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Peak(s):  Mt. Massive  -  14,427 feet
Mt. Elbert  -  14,438 feet
La Plata Peak  -  14,344 feet
Huron Peak  -  14,006 feet
Missouri Mountain  -  14,071 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,202 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,158 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,424 feet
Date Posted:  09/07/2016
Date Climbed:   09/04/2016
Author:  warg
 An introduction to Nolan's 14   

"Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea."
Author: Leigh Bardugo
"If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing it badly."
Author: Martha N. Beck

A June scouting trip up the Grouse Canyon route on Princeton. Inspired for Nolan's 14!!

Nolan's 14 started as a bad idea for me in 2016. As last year had been the "Year of the Manitou Incline" (you can read those stories elsewhere), 2016 was supposed to be about "no new goals!" However, as it turned out I ended up with some free time over the summer - and free time in the mountains for me always seems to lead to new goals!

Once the idea had taken hold, I started scouting routes. The event is advertised as a 100 mile course, and I immediately went to work on figuring out how to cut the distance. I have no ultrarunning experience, so the shorter (and steeper) the course, the better for me. After getting some ideas on routes, I started putting peak combinations together, with more and more success.

Still having fun on La Plata Peak, 9:30 into my training run.

Finally in July I felt like I was up for a good training challenge, and when I saw a good weather window opening up, I set up a tent in Rockdale and headed back to the Leadville Fish Hatchery for an early morning start on Massive. I had stashed a gatorade bottle and two energy bars at Echo Canyon (N side of Elbert), but other than that I carried what I needed and filtered water twice.

The day went very smoothly: Massive at 2:13, Elbert at 5:21, La Plata at 9:30, Huron at 13:49 and Clohesy Lake at 15:27. I was super excited with the times, and had a growing optimism about how the actual event would go. Then it was back down the road to Rockdale for a nights sleep before taking the Colorado Trail back to the Fish Hatchery the next day. Great training!

August gave me the opportunity to combine the middle peaks in a training run. I spent the first day scouting a new route on Princeton from the North, and made it to within 15 minutes of the top when a hail storm came out of nowhere. As the rocks were getting wetter by the minute, and as I had my route figured out, I called it a day on that one. But it did give me some good mileage going into the evening, when I wanted to start my training run. I was hoping to have a bit of the feeling of being tired already starting into that middle section.

This time I got dropped off at Rockdale and hiked the three miles up to Clohesy Lake for an 8:30pm start time.

Heading up Columbia during training.

All in all, this trip went really smoothly as well: Missouri at 1:33, Belford at 2:50, Oxford at 3:28, Harvard at 6:56, Columbia at 9:41, Yale at 13:09 and the Avalanche Trailhead at 15:16, all unsupported.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't sooooo easy!

All in all I was full of confidence, feeling in great shape, and ready to take on the Nolan's challenge! And then Colorado weather started to throw some curve balls. The end of August seems to open season on Nolans, and I watched as attempt after attempt was impacted by the weather. I set a date and had everything lined up, only to have to cancel as I watched the forecast go from bad to worse. I made some adjustments seeing that semi-clear skies were coming, and set another date. I did notice that the clear skies were a result of strong winds, but it just didn't register much at the time.

Finally came start day: Sep 4, 2016. My wife Dara was my main support crew, but a BIG thanks go out to friends Walt and Diane Hall for their support, and for my buddy Caleb Braun who met me on top of Oxford in the middle of the night!

Heading out of the Fish Hatchery at 7:10am.

Weather was crummy leading up to the event, and we woke up to some fog that was supposed to burn off - a chance of weather up high but then clear skies. So, I decided that this was the time! I had a SPOT that I had used just a couple weeks before - I loaded it with new batteries, turned it on and set it to track. All the buttons were blinking correctly, but as it turned out nothing was transmitting. What a bummer to find that out three mountains later! At any rate, I got a 7:10am start out of the Fish Hatchery, headed south to Shavano!

#1 Massive - And yes, I'm collecting my Which Wich sandwiches as well!

A good storm did indeed roll in on top of Massive - it was still early enough in the event that I found it amusing to see so many people in full mountaineering gear as I ran through the snow storm in shorts! Even with the weather I set a new personal record and hit the Massive summit in 2:05 - feeling great! The weather and wet rocks might have slowed up the descent a bit, but I was still happy to be at the N Halfmoon Creek TH at 3:07.

A view of Elbert on the approach. A bit of snow up top, but the wind is beginning to blow the clouds out.

Having warmed up at the lower elevations, I was ready to tackle Elbert, going up the West Ridge. As I was headed up I started to get an idea of just why we had clear skies - there was wind! But at this point in the journey I had other things on my mind, and kept pressing on. I hit the Elbert summit at 5:02 and kept running. My wife had pancakes and drink ready for me at the Echo Canyon Trailhead, and I finished that off on my jog up to the La Plata Trailhead, arriving at 6:51.

The mine on the South side of Elbert, with La Plata right behind me.

Powering on up La Plata, I made it to the top at 9:05. Winds were whipping up top, so I didn't waste any time getting out of there. Coming down to Winfield, I was concerned that I might be ahead of my support team, but as it turned out they had turned up just enough ahead of time to boil some water and cook me a bag meal - and wow did it taste great! Time to the Huron Trailhead was 11:38.

Readjusting everything for the coming night in the mountains.

Heading up Huron I was feeling super good - a great meal, encouraging people, a beautiful sunset in an amazing location... I hit the summit in full dark at 13:16. Now, for those of you who have never had the pleasure of coming down the East side of Huron - let me just tell you that you have been missing out on quite the experience! And if you want to exponentially increase the experience - just do it at night! Route finding did slow me down just a bit in the trees, but I still made it to Clohesy Lake at 15:07.

A beautiful view of the Apostles as the sun set.

It was at the Lake that the tide started to turn, so to speak. Due to some poor communication on my part, I ended up missing my food support at this point. I was able to resupply with water from the creek, but ended up heading to the top of Missouri with no food. And by now, the wind had picked up to full force with no breaks. I'm guessing it was a constant 30-35mph, enough to be constantly blowing me around. And it was cold enough without the wind! The forecast had said something like an overnight low of 34 on the summit. Combine that with the wind chill factor and it was pretty bad. The only way I was able to keep going was because I had hand warmers and my winter face mask. At the summit I didn't waste much time getting pictures and moving on. Missouri summit time was 17:05.

Sliding down the SE side of Missouri it was too cold to mess with the GPS, so I ended up wasting time boulder hopping. Somewhere in there I drank the 5 hour energy drink that I had "just in case." But without any food to go along with it, I really started feeling more light headed. I didn't check the time at Elkhead Pass, but I did make Belford at 18:51. Definitely starting to slow down. I kept moving, knowing that I still had fuel coming to me as my buddy Caleb was waiting for me on the way to Oxford. He had needed to pick up these 14ers, and had graciously agreed to do them overnight to be able to meet me along the way!

If I was going to deal with an all night hike in that kind of wind, I was still going to get my Which Wich sandwich out of th

Caleb and I met up just before the Oxford summit, and wow did some food taste GREAT! The push from Belford to Oxford is not that bad, and going down Oxford is not that taxing, so I was still pretty hopeful at this point. With the Oxford summit at 19:47, I kept on trucking!

#8 Harvard, and as it turned out - my last peak.

Somehow I didn't think of checking the time at Pine Creek, simply plowed on ahead up Harvard. But as I engaged the uphill, it quickly became apparent that my body had reached some limits. I found myself stopping to catch my breath, which never happens. And that wind! It just wouldn't stop! It pushed me backwards down the mountain more times than I can remember. It was quite the experience. Everything was just in slow motion at that point. And I simply knew that I was at about the end of my resources. So, with a summit time on Harvard of 24:27 I called it a day and headed down the standard route up Harvard. It was still early in the morning, and somehow it was still amusing to answer questions from people who were coming up the trail. Like, "What time did you start?" and "What trailhead did you start from?" I got some pretty good responses from people!

I didn't track time down the trail to my aid stop at the creek crossing. We talked some and made our way slowly out. My very rough guess is about 50 miles in 27 hours. Not bad for 8 peaks.

One thing that was interesting to me as the rest of the day progressed - I had more and more of a "catch" in my throat, kind of like asthma. And then I start coughing up junk, just like when you get over a cold. I'm going to need to do some more testing, but I'm thinking that the 5 Hour Energy is the culprit. Before this Nolan's event I had never used the stuff. Then something affects my breathing during the event and I end up coughing junk up? Definitely need to eliminate that factor!

I just keep wondering how this story is going to end?

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
9/7/2016 11:34am
Hey I was the sorry soul you saw at Avy Gulch! Glad to see you had a fun go of things too. I bailed off of Columbia, so maybe we can claim a "team finish" ?Sounds like you had the beginning of what made me drop with the lung/throat crap, I'm just now beginning to breathe normally. I didn't have any 5 hours but Eric Lee said you can get some fluid build up in your lungs from exertion at altitude for extended periods of time. Also says ibuprofen can help since its essentially just inflammation. I feel like getting too cold and going out too hard contributed to mine but I really don't know. If I learn anything I'll be sure to let you know. Congrats on a hell of day!

Tory Wells
Is it possible?
9/7/2016 11:39am
That you were in the beginning stages of pulmonary edema? Long, sustained efforts at altitude have been known to trigger that, even in people who have previously done well at high altitudes.

Good input!
9/7/2016 11:48am
@Cordisimo - YES! I'm in for the "team finish!" And congrats to you for a strong effort. Quite the learning experience!

Thanks to both of you for the input - at this point any input is helpful in trying to figure out what happened. Now that I look back on it, I think I only took one ibuprofen over that whole time. That would definitely be a good adjustment.

9/7/2016 7:06pm
Great job on the attempt!

Impressive Effort
9/8/2016 10:25am
Wow, I'm impressed. Sounds like you had a good day. How was Huron Peak? Was there snow on the trail or summit? Just wondering since I plan on doing it on Saturday. Thanks.

9/8/2016 10:28am
Thanks, @Ling!
@MtnLover - no snow at all on Huron. I'm guessing that the snow I ran into on Massive and Elbert would have been gone in a day, especially with the nice weather that we are NOW seeing!!!

9/8/2016 10:31am
Thanks @warg, that's what I was hoping. Really looking forward to Saturday

Caleb Braun
Way to Go Wade!
9/8/2016 2:15pm
It was an honor sharing even a tiny portion of this experience with you! What a CRAZY windy night!!!! I got to experience what you experienced on a much smaller scale and it still felt incredibly tough! Can only imagine what you were feeling!

Brutal wind!
9/8/2016 3:02pm
Caleb! It wasn't on a "small scale" at all! In fact, I'm pretty sure you spent about the whole night out there as well!

It sure was great seeing you on Oxford, and yep - it was rough. I'm sure you could see it in me!

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