There were 12 starters and 4 finishers at Nolan's 14
on Aug. 16-18. The run crosses the Sawatch range in
Colorado with 14 summits over 14,000 ft, 45,000 ft. of
climb, and only 56 miles if measured along straight
lines, but closer to 100 miles along practical routes.
You can choose any route between summits. There are 8
aid stations and a 60 hour time limit, some of which
had to be backpacked in up to 10 miles. There were no
finishers during the previous 2 years.
Mike Tilden was first on Shavano, the last summit,
followed by Blake Wood, John Robinson, and Jim Nelson.
I don't have times, but they were at the bottom in
the last hour of the time limit, although the finish
line is at the top and it probably took about 1-2
hours to descend. Robinson led for most of the first
day, with Wood on the second day. They wisely stayed
together during the second night. They did not stop
We were very fortunate with the weather. There was a
strong west wind which brought in cool, dry air to
supress the normal afternoon thunderstorms. However I
did get about 20 minutes of snow with gale force winds
during a brief storm on the second afternoon while I
was climbing Belford (summit #6). Temperatures ranged
from about high 20's to 60's above 14,000 ft. and up
to the high 70's at the lower elevations.
Steve Bremner and Laila had planned to get married on
the summit of Shavano, but the race turned out tougher
than he planned, and the wedding was moved to
Princeton (#11), which he reached at 4 PM Saturday (58
hours). Laila only climbed Massive (#1) with the
group on Thursday morning and Princeton. This was all
coordinated by the FRS radios that we all carried.
Steve Bremner and Dennis "animal" Herr ran together
for much of the race. They are very fast and good
climbers, but took too much time sleeping. I caught
up to Animal at the start of Yale (#10) at 48 hours,
where we bushwacked up a steep avalanche chute and
found aircraft wreckage that had probably been there
for years. Steve has climbed just about all the 14ers
in Colorado, including some winter technical routes.
Ginny LaForme and Eric Robinson made it to Princeton
also. Ginny was the only woman in the race. She has
run Hardrock, Eco Challenge (8.5 days), and is a rock
climbing instructor and former nationally ranked
weightlifter (80 kg clean and jerk, 60 kg snatch).
Hans Dieter Weisshaar of Germany was about an hour
behind me on the first three mountains (Massive,
Elbert, La Plata) and I would have waited for him on
La Plata but it was getting dark and I wanted to get
off the difficult summit rocks and on to the better
trail before I had to use my flashlight. I got to the
Winfield aid station at 11:30 PM and slept 4 hours,
asking them to wake me when Hans got there so we could
coordinate plans to climb Huron (#4) together and make
the difficult descent after sunrise. He was not ready
at 3:30 AM and told me to go ahead. I waited for him
at the next aid station at Cloises Lake and we climbed
Missouri (#5) together starting at 11:30 AM Friday,
but he had pulmonary edema and was very slow. He
described it as being very weak, and a feeling of
fullness in his lower lungs. It took us 2.5 hours to
climb from 11,000 to 14,000 ft., about an hour longer
than normal. He hiked out Missouri Gulch and came
back the next day after recoving to climb Belford,
Oxford, Harvard, and Columbia (#6-9).
Hans was the oldest runner, at 61. Last year he set
the record for the most 100 mile finishes in a year,
20 including Hardrock. However this year, Monica
Scholz of Canada (who holds the women's record at 16)
is trying to break this record with 22. This weekend
she ran Leadville in 27 hours, the first of 9
consecutive weekends of 100 mile races.
Simon Shadowlight reached Huron at noon Friday (30
hours), way behind the other runners, left the course
to sleep, then returned to continue through Columbia
without aid station support. He qualifed by
volunteering last year (rather than finishing
Hardrock), and had no real running experience.
Steve Simmons arrived with no altitude acclimation or
experience on the course. He ran with Ginny, Eric
Robinson and me on Massive, then took an hour at the
aid station and climbed Elbert alone. He took the
wrong descent route, bushwacking down a draw instead
of the trail down from Bull Hill. He dropped out due
to wrinkled feet (he has very thick callouses), but
then decided to continue the next day without aid
station support. He started at noon Friday (day 2),
climbed La Plata, reached Huron at sunset and made the
difficult descent down steep loose rocks and
bushwacking below treeline in darkness. On the summit
of Missouri in the middle of the night his flashlight
went out and he had to sleep with just a space blanket
on the summit in very cold but dry conditions, unable
to downclimb in the moonless night. In the morning he
climbed Belford and Oxford, without water until he got
to the stream at Pine Creek. However instead of
hiking out the 10 miles to the nearest road and
radioing to get picked up, he was out of FRS range and
walked 20 miles on the Colorado trail and then
hitchhiked to the race HQ cabin in Buena Vista a few
The moonless night made it very difficult to navigate.
Normally in daylight above treeline (11,800 ft) you
can see terrain for miles and easily figure out which
direction to go, but at night your entire world is the
range of your flashlight, about 50 feet. I reached
Harvard at 10 PM using the NW ridge, a route I haven't
tried before, but which worked well. But I got off
course on the familiar route to Columbia and it took 5
hours when it should have taken about 2. The route is
about 2 miles on mostly grassy tundra, from 14,420 ft
down to 12,600 and back up to 14,000. However the
route I took crossed boulder fields and climbed a lot
of dangerously loose rocks, scree, and talus. It was
impossible to find the correct route given that there
is no trail. I reached Columbia at 3 AM and
bushwacked down the steep south ridge to reach the N.
Cottonwood aid station at 6 AM without sleep on the
I had finished 10 summits on pretty much the same
schedule as last year, 55 hours. But instead of
stopping, I tried to make it to Princeton with 5 hours
remaining. It was a long hike to the start of the
climb at Maxwell Gulch, about 10 miles, so when I got
there I had less than 2 hours to climb 4500 ft. I
went anyway but only made it to about 12,500 ft. when
the 6 PM cutoff expired, but I still had to go over
the summit to reach the east ridge trail to get picked
up. There was a storm to the north but all I got were
strong winds and a few snow flurries. I reached the
summit at 7:16 PM and started descending the horribly
steep trail, cursing as I stumbled over loose rocks
and slipping on loose dirt and falling on my butt. I
tried going directly over the rocks to reach the
better trail below, but as it got dark I lost sight of
the landmarks I was using to navigate. I ended up
having to very slowly traverse miles of a steep
hillside covered with dangerously loose boulders. One
boulder the size of a table slid out from under me and
I had to jump off. In the tiny world lit by my
flashight, I could see only rocks in all directions.
I did not know if the trail was above or below me.
Charlie Thorn was going to pick me up, and I was going
to ask him to walk out on the trail with his light,
but the ridge blocked the radio signals. I was able
to contact Jim Nolan, but he had miles to drive over
slow jeep road to get to the trailhead. I thought to
myself "please God, let me get out of this alive".
Last night on Harvard I saw several meteors including
a giant fireball to the south as bright as the moon,
leaving a vapor trail, and about 2 minutes later, a
faint "boom". I had not seen such a bright fireball
since I was 7. Was this an omen?
As it got colder and windier, I thought it was safer
to descend rather than climb, and by luck I found the
trail after moving only a few hundred feet in an hour.
"Thank you, God". The trail was worse than
Massanutten's Short Mountain, but vastly better than
the alternative. I arrived at Charlie's truck at
10:30 PM, over 64 hours.
-- Matt Mahoney, matmahoney@...
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