At 13,710′ at 4:41AM and groping for any landmark within a 20′ margin of visibility, moments passed frantically like the winds that whipped me and my friend Kendrick Callaway from side to side. I had been moving for almost 24 hours straight at that point and had just an hour earlier collected a fifth 14,000′+ summit on an obscure mountain path in central Colorado known as Nolan’s 14. Around noon that day a cloud layer settled at 13,000′ and began dumping rain before enveloping the next three summits in a row that I would visit (the last two in the total darkness of night). It was at that moment, 4:41AM, that a small clearing in the clouds revealed a flat basin to the South where two pond-sized lakes shimmered through a muted silvery veil and above us, the summit of 14,075′ Missouri Mountain silhouetted our next steps. In that brief 25 second window, I could see that we were in for a tough night. In the shivering cold I had backed us down the wrong ridge and we now had to go up and over the summit of Missouri Mountain a second time in order to find a certain way down. We were hemmed in by a massive storm cell, which meant that even though we could navigate the correct line forward with my GPS watch, we couldn’t see more than 6-8 feet in front of us until hours away at dawn, which stifled our efforts on the slender unmarked ridge to a crawl over moisture-soaked ground.
The clock was ticking and my patient struggle neared a critical mass of moments where I was running out of time to complete the other seven summits on the 60-hour journey of Nolan’s 14 that I was living on August 25th and those early morning hours on the 26th. Nolan’s 14 is a former ultra marathon race course of near 100 miles in distance that visits 14 summits over 14,000′+ with no set path. Nolan’s 14 has only been finished by seven people a total of eight times and has but one widely accepted social rule: a set time at which all successful attempts are judged, which comes to 14 peaks in under 60 hours. There are no DNF’s on Nolan’s, so you show up and try it and you’re added to a list on website. After this summer of traversing the course and 14 years climbing peaks in and around the area, this was my final exam: part one and what I thought would be a straightforward yes or no navigating at night that turned out to be a multiple choice test of efforts.
I don’t consider myself a runner. I spent a decade pioneering several rock, ice and ski routes mostly in the Himalayas before applying a year’s worth of focus on “running only” to understand what I do about Nolan’s 14. The approach to this ambitious experience has been a long and exacting process encompassing four runs of 50 + miles and two dozen or so 20 + milers in the last 11 months. And all of this from a guy who had never entered a marathon before but ran to train for high mountains my entire life.
When daylight broke around 6:40AM, the clouds remained for another hour and a chilly remorse for missing dinner and rest lingered as fuel for forward motion. We went up the ridge, down the ridge, over sandy sections of meager trail peppered by lichen-covered rocks and clumps of wet grass and sandy patches of pebbles and rocky fins. In running shoes and a full shell top and bottom, dressed as if for skiing, we continued the hunt until finally we saw 14,203′ Mt Belford — the next summit — and made sense of what we could see on other peaks below 13,000′ to determine that our epic was over and the light of a new day arrived with two more summits to gain before dropping into a new valley and below treeline for the first time in 11 hours. It was in the gentle rays of sun that I first saw opportunity again for a resurgence and it was here that my brain rejoined my body and my friends were able to help me make a safe and rational decision in the face of my driving ambition to complete Nolan’s 14, even in what were recognizably near disastrous conditions.
Although moving decently for the situation and having a lot of reserve due to the fact that I could never go too fast in the constantly wet terrain, I knew I could not go forever without true rest and a meal — at least a bowl of pasta and 30 minutes of sleep. To sum it up, I was feeling positive about being halfway at the halfway point even with eight hours lost to weather. As we descended the last summit, 14,106′ Mt. Oxford, to friends camped below in Pine Creek, I took note of my state and the clouds still present over summits eight and nine about to receive their dousing of the day, further adding more wet off-trail terrain that would be painstakingly slow to descend without injury. It seemed a nap might be the only wise thing to do in this case and to hope that when I woke up the mountains would clear.
Having willingly climbed up into and out of three major storms with another one looming large if I continued, I realized that these were not the conditions the other seven finishers had executed in and that I respected the boundaries already being pushed. This was my first time ever moving for 32 hours constantly, I had a 1/4 inch bleeding puncture wound in my left shin, a broken pole, torn gloves and feet that had been wet for 11 hours traversing almost no dry ground in that time and amassing casualties I never took in during the many training runs I did on the course prior in safe and dry conditions. My equipment was not going to and never did fail me having already made it that far in, but I just didn’t know when I would blow up or get really hurt and how that might affect my crew who had so graciously supported me on both ends of the epic section that undid all my padding on the clock. There at treeline, the weight of the scenario lifted from my shoulders as I lay down in the tent Jon and M’lin Miller hiked 7.8 miles in and set up. I slept 26 minutes before my body snapped awake on its own at 12:22PM. I ate some pasta and stepped back into the present situation of being in the middle of a 60-hour mountain traverse and having to make a call. It was clear to me what to do with only 28 and half hours left and at least 25 hours of moving with no errors and the weather forecast more of the same. We had all done our best and for many years in the mountains preceding this, it is not likely that continuing on in those conditions would be safe that much longer.
I had to ask myself: Do I leave it all out here and potentially send these guys in to get me with a broken ankle or arm on Mt. Princeton at 3AM or do I walk out of here and come back in a few weeks with this experience that I can recover from quickly? I’d done 100K and as I write this a day later, I feel awesome for that! I could re-adjust my expectations and stay committed to the old rules of Nolan’s 14 to finish more fourteeners in up to 60 hours and just go with it, possibly fending off more weather, getting off routes of the course I mapped for myself and in the dark and just be done with it, let it go this year, do a few more but not all 14 because of the weather. Most of my friends could stay and they all supported me if I wanted to make that decision, but I’d rather make no excuses, no apologies and no mistake that a course of action like that would not be my best effort this year — or ever. I had gas in the tank and could use this experience to come back in a few weeks and do it better, maybe. I’ll still need luck but I’d rather take a chance at doing it better with all the training I have behind me now. So instead of continuing forward at all costs for a hint of “success” and the mercy of being let go from this committing goal or forever being a failure at getting all 14 in a 60 hour effort, in that little primitive camp at Pine Creek I reveled in the friendship of the amazing crew that supported this endeavor, I marveled at their commitment that every inch of the way inspired me to give every bit of attention to being safe and succeeding — something that I could never do alone. I reflected on a debt of gratitude that warms my heart each moment I realize that in this solitary experience as a human being, together we were all a spirit and together everyone kept me safe. This experience made me feel loved, disappointed, respected… and all in an odd and very unexpected way, it validated to me that I could find the time to do this again next month, that my friends have my back and I have not only the strength to carry on but the spirit of a team I could honor and a goal that I can complete — but do right and within reason.
It is a privilege and a treat to be able to make time for such a thing and it would be silly to complain about having been in this blundering state discovering all the just desserts of a feast of mountains in the middle of Colorado. Please understand, I still dearly enjoyed this time for what it was and wouldn’t change anything. These are mountains and I learned from them, but I’m not done with this. I’ve got 100K of the toughest 100-mile mountain route out there under my belt and for better or worse (no, I actually do not want to have to climb 14,433′ Mt Elbert a 5th time this summer), I plan to set foot there again in September and take one more shot at 60 hours and however many fourteeners I get and if it’s good weather bet I can get all 14. This is my goal this year. It could be just as big a gamble on the weather, but I want to know the outcome for real and not be left wondering the rest of my life what it takes. As comforting as it might be to just go on being a mountaineer, I truly appreciate the art of running and having to transform my passion into an inventive new space that never lets me get too comfortable, never lets me stop exploring. This space between pushing the envelope and sending it that has extended my boundaries further than anything I’ve ever done and shown me results more satisfying than any summit.
Of course here at Osprey, we’d always choose to grab one of our packs and carry it with us to any destination, no matter how far off or close to home. But we’re always excited and flattered to know when others pack an Osprey for an adventure of any kind. In this case, the Osprey Quantum pack was picked by Bicycling.com editor Matt Allyn, who carried it with him to the Tour de France. Here’s what he had to say about it!
Prior to leaving for Corsica to cover the 100th running of the Tour de France, I was searching for a backpack that would suit my needs as a one of Bicycling’s videographers for the race. I needed to haul a 15-inch laptop and an assortment of production gear, including my DSLR, microphones, cables, and adaptors. That made the Quantum my top choice. The pack includes plenty of pockets to stow and organize my gear. The zippers have handy pull-tabs that made accessing the main compartment easy. The ridged back panel was comfortable and breathable even with the backpack completely full. The laptop sleeve has a 15.4-inch capacity and it held my 15-inch computer securely. An additional sleeve kept my iPad safe and I used the internal zippered pockets for smaller items like keys, a GoPro camera, and iPhone chargers. A few other travel friendly features: side compression straps to secure small loads, side pockets for water bottles, and a removable waist strap.
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” refers to a notion that a complex idea or large amounts of data can be conveyed or absorbed with a single image. While that may be true, I would argue that the saying relates to me in that a picture is worth a thousand words of inspiration, to go see that place or do that thing. Here in the outdoor community, we are continually exposed to many amazing photos of landscapes and destinations, with people doing activities we do or wish we could do. I have to admit many of my trips have been motivated by seeing a photo of a lake surrounded by mountains or red-orange desert canyon, and then I plan a backpacking trip to an alpine lake, or realize it’s been too long since I rappelled down a sandstone cliff. But my favorite images are the ones that inspire me to do something new, an activity I’ve never done, or a place I’ve never been to.
Last spring I saw a picture on one of our athlete’s Instagram pages. It was Timmy O’Neill doing a via ferrata in Telluride with some friends before the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. They were all in their best ballerina poses, with the ground far below them. Our headquarters is only an hour and a half from Telluride but I’d never heard of a via ferrata there. Via ferrata is Italian for “iron road,” but in climbing, these are typically routes across or up rock walls in which you enlist steel cable to secure yourself to and installed ladders, steps or bridges to travel on when there are no rock steps. They are more popular in Europe than the U.S. but there are a couple scattered around here nonetheless. After seeing Timmy’s picture, I did a quick Google search and found a route description on SummitPost.org. Turns out it was built by Chuck Kroger in the mid-2000s. A local climbing legend, Chuck forged and fabricated the iron steps himself and finished the route just before he passed away from cancer in 2007. It is named the Krogerata in his honor.
After sharing Timmy’s photo with two of my friends here at Osprey Packs, we decided that the morning before a music festival we were going to in Telluride’s Town Park last summer we would go find this via ferrata and do it. After the weekend, we shared pictures with the office and our own social media sites from the trip. People got excited about it and asked details, but like too many adventures, people put it to the back of their mind and didn’t just go do it. Than this summer, a year later, the three of us were again going up to Telluride for another music festival and remembering the buzz our trip across the via ferrata created and how much fun we had. I sent out an all-office e-mail with pictures from last year and basically said ‘We are going here, we are doing this, meet here, at this time, on this date, I’ve got gear, you bring beer’.
You know you work with cool people at a cool company when you get a huge email response from everyone, but you really know it’s a cool group of people when 14 of them actually show up the next morning. After some gear dispersion and a quick safety/procedure talk, we set off. We got all fourteen across, some had never slid on a climbing harness before and had plenty of the ol’ shaky leg on the exposed sections. We all had fun, we all felt accomplished and it personally felt good for the three of us to introduce something new to those eleven friends and co-workers.
Here’s what Lindsey Beal had to say after putting on a harness for the first time ever:
“As we were traversing the most exposed part of the Via Ferrata my Elvis legs really started to kick in. Every muscle in my body was shaking. A big thank you to the veteran climbers in front of me who were physically moving my carabineers for me and to the continuous words of encouragement from those right behind.”
So next time you see that epic Jimmy Chin photo or your friend posts a picture from her recent mountain bike trip to Crested Butte and your first reaction is: “I want to do that!” Hold on to that excitement, that motivation and do it. Or if you’re someone like me who doesn’t always lack the motivation but likes to share the adventure and see the excitement when people try something new or go somewhere they’ve always wanted to go then send out that picture worth a thousand words of inspiration and say ‘We are going here, we are doing this, meet here, at this time, on this date, I’ve got gear, you bring beer’.
-Chris Horton, Osprey Product Guy
Find inspirational pictures and follow us on Instagram
Also Osprey Athlete Timmy O’Neill
And Osprey Product Guy Chris Horton
Everyone has one or two unbelievable experiences in their life that they will remember forever. The kind of experience that makes you look around and think: “Wow, this is actually happening.” In many cases, we may work a lifetime to achieve these moments. Other times, they are completely unpredictable and just sort of happen.
In this case, I’m going to tell you a story of the unpredictable and just sort of happened kind. It all started with an e-mail in my inbox titled “WINNER,” one that I would normally write off as Spam and ignore completely. But this e-mail was from Osprey, who I had recently entered in a Facebook contest with to win a trip to the Telluride Jazz Festival. Things like this never happen to me, I was dreaming. After asking the nearest person to pinch my arm, I read the details and enthusiastically responded to the message. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, flight and lodging confirmations arrived in my inbox and a cardboard bundle of joy containing an Osprey Ozone 22 bag and Comet pack landed on my doorstep. It was real. I was going to the Telluride Jazz Festival.
The days couldn’t go by fast enough. I spent my evenings Googling popular restaurants and searching for nearby hikes, listening to jazz on Pandora and dreaming of the cool Colorado mountain air. August 2nd finally came, and bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I left my home in Lake Tahoe for a whirlwind weekend in the San Juan Mountains. When I arrived in Denver for a layover and met up with my plus one, my friend Ashley, the wow, this is actually happening started to take over my entire body. After one final flight to Montrose and a gorgeous car ride into the valley of Telluride, I was in full disbelief.
After a quick geek-out over our epic condo in Mountain Village, we high-tailed it down to the festival; we didn’t want to miss the “Spirits Tasting” or any of the evening entertainment. Five samples of miscellaneous liquor and two Tempter IPAs later, the alpenglow started to simmer on the peaks surrounding our venue and the good vibes started to flow throughout the entire valley. It was my first time to Telluride and I had no idea such a small town could nonchalantly carry so much charisma and personality. There couldn’t be a better setting for such a brilliant event.
The rest of the weekend wasn’t any less incredible. We tasted local food, watched some truly amazing musicians and visited the iconic Bridal Veil Falls. Best of all, we met a bouquet of people from all different walks of life, each with an interesting story and unique reason for finding themselves at Telluride Jazz. When Sunday came around, although I felt completely satisfied and successful with our weekend, I was not ready to wake up from my dream.
Monday morning, I zipped up my pack and quietly stood in the village waiting for our ride to the airport, sipping in my last breaths of Rocky Mountain air and contemplating my good fortune. I still can’t believe that all just happened. Thank you Osprey, Elevation Vacations and the organizers of the Telluride Jazz Festival. I will remember this forever.
The happy winner of our Telluride Jazz Festival Contest, Margo Stoney, wrote this aprés-Fest blog post. Margo works as a graphic designer at Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe where she eats, breathes and lives the mountain culture. She fills her days (and nights) with snowboarding, longboarding, mountain biking, camping, beer, huevos rancheros, hanging with her dingo dog and, of course, long walks on the beach. Follow Margo on Twitter and Instagram @highmtncreative.
It was supposed to be an epic tour, but it turned into more of a epic base camp tour, just like the Tour de France that was happening at the same time. Our goal was to ski as many kilometers and climb as many vertical feet as we could in three weeks. The vertical was a little more difficult as our home was around 8,000 feet and the mountains go up to 17,000 in the High Andes, requiring a lot more distance to gain any altitude.
We were given an amazing opportunity to ski in Chile. The original plan was to bus to Argentina, but sometimes is just ain’t meant to be. Our flight was late and we missed our bus-taxi connection. So with little knowledge of the language or currency, we got trapped into taking a taxi to nowhere, and had to return to a hostel in Santiago with nothing gained.
Luckily we had a local contact at Valle Nevado/El Colorado/La Parva and made good use of it, staying in a little snowy undisclosed hideaway for the remainder of our trip. It might have been a rough few weeks for the locals staying at the hut, because touring a minimum of four hours for 20 straight days wasn’t exactly good for foot odor!
Jumping back to the first day on the hill, we scored a classic side country lap of Santa Teresa. It was great to connect with the G3 engineers and be shown some local stashes, namely a 45-minute tour for a 2,000′ run. Then we could hitchhike back for another lap or ski tour back to the hut, over and over. Hitching back up to Valle Nevado was a safe bet, but be warned, you don’t how fast the driver will go! Hold on.
Unlike at the strict resorts in North America, we were pleasantly surprised that we could tour on the rope line up to the tops of the lifts in La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado and not get hassled. Just stay out of the way.
The skiers we met were classic, but dare I forget my favorite tours with the local wild dogs. Pedro followed us up Tres Peuntes and summitted a 12,000′ peak, even breaking trail for us in the new snow. Zudnik toured with us from Valle Nevado to La Parva and scared every single skier along the way.
Once we got in the groove and acclimatized, we were able to step up and ski some of the higher peaks, Cerro Parva and Pintor. They yielded endless ski lines on all aspects, including some mandatory ice sheet ski lines for good measure. That, and with the low snow levels and spring like weather, rock sharks were lurking all over the place, and they bite. Helmets highly recommended.
The highlight of the trip was a much-needed dump of light, dry snow that we milked for five days with bluebird sunny skies.
250 km of ski travel
55,000 feet ascended on skis
80,000 feet descended on skis
I would like to thank some sponsors and people who made the trip possible: G3 Genune Guide Gear, Eddie Bauer/First Ascent, Osprey packs, Ryder’s Eyewear, Intuition liners, Innate bottles, Suunto watches and Dissent Lab compression socks. Another big thanks to the G3 crew, Ben Dill, Martine, and the drivers in Chile for the rides up to Valle Nevado.
Story by Andy Traslin
Nothing like an alien brain tumor the size of tennis/baseball to spice up my summer! For the past two years, I had noticed that my coordination and memory were just not spot on, but I attributed it to stress and my insane work, play and farm schedules. But starting in February, things began to get very strange: First I fell asleep at the wheel about a hundred times from the Outdoor Retailer show to Silverton, Colorado. Then I forgot to pack entirely for my three week Canadian adventures and my KEEN Osprey Rippin Chix Camps at Crystal Mtn, Red Mtn and Whitewater. I ceased to pay all house bills, insurance or do any invoicing or sponsor updates and, what’s worse, didn’t even notice. I actually forgot to catch a plane to Reno where I was the keynote speaker for Microsoft and a roomful of CEOs. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was on June 30th when I almost burned the house down cooking our piggy’s bacon for breakfast. While I was oblivious to my actions and just moving through life like everything was normal, Jason was most definitely freaked out by my behavior. It was if there was another person who now inhabiting my body.
After I just about killed myself with the now infamous bacon incident, Jason called our local rural Paonia doctor and begged for something to be done immediately. Dr. Meilner obliged and called every hospital within a two hour radius to see who could perform a CAT scan at midnight on a Saturday night. Finally Saint Mary’s in Grand Junction could take us, and Jason coaxed my almost lifeless body out of bed and into our ancient Subaru. Strangely, the alien tumor made a potent move at that point, and about the last thing I remember was directing Jason to where the hospital was located. Next thing I knew it was two days later, I was suddenly entering surgery at the Ann Shutz neurosurgery center at University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora. I couldn’t understand why all my family had flown or driven in to see me — luckily I didn’t comprehend the papers I signed, as this surgery is most deadly (hence the sudden arrival of all the family). Next thing I knew, I woke up in the ICU, which was a scene out of the bionic woman TV show, and my brain was clear and sharp. Immediately I demanded my dental floss, much to the glee of the hospital staff, my friends and family, and especially Jason who had not left my side; my feisty normal self was back! Again, I had not known that many people take several years to recover their memories and often have partial paralysis, although I did have amnesia from the bacon moment onward and most of June was a more than a bit blurry.
I’ve been out of the hospital for just over a month now, and can’t believe how fast the recovery is — way easier than it was for eight ACL/meniscus/articular cartilage knee surgeries! I’m back to working planning the upcoming ski and bike seasons, which I love (thanks Osprey!), walking and hiking, lots of farm work and joyous harvesting, fracktivating and planning a big keynote speech next week for the EPA, The Whitehouse and The Green Sports Alliance. More than anything, I notice the wonderful little things in life — a great night’s sleep in a comfy bed, petting the dogs, eating our amazing food and kissing my amazing guy. I’ve reflected on how amazing my life has been — how I have gone after everything like it could have been my last opportunity. And even though I am a bit petrified for my full body PET scan and three spinal MRI’s on September 6th, I feel confident that my neurosurgeon, my naturopath and my naturopathic oncologist Dr. Nasha Winters and my Ketogenic Diet with the Namaste Health Center in Durango will take me to a whole new level of health and well-being. Cheers to this wonderful life — the sky is blue and there is a big puffy white cloud that is so pretty, and I’m actually able to go eat four squares of organic dark baking chocolate right now!
Ever wonder who’s riding where within the bounds of our United States? The good news is, more and more Americans are forgoing their gas-powered vehicles and pedaling for transportation. What’s more, according to this graphic, some cities are slated to garner some serious protected bike lanes, which is something we all have to look forward to. Take a look at the photo above to learn a bit more about the statistics of our state’s bicycle riders, via Bicycling Magazine.
In 1999 I guided in Bolivia’s Cordillera Real mountains for two months. I’ve wanted to go back ever since. This year I was lucky to return with Glenn, Paul and James. We’ve been on many trips together including Denali, Marcus Baker, Bona, Mount Logan, Ecuador, Iliamna Volcano, Arctic Refuge and the Central Talkeenta Mountains. Our motivation for Bolivia was to get Glenn above 20,000 feet. See more photos here: www.stockalpine.com/posts/bolivia.html.
We based our trip out of La Paz, the world’s highest capital city. La Paz sits in a valley ranging from 10,500 feet to 13,500 feet. The wealthy live at warmer, lower elevations. The poorer live in El Alto, which sprawls across the altiplano above La Paz.
Paul on our three-day acclimatizing trek. Some valleys had hundreds of llamas milling about.
Descending from our first summit, the dramatic Pequeno Alpamayo (17,600′).
Huayna Potosi is 6,088 meters. The problem is that it equates to 26 feet short of Glenn’s coveted 20,000 feet. We still had fun climbing the knife-edge summit ridge of Huayna Potosi (19,974′).
Glenn feeling the hard turf of a yareta plant while hiking into Nevado Sajama. Many yareta are over 3,000 years old.
A VERY stoked Glenn gasping around the crater rim to the summit of Parinacota. Eight hundred and twenty seven feet over 20,000! Tick! Congrats Glenn!
Six hours into our “run,” Rhonda Claridge and I arrived on pace to the summit of Colorado’s 14,425′ Mt Harvard. Climbing to the fourth 14,000′+ summit of the day, we had played our hand in a limited window of time — it has been a tricky wet summer and multiple dry summits were a rare treat. But soon, while crouched in the nook of two frozen boulders harboring snow from the previous day and checking my GPS track, waves of frozen and mixed rain would plummet from the sky and to the southwest a hulking cloud front would devour the mountain a thousand feet at a time and rapidly envelope our position. I could tell you exactly where we were but nothing of where we were to go as we traversed shortsighted through complicated terrain led by the occasional stack of rocks 80′ in front of us. Fear and weather advanced upon us and here on Harvard’s airy summit ridge in an August winter storm, the certainty that we were high and wild sunk in. “I am not this type of adrenaline junkie,” I thought. These days I am looking for challenges and not all-out battles… but stopping to question philosophy gets you nowhere when it’s time to navigate a mountain, so I returned to primal instincts, we groped our way down and resumed course toward the target of this training day — the last day in my schedule for such an epic.
We had gone fast and carried light equipment to cover this ground in the heart of Colorado’s Sawatch mountain range. Rhonda and I were searching for the most direct way to climb these five “14′ers” — the affectionate term for 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado of which there are 54 official 14′er summits. As Walden-esque as traipsing through meadows and rugged forests may sound, we were now lost in an alpine world with no visibility and frozen hands, being suckered into the lore of an obscure challenge longer on ambition even than our present day’s objective. The challenge is Nolan’s 14, an unofficial race course born out of a conversation between two Hardrock runners, Matt Mahoney and Fred Vance, who ran together during the late stages of a 100-mile mountain run in Southwest Colorado in the late 90s, and their acquaintance, Jim Nolan, who coined the line of 14 14′ers in one stretch “Nolan’s 14.” Since 1999, only seven finishers have found that Nolan’s 14 is a mountain path that can be reasonably traveled on foot in a time of slightly less than 60 hours. If you’re one of them, then Matt Mahoney will put your name on a website. To understand how on earth anyone could possibly see a point to this, I have traveled 104 miles, 50,863′ of vertical gain and 52,251 in loss in these mountains in seven weeks, searching for the most efficient path between 14′ers Mt. Massive and Mt. Shavano — the beginning and end of this mountain oddity/odyssey.
I spent a dedicated year running in the mountains and enlisted Nolan’s 14 finisher and coach Matt Hart to fine tune my body in the hopes that I could be a finisher. I slowly ran five Ultra Marathons in nine months, followed by a busy summer collecting 32 summits in less than 50 days. There were weeks totaling 90+ miles and 30,000′+ of vertical in training where ambition became tempered by respect for the mountains and the balance of being a dad, husband and business owner. I showed up to the mountains as a working minimalist, carrying everything I need for precisely the moments we encountered but with the expectation that at all times I can and must continue moving.
Things can slow to a grinding halt while you’re lost in a boulder field, acrobatically navigating move after move between teetering rocks and precipices. Usually, though, you’re still moving forward, like when I got us lost descending off the summit of Harvard. The same will to succeed heading in a lost direction we negotiated that day would come in handy during the attempt. Carefully and cautiously, four hours and 46 minutes from the summit of Harvard, we managed to emerge out of the mountains in the bed of a black truck that let us hitch a ride into the valley after coming in four hours after our expected exit. We had descended cold and damp from two more summits — a 13,506′ peak and our final objective — 14,073′ Mt Columbia totaling 11,600′ of vertical gain for the day and soaked by a second storm on Columbia that reduced us to walking with great hesitation through muck and mire, sharpened stone and roots before running 3.7 miles out to a trailhead. This was August 8th, my last long training day on Nolan’s 14. I’m happy we stayed committed to grabbing the final summit, we’ll have to do the whole thing over again in the dark in a few weeks!
Since June 25th, I have explored the informal race course of Nolan’s 14 first hand, peice by peice in 5 “20 mile”sections and several smaller ones. Following pre-established routes set when up to 15 people at at time attempted this path from 1999-2001 in an unofficial race, I discovered a roughly 86 mile route with 44,000 vertical gain and some room for the unavoidable errors that will occur to finish in under the 60 hour cutoff time. All in, my “moving time only” projections are that it can be done in 41 hours, but not by this guy. I have put in eight days this year, five with over 6:30 hours of run time, and 29 more since 1999 when I discovered my first 14′ers in this range — starting with the formidable Mt. Princeton and wandering onto the 13′ers before attempting this. In 37 days on and around these peaks, I hope that with a few more, I can tell you that this line is possible to do safely in an amount of time closer to 60 hours.
I want to complete the course and observe the rules of the former race concept even though it is a daunting logistical support effort for one person running, hiking and climbing a continuous line up and down 14,000′ mountains that spans a highway that starts in Leadville, Co. and takes vehicles an hour and half to drive to Poncha Springs. I want to do it because far from that highway and far from any elevation profiles or historical stipulations, Nolan’s 14 is a journey that explores the heart of Colorado’s fourteeners and pushes an individual backed by a support team to meet the odds. Unlike the unofficial runs from 1999-2001, while the remoteness and fatigue set in, the runner must also be directing a moveable expedition. It is here that a group of friends will meet me in valleys and high summits and help me along the way as I wind my way North to South on a journey unlike any I’ve taken.
On August 25th, 2013 I plan to begin running from Leadville, Co. and to head south on foot only for two and half days with rest if the weather is good. If there is bad weather, I’ll adjust expectations accordingly. I’m not doing it to prove anything, raise money for charity or set the world on fire with an amazing time under 60 hours (who knows if I’ll even come close). I’m doing it because I’m curious If I can, if luck will be my side. I did the training and I learned that if I found time to visit so many places in the high mountains I otherwise would never have gone, then I’d be a fool not to take a look and at least see what I might learn from the last step. I’m 34 years old today and it has been a privilege, I may not have a chance like this again. I look forward to the attempt because I have truly enjoyed seeing what is out there and believe it is possible, and that the guys who finish might be nuts, a claim I may not be able to back if I haven’t been there myself! Either way, a whole group of us will be getting outside and enjoying Colorado’s 14′ers for a few days!