze and burst or the walnuts to be stolen by the squirrels he “inbox” is never empty.
But in the end, with the root cellar and freezers full of our 10 months of hard labor, we are pleasantly content to enter the long winter. Now finishing our fifth year, it has gotten a bit easier as we have figured out our ancestor’s systems. And while I wish we could take irresponsible vacations together more often, the “prepper” in me feels ready just in case.
In reality, I will most likely just have the world record amount of our farm food in all of my Osprey Packs (Transporters, Ozones, Snowplay) as I travel to my many KEEN Rippin Chix Steep Skiing/Adventure/Powder Camps this winter – Silverton, Crystal, Whitewater, Red Mtn and to anywhere the snow is DUMPING! Join me?
Alison Gannett, autumn, DIY, farm, farming, harvest, holy terror farm, Osprey athlete, Osprey Packs, Rippin Chix, Self-reliance, Steep Skiing Camps, Sustainability, winter
The Telluride Jazz Festival is America’s destination Jazz Event. Since 1977, Telluride’s majestic perch high in the San Juan Mountains has been the site of the annual event produced by Colorado non-profit organization the Telluride Society for Jazz. The intimate format, majestic aesthetic, town-wide programming, and superb music come together to create a truly unique weekend experience.
Osprey will be returning the Telluride Jazz Festival taking place August 1-3 in the beautiful box-canyon town of Telluride, Colorado. This year’s line-up will be nothing short of “Jazztastic” with an array of Jazz talent ranging from the funkified soul-moving sounds of Lettuce to the Jazz classics like Poncho Sanchez & His Latin Jazz Band! Be sure to check out the schedule and full lineup for complete details!
In addition to enjoying performances from world-renowned jazz musicians, one thing you definitely DON’T want to miss is the Osprey booth! We’ll be set-up right next to the stage — so we can talk about packs and wax poetic about jazz while the musicians on stage fill the festival with incredible sounds. Your Jazz experience won’t be complete unless you stop by and say hello!
Here’s what’s happening in the Osprey Packs booth this weekend:
- Fall 2014 Pack Display- This Jazz Festival, we will have a full display of packs that are just hitting our retail stores! You have the advantage of seeing them first! This will include our new climbing series, new 24/7 series, travel and duffel packs as well as the premiere of our ABS compatible Kode pack! See these packs on our website or preferably…just stop by the booth!
- 3 Minute Survey (with the chance to win an Osprey Pack) —Take our three-minute Jazz Festival event survey and automatically be entered win a new Osprey pack — winners will be chosen daily, so come by on any of the three days for your chance to win
- Free onsite sizing & pack advice — Planning a backpacking trip? Interested in our wheeled travel packs? Looking for a good bike commute bag? Visit the Osprey Packs Jazz Team at the during the festival and get answers to any and all product questions you may have. Don’t forget to get fitted by our Fit Gurus!
- All sorts of Telluride Jazz Festival giveaways, including:
Lip balms with SPF 18 to keep your mouth happy & smiling at the festival
Osprey Eco Coozies We are serious about helping you keep your festival beverages cold!
Osprey Packs stickers Show off your Osprey pride!
- A sweet deal: 20% off Osprey packs at Jagged Edge in Telluride — We’ve teamed up with our local Telluride retailer to offer a 20% off our packs in celebration of the Telluride Jazz Festival! Don’t miss out on this chance to get a great new and their shop is right next to the Telluride Park so just a hop, skip, jump away!
They said it was the storm of the century.
On Wednesday we watched the weather as it fell by the feet, crossing our fingers and hoping it would roll into Colorado. On Thursday, the storm blew east, dropping over a foot in 24 hours in the Colorado mountains. Powderhounds throughout the state rejoiced—us included, with reservation. We were stoked that the ski areas on I-70 were getting dumped on, but I-70 wasn’t our destination. Our sights were set southwest of Summit County, way southwest. So far southwest, in fact, that we would be closer to New Mexico than to Vail Pass.
Can you guess where we were headed? Silverton Mountain, Colorado.
The storm flirted with us. It was headed to Silverton, and then it wasn’t. And then it was. And then it stayed. And stormed. And stormed. And stormed.
The storm coated the roads and blocked the visibility and made us—a pack of women, of powder whores, of chicks—giddy with excitement. We threw our fattest skis and warmest coats in our cars and trucks, kissed our people goodbye, and drove into the blizzard. (more…)
What better way to kick off 2014 than with a few jitters, chattering teeth, and a full serving of adrenaline as you carefully choose where to swing your axe next??
That’s what will be happening in the little town of Ouray, Colorado, as people from all over the country travel to Ouray to participate in one of the largest ice festivals in the nation. This will be our 10th year attending and there are MANY reasons we keep coming back!
It will all kick off on Thursday night, January 9th, with presentations and delicious beers brewed in the heart of the San Juan Mountains. (more…)
With snow beginning to fly and temperatures plunging, our cycling season in southwest Colorado is coming to an end. Of course, there is still riding to be done by the lunatics that get out in the snow on their fat bikes and the hard men and women who suffer through frigid temps on the their cyclocross bikes, but the rest of us are packing away the bike gear and dusting off the skis or snowboards. As a Colorado native, I have been through this annual ritual plenty of times, as have most of my Osprey co-workers. This year it was a little harder to let go so we decided to celebrate a terrific year of biking by going out with a bang. The “bang” being a company-sponsored three-day journey around the White Rim in Canyonlands National Park. The White Rim is an iconic ride that circles the Island in the Sky on a mesa above the Colorado and Green rivers in southeastern Utah. Overall distance for the loop is a bit over 100 miles and with the exception of a few relatively short, hard climbs, elevation change is minimal. The lure of riding the White Rim for us was as much about the scenery, camping and camaraderie as it was the actual riding. One person in our group compared the ride to a river trip for cyclists, which is a perfect correlation.
The Osprey trip started on Thursday night where we all convened for dinner at the Moab Brewery and then headed to a campsite near our ride start point. There was definitely some nervous anticipation among those who were on their maiden White Rim voyage. Those of us who are veterans of the trip were constantly bombarded with questions of, “How far is it again?” and “How hard is the trail?” Our team consisted of a mixed crew of riders ranging from experienced riders, to bike commuters who hadn’t spent much time on the trails, but we had confidence that all would come out the other side with flying colors.
After a quick breakfast and some gear shuffling on Friday morning, we started the ride. A few miles of rolling pavement on the highway served as a perfect warmup. Conditions were stellar when we finally turned onto the dirt road and approached the steep Schafer switchbacks dropping off of the Island. The route we would be riding could be seen for miles in the distance and hundreds of feet below us. The thrill of standing atop the mesa at Schafer and seeing the trail drop down the canyon walls, knowing that you will be down there in a matter of minutes, was pretty special. Once everyone was safely down the descent, we naturally settled into smaller groups and rolled on our way, stopping occasionally to soak in the postcard views.
Each day would be a repeat of riding the rolling terrain while straining to maintain a focus on the route without becoming too distracted by the amazing rock formations, towering cliffs, distant mesas and snow-covered LaSal mountains. Multiple stops along the way for sightseeing and adventure broke up the riding segments. Landmarks such as Musselman Arch, White Crack, Murphy’s Hogback and the Holman Slot Canyon were not be missed and we made sure to spend some time enjoying the spectacular landscapes of this region. An exploration down the Holman Slot Canyon resulted in non-stop laughter as we struggled to climb back out of the slickrock canyon. The group up top had a rope and gear to get us out if needed so we were never in real danger, but instead we took on the challenge of an unaided egress.
Afternoons and evenings were a highlight as everyone reconvened at camp. We settled in to celebrate the day’s ride with cold beers, hot food and great story telling. It is amazing how good everything tastes when you have been on the bike all day! Everyone got to learn a little bit more about the people they work beside every day without the distractions of ringing phones, email and text messages. The skies remained perfectly clear making the stars and moon so bright, we barely even needed headlamps.
After three days of riding and two nights of camping, we ascended our way back off of the White Rim and up the intimidating Mineral Bottom switchbacks. Looking up these switchbacks from the bottom was as awe-inspiring as looking down the Schafer switchbacks the first day. The difference is we had to claw our way up these instead of joyfully speeding down. Eventually, each rider celebrated his and her own personal success and reached the upper rim to the cheers of those ahead of them. We laid out one last, well deserved spread of food and basked in the joyous feeling of a mission completed. Even though it was late on Sunday and we all had to drive for a few hours to make it back for work on Monday, it was obvious that no one was really in a hurry to leave. Our legs were tired and we hadn’t showered for days, but I am almost sure that given the opportunity to keep riding and do the whole thing over again, every person would have jumped on their bike and ridden off into the sunset for another lap.