From Matt Hart:
Between Jared’s pukathons, and my being wicked slow on some of the earlier peaks we lost quite a few hours… Nolan’s involves some serious, non-trivial navigation. There is also a ton of bushwhacking. Nothing is standard, very little is clear. We couldn’t trust the GPS.… The route ended up being over 105 miles. People who say it’s 80 or 85 are looking at Google Maps and drawing straight lines and that’s just not how it works. We took a couple trails down [some of the peaks] to avoid unknown, gnarly bushwhacks, each time winding up 2-5 miles away from aid and having to run roads to reach our crew. That’s what makes Nolan’s so awesome, there’s no real route – here’s the start, here’s the finish, hit these 14 fourteeners in between. It’s so amazing to be out in that big terrain.
The whole route took Jared Campbell and Matt Hart fifty-eight hours and fifty-eight minutes to complete – a herculean effort by all standards. Though not the fastest to traverse the route, they have now joined a small cadre of ultrarunners and mountaineers who have finished under the “official” cutoff time of sixty hours, a feat far more impressive than any race. Here are the stats for the Nolan’s Fourteen (from mattmahoney.net): “60 hours; 100 miles; Fourteen summits over 14,000 ft.; 90,000 vertical ft.; 15% finish rate.”
Yet all of that is subjective. 60 hours is the cutoff, but the fastest known time appears to be in the 54-hour range. The route does not have to be 100 miles. Indeed, no course markers are even allowed on the route; runners simply must know which peaks to climb and choose whichever route they deem most efficient between summits. The overall vertical is subject to doubt as well, since each person’s route is bound to be slightly different. However, the general consensus is about 45,000 feet of uphill and the same in descent, meaning at least 12,000’ more climbing than Hardrock. Impressive.
Their plan was pretty standard. They started at the Leadville Fish Hatchery just after 9:00 am on Friday morning, and tagged, in order, Mt.’s Massive, Elbert, La Plata, Huron, Missouri, Belford, Oxford, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Princeton, Antero, Tabeguache, Shavano. Their planned route – which from the start was really no more than an outline of good intentions – called for a 45-hour finish, with two periods of two hours of sleep and six points of crew access. As Matt noted above, their actual route ended up being about 105 miles. As Jared’s wife and the runners’ crew-chief Mindy said, “It was like Hardrock on crack.”
Jared and Matt are no strangers to long days in the mountains. Matt comes from an adventure racing background in which he sometimes ran events up to seven days in length and involving everything from running and mountain biking to kayaking and rappelling. In 2010, he ran the entire 500-mile Colorado Trail in slightly more than nine days. Having focused more on ultras in the past few years, he finished Hardrock in 2011 and most recently won the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 in July. Jared is legendary in the running community for his ability to grind out long days. From his 80-mile traverse of the Wind River Mountains to his epic, 20+ hour, as-yet-uncompleted “Zironman” canyoneering route through Zion National Park, he is most comfortable off-trail, in dense vegetation, in the middle of the night, with a storm approaching. This is his self-titled “summer of slog,” during which he has completed the Barkley Marathons, Hardrock and, now, the Nolan’s 14. Together they comprise a duo willing to (what else can be said of them?) spend a lot of time suffering together. And they definitely suffered.
Matt started feeling bad early, while going up the second peak. But he got through it and later Jared spent time curled up on the ground vomiting at 14,000’. He couldn’t keep any food down for long stretches of time. They spent hours wandering through thick trees and undergrowth, the kind of terrain that belies any time planning, and nearly bailed on the whole route more than once simply because they had trouble coordinating with their crew. According to Matt, “these sections simply took longer than planned so we were three hours late in meeting Mindy. If she had left to drive out and check the spot device we would have probably bailed and gotten a ride back in to civilization – Nolan’s over. We had both been without out food and water for a few hours at that point. So for a few miles of extra running – that wasn’t on our planned route – we thought we were probably done. But when we arrived at the lot there was Mindy! We just looked at each other and smiled, like ‘it’s back on!’.” They watched the sun set and then rise twice before finishing. While the rest of the ultrarunning world paid attention to the Leadville 100 just a few miles north, they hiked up and ran down mountains far taller than anything on that course for two and a half days. Few knew, and, now, their names will be recorded on a website. That’s all the fanfare they get.
But they finished Nolan’s 14, and only four other people can claim the same accomplishment. Their love of mountains and of challenging their own limits intersected in a unique way on Nolan’s, allowing them to experience a beautiful section of country in a very unordinary way. They never moved fast, but they were able to move through the mountains continuously for two and a half days, linking up some of the country’s highest peaks in the purest manner possible. An aesthetic route, a clean style and a long hard effort. Isn’t that the dream?
- Jared Campbell’s report
- Matt Hart’s photos
- Matt Hart’s pre-attempt blog post
- Matt Mahoney’s Nolan’s 14 page