Peak(s):  Mt. Shavano  -  14,229 feet
Tabeguache Peak  -  14,155 feet
Mt. Antero  -  14,269 feet
Mt. Princeton  -  14,197 feet
Mt. Yale  -  14,196 feet
Mt. Columbia  -  14,073 feet
Mt. Harvard  -  14,420 feet
Mt. Oxford  -  14,153 feet
Mt. Belford  -  14,197 feet
Missouri Mountain  -  14,067 feet
Date Posted:  07/03/2017
Date Climbed:   06/30/2017
Author:  Priddy
 Sawatch Traverse Attempt   

I first heard of Nolan's 14 in 2003 or 2004 and understood nothing more than 14 14,000ft peaks in about 100M.

In 2013, after bagging Colorado peaks for about 6 years with increasing appreciation for the aesthetic of stringing multiple peaks together and after having witnessed Peter Bakwin's attempt at the Mosquito-Tenmile Traverse, I noticed that Nolan's 14 was almost the Sawatch Traverse. I briefly considered Nolan's 14 a worthy project before rejecting it as a mere part of a whole for it's exclusion of Mt. of the Holy Cross.

I tried the Sawatch Range Northbound with Peter in 2014 as a 5 day through-hike with a single resupply at Winfield. We got stormed off Harvard on the second day and weren't able to recover. Nevertheless, we did 9 of the summits on foot including Shavano and Holy Cross.

In 2015 Peter and I tried Northbound again but in an unsupported style which I felt would be the purest traverse. This made for very heavy packs but the first 7 summits went by OK. Unfortunately, I woke up in a sleeping bag near Pine Creek on the morning of day 3 with heart palpitations. After a great deal of contemplation, I decided bailing would be prudent and we hiked out to US24.

I needed a break in 2016 and so did other stuff that summer.

For 2017 I thought I should make the Sawatch 15 (Northbound again) as easy as I could by including support and pacers. By February the dates were pretty well set as June 30 - July 3 with target total time being 80-85 hours.

Unfortunately, Sawatch 15 2017 did not go as hoped (which is to be expected). I was pretty close to my projected 80-hour splits for the first 18 hours (Shavano, Tabeguache, Antero, Princeton) then had extra down time with my crew at Denny Creek after which I was 103 minutes behind my aggressive plan and 6 minutes behind my conservative plan.

On Mt. Princeton. Photo credit to Peter Bakwin.

I fell a bit further behind going over Mt. Yale (behind by about 3 hours and about 1 hour, respectively) but was otherwise feeling good. I held my ground on the splits for the subsequent 15 hours (Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, Belford, Missouri) but was falling behind on hydration, calories and electrolytes and had a sore throat from heavy breathing in dry air and a sunburned tongue. It is so hard to take care of one's self during efforts like this. I drink a lot of water and for some sections, even 3L wasn't enough and this is early season with lots of melting and draining.

Descending Yale. Photo credit to Benjamin Dunn.

Going over Missouri in the dark after having seen no human for 9 hours was tough and frightening but I managed to get to Clohesy Lake without incident and only about an hour behind the conservative prediction. By this time I was still expecting I could aggressively hydrate and refuel, get over Mt. Huron and get a few quality hours of sleep at Winfield. But I couldn't find the person scheduled to accompany me and that was enough to deter me from charging up another 14000ft. summit in the middle of the night. I took an easy detour to the next crew point at Winfield (the first in over 24 hours) thinking it might be possible to get a ride back to do Huron a few hours later but couldn't find my crew despite (I later found) having walked within 20 ft. of their parked vehicles and tent.

After 4 hours of uncomfortable sleep inside a wet mylar bivy just inside the trees at Winfield, I blearily wandered around the Winfield parking lot and nearly tripped over one of my crew persons in his sleeping bag. By this time, my motivation was shot and I surrendered to a camp chair, a hearty breakfast and great company. In the hours after cutting this project short, I was feeling confident it was still achievable for me. However, a few hours later, the pain of my feet really started to kick in and I wondered how I would have gone beyond Huron. This project may be too hard for me. And I really don't ever want to take the long way over Mt. Princeton again (Grouse Gulch and East Ridge). Maybe I should look for something easier.

Approximate times were:

Start Blank Gulch at 5:09 a.m. on June 30
Mt. Shavano at 7:37a
Tabeguache Peak at 8:21a
Mt. Antero at 11:45a
Mt. Princeton at 6:18 p.m.
Mt. Yale at 5:56a on July 1
Mt. Columbia at 11:27a
Mt. Harvard at 2:30p
Mt. Oxford at 6:53p
Mt. Belford at 7:42p
Missouri Mountain at 9:22p
Bail at Winfield at 1:15a on July 2

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

07/05/2017 12:28
The things we learn from attempting the things that are "too hard for us....." Priceless. Thanks for sharing. Each story helps create a picture of what it takes to pull something like this off - and then there is the reality that there are just too many factors to be able to have them all under our control.


07/06/2017 13:22
Priddy!!! It was so awesome meeting you!! Not too hard you just need to try it again!! You're an amazing athlete!! You did amazing and I can't wait to follow your next adventure!!


07/06/2017 13:32
I second Andrea!!!! We are rooting for you don't get down on yourself and good job on stopping when your feet told you to (those things are important ) nice meeting you


07/07/2017 19:08
Thank you all for your kind words. We'll see what happens. There are many things to do. Many of which, surprisingly, have nothing to do with running or mountains or the outdoors.

I should mention that in an updated version of this trip report which was directly shared with a journalist for an online periodical, "Delightfully, I encountered Andrew's crew on the N. Cottonwood Creek Trail who were kind enough to offer food and drink but I was already fully stocked."


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