On Aug. 16-18, 2001, 12 people attempted to climb 14 fourteeners in the Sawatch range in 60 hours. Four succeeded. The route is called "Nolan's 14", after Jim Nolan, who determined that this was as many fourteeners as you could get in a 100 mile course (no vehicle transport). The times shown below are for Mike Tilden, who was the first to finish it.
Time Elev. Route
0600 9600 Start at Leadville Fish Hatchery
0822 14421 Northeast ridge to Massive
0929 10500 W scree slope and trail to Halfmoon Creek TH (aid)
1143 14433 NW ridge to Elbert
1350 10000 Bull Hill, Echo Canyon, road to Lake Creek TH (aid)
1601 14336 Lake Creek Trail to La Plata
1739 10260 SW ridge, trail to Winfield (aid)
2029 14003 NW slopes trail to Huron
2212 10900 E basin, Lois Lake to Clohesy Lake (aid)
0052 14067 NW ridge to Missouri
0141 12600 NE scree slopes to Missouri Gulch (aid)
0257 14197 Belford
0355 14153 Saddle to Oxford
0556 11200 S slope to Pine Creek Trail (aid)
0906 14420 NE ridge to Harvard
1136 14073 Frenchman Creek Basin to Columbia
1321 10400 S ridge to N. Cottonwood trail (aid)
1636 14196 N avalanche chute to Yale
1916 9300 Denny Creek trail, road to Avalanche Gulch TH (aid)
0333 14197 CO trail, Maxwell Gulch, NW ridge to Princeton
0704 9420 Grouse Canyon, Alpine trail to Baldwin Gulch (aid)
1103 14269 Baldwin Gulch jeep road to Antero
1340 14155 Browns Lake, NE slopes to Tabeguache
1422 14229 Saddle to Shavano (14 summits in 56:22)
1641 9800 Finish at Blank Cabin Monument
We ran it as a race, but kept in contact with each other and support crews by FRS radio. The other finishers (with times to Shavano) are Blake Wood and John Robinson (57:55), and Jim Nelson (59:06). Robinson had led by as much as an hour during the night traverses of Missouri, Belford, and Oxford but was caught in the morning at Pine Creek. Wood then took over the lead, but the others caught up descending Yale on the second evening. Robinson again took the lead for the second night traverse of Princeton, with the others staying together until morning in Baldwin Gulch. Tilden caught Robinson on Antero and then took over the lead to the finish.
Steve Bremner had originally planned to marry Laila Hughes at the summit of Shavano, but the course was more difficult than he anticipated, so the wedding was hastily moved to the summit of Princeton, where he stopped at 3:50 PM of the last day (57:50). The wedding was attended by Ginny LaForme (the only woman runner) who reached the summit at 1:26 PM, and Eric Robinson (John's brother) who summitted at 2:57 PM. Unfortunately I did not arrive until 7:16 PM (after the 60 hour cutoff) and missed it.
The other runners were Dennis Herr, who made it to Yale, Hans Dieter Weisshaar of Germany, who made it to Columbia, and SP member Steve Simmons, and Simon Shadowlight, who each it to Oxford. Hans, Steve, and Simon had left the course by vehicle and returned to the same spot to continue, so there was some debate afterwards whether all the summits should "count". Hans had to rest after climbing Missouri to recover from some pulmonary edema. He was the oldest runner at age 60.
Steve took an unadvised route down Elbert with serious bushwacking, and was having foot problems so took the night off to resume the next day. He then spend an unplanned night near the Missouri summit when both flashlights went out. After descending Oxford and out of time, there was no convenient way to quit so he hiked another 20 miles on the CO trail south to Buena Vista and hitchhiked to the cabin where we were staying.
In Aug. 1999 Gordon Hardman, Blake Wood, and Fred Vance attempted the route south to north and made 7 summits (Shavano to Harvard) in about 40 hours. Due to miscommunication, they had missed the last two aid stations and had run out of food. Steve Simmons later made a solo attempt without aid or crew in early Sept. with an evening start and climbed 4 summits before having to quit to make his return flight.
In Aug. 2000 we used FRS radios and went north to south as in 2001. There were 6 runners and none finished. Blake Wood made it the furthest, to Princeton (11 summits). I made 10, Eric Robinson made 9, Gordon Hardman made 3, and Jim Nolan and Joe Florio each made one, being turned back from the Elbert summit by thunderstorms.
This is an extremely demanding event requiring excellent endurance, acclimation, and route finding skills. All of the finishers and most of the participants have at least finished the Hardrock 100 mile trail race, which has 33,000 ft. of climb in the San Juan mountains and a 48 hour cutoff. Blake Wood won it one year in 30:11, and the other finishers also have very fast times. I think one has to be capable of a sub-36 hour Hardrock (about top 10%) to have a chance of finishing. (Unfortunately my best time is about 42 hours).
Participants usually arrive at least two weeks early to acclimate, and then train on the course, traversing or climbing each of the fourteeners from both sides to explore different routes, some of which are off trail and not in any guide books. It takes about a month of exploration to do this properly. A GPS is allowed, but you should not depend on it. You must know the course well enough to travel it alone at night with no moon when you are hallucinating from two nights without sleep.
Most of us carried a small daypack or hip pack. We had volunteers supply us with food at several points. Some also had their own crews at the road accessible points at South Halfmoon, Lake Creek, Winfield, Avalanche Gulch, and Baldwin Gulch. The other aid stations had to be hiked in with overnight camps. There is no road access to the four remote aid stations from Huron to Yale, about half of the course.
I carried a hip pack with 2 20 oz. bottles, 2 flashlights (one LED and an incandescent backup, both taking AA batteries), topo maps, compass, duct tape for fixing blisters, caffeine pills, ibuprofin, vaseline, and sunscreen. I did not carry a water filter and drank the water untreated.
I wore up to 4 layers on my upper body: a synthetic T-shirt, long sleeve polypro shirt, 4 oz. nylon windbreaker and another waterproof nylon windbreaker over it, unpadded bike shorts, 4 oz. rain pants, knit cap or painters cap, polypro gloves. When it was warm I tied the clothes around my waist because they would not all fit in my pack and because it bounced less when running.
I wore light trail running shoes, Merrell Sprint Fade, which are designed to be worn without socks. They have a knobby rubber tread which has a good grip on wet rocks. There was no snow in the course, although I think the shoes would be OK in snow.
I can only say that this is one of the hardest things I have ever done. I tried to stay with other runners, but was alone most of the time, except for climbing Missouri with Hans and Yale with Dennis Herr. On the first night I slept about 3 hours in a volunteer's truck at Winfield. I did not sleep the second night when I traversed Harvard and Columbia, getting lost in the moonless night and making a horrible traverse through steep, loose rocks that took 5 hours. After failing to make Princeton within 60 hours, I still had to traverse the summit to take the standard route down, then got lost after dark and took 3 hours to cover one mile on dangerously loose boulders on the steep slopes unable to see beyond the 50-100 ft. range of my flashlight. Every rock wobbled. One table sized rock slid out from under me and I had to jump off.
But we were fortunate to have good weather, only one brief snowstorm on Belford. The stars on Harvard were brilliant, and you could see the clear, crisp outline of the Milky Way. There was nobody for miles. About 11 PM the sky was lit by a brilliant fireball falling to the south and leaving a vapor trail. A few minutes later I heard a faint sonic boom. They never did find the meteorite that fell about 80 miles away.
The Nolan's 14 website with photos, race reports, results, maps, and entry information is here, or if that doesn't work, try this mirror site.