Fast Times (and aesthetic lines) - Page 3
Nolan's 14 in Colorado's Sawatch Range rebuffed all suitors in 2013. Will a new FKT go down in 2014? Photo by Matt Trappe
Nolan’s 14 is a point-to-point route of about 100 miles that traverses 14 14ers in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountains. Athletes who try Nolan’s 14 can choose any route they wish, as long as they summit the designated 14ers. Nolan’s 14 hopefuls use a combination of singletrack, unkempt mining trails, dirt roads and cross-country travel. Let’s be accurate—most of the trek is cross country. The route’s high altitude wrecks bodies and attracts severe weather. And, finally, the creators of the Nolan’s 14 line, ultrarunner Fred Vance and mountaineer Jim Nolan, established a 60-hour time limit to reach the last summit.
The route is so absurd that few men or women have the cajones to give it a shot. In fact, only seven people—all men—have completed the line in under 60 hours. The fastest guy was John Robinson, in 2002, in 54 hours 57 minutes. (Just in case you need more evidence that Robinson is baller, the FKT was his second Nolan’s 14 finish.)
Eric Lee, a 32-year-old research scientist from Boulder, Colorado, is the most recent of the seven Nolan’s 14 finishers. Says Lee of his 2012 battle, “While spending two sleepless nights on the trail was difficult, the relentless thin air of high altitude took the biggest toll. The most memorable part of the adventure was how all three sunrises brought the mountains to life in different ways.”
Last summer, according to the Nolan’s 14 website, six people made a total of eight attempts. Colorado Springs, Colorado’s Julian Smith came closest to success. He finished 12 14ers before reaching the 60-hour time limit, where he then called his effort a day (well, uh, two-and-a-half days).
The 47-year-old engineer says, “I’m a mid-packer, not the fastest out there.” But Smith is an ultrarunner who has twice completed the Hardrock 100, often considered the hardest 100-miler in the U.S., and has a history in rock, ice and mountain climbing. “Nolan’s is twice as hard as Hardrock,” says Smith. “Remember, Hardrock is 13 climbs up high-mountain passes with Handies Peak, a 14er, thrown in. Nolan’s is 14 summits over 14,000 feet. Not only do you go up higher more times, but the terrain of Nolan’s is much harder, too. Less trails and more exposed places where you could fall and really hurt yourself.”
Smith plans to again join the small, almost-insane corps of men and women who will brave the route in the summer of 2014. “I have a ridiculously bad habit of picking up challenges without giving them much thought.”