Anna Frost And Missy Gosney Post-Nolan’s 14 Interview

Anna Frost and Missy Gosney are the first women to complete the Nolan’s 14 line on foot. In doing this, they established a female FKT to the final summit of 57 hours and 55 minutes. Nolan’s 14 is a largely off-trail route consisting of summiting 14 mountains in excess of 14,000 feet altitude in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. In this interview, hear Missy and Anna talk about their personal motivations and history with the Sawatch Range, their extreme highs and lows during their effort, what it means to be the first women to accomplish the feat, why they stopped their ‘clock’ at the summit of the last peak, and more.

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Anna Frost And Missy Gosney Post-Nolan’s 14 Interview Transcript

iRunFar: Meghan Hicks of iRunFar, and I’m here in Buena Vista, Colorado. I’m here with Missy Gosney and Anna Frost the morning after their completion of the Nolan’s 14 line. You’re going to have to pardon my use of expletives in this interview, but f*** yeah!

Anna Frost: That’s what we thought.

Missy Gosney: Nice. Good job.

Frost: Yeah, well done.

iRunFar: Ladies, I know it’s just less than 12 hours after your completion. I know probably the effort that you put into it hasn’t sunk in except as far as your feet and your toes. But what’s going through your heads this morning?

Frost: Um, I’m quite tired. So not much is going through my head right now.

iRunFar: You’re turned off?

Frost: Yeah, totally switched off.

Gosney: I’m pretty thankful actually. I know I’ve been trying to do this for three years—well, one year of reconning, I tried it last year, and then doing it again this year. I’m just super thankful for all the people we were able to pull…

Frost: Yeah, we had an amazing crew out there. They were saying to us last night how it was such an awesome feat that we did, but we were saying to them that if we hadn’t have had them, it would have been an absolute shit show. We wouldn’t have had anything sorted. They were fantastic. We’d come into the aid or crew stations and they’d just sort out bags, they’d have out a tent, and we’d go to sleep, and 25 minutes later they’d wake us up and off we’d go.

Gosney: Clothes dry.

Frost: Yeah, we were so lucky to have them.

Gosney: It was super great to have all those people there helping us.

iRunFar: Yeah, when you run a race, a crew is kind of an added benefit. You can survive off the aid stations in most race cases, but this was an effort that was crew-dependent you could say.

Gosney: Well, it’s logistically challenging because you’re out there for so long, and you have to have all your logistics ready to go and in place.

Frost: And you don’t… you don’t always… (dogs barking)… They’ve been doing so good until just this morning at the campground. There are some areas where you can’t just drive to with the tent and everything—you have to hike to it. So they took… there were, what, six of them that went up to Elkhead Pass with the tent and everything in the middle of the storm. It was just carnage up there.

iRunFar: That was in between Missouri and Belford?

Frost: Yeah.

Gosney: They crewed us at Winfield at about 6 p.m. We left and went and climbed Huron down to Clohesy Lake and then out of Clohesy Lake, up Missouri, and around to Elkhead. In that time, they packed up and hiked up to Elkhead, set up the tent for us so we could come in and have dinner—well, dinner in the middle of the night—and we went to sleep for 20 minutes, I think is what we did. Just the logistics is intense for this thing. It was really nice to have people. We’d come into an “aid station” sort of thing and had people to keep us happy and moving in the right direction. We’d come in and say, “I’m not sure we can keep going.” Somebody would be right there saying, “You’ve got this. So good. Just keep going. Here’s your pack. You’re outta’ here. Let’s not talk about it.” You’re like, “Okay great.” So that was great. So I am thankful. That’s what I’m thinking this morning.

iRunFar: Awesome. One would say that the world of trail running and mountain running knows you, Anna. You’ve competed and had success all around the world. One would say the American ultra and trail running community knows you, Missy.

Gosney: Slightly.

iRunFar: I think we should back up and talk about you and your relationship with this line, with this effort. You’re a mountain biker by history?

Gosney: No.

iRunFar: You are a what by history?

Gosney: Most of my background is being just in the mountains, specifically in Colorado and Alaska, mountaineering, and I worked for Outward Bound for almost 15 years. This line has deep roots for me because I worked out of Leadville for years. I ran courses in these mountains, but also played a lot in these mountains during the breaks from summer courses. That’s my background. Trail running, just a little bit over the years, but in the last five years is the only ultrarunning I’ve been doing.

iRunFar: You also mountain bike or you have a mountain bike?

Gosney: No, I don’t mountain bike.

iRunFar: You have ginormous quads.

Gosney: I ski. And genetics. There’s no mountain biking. Really, I’m actually an awful biker.

iRunFar: You’re a little bit like me. You’ve lived in Moab but you were not a mountain biker.

Gosney: That’s right. That’s right. I lived in Moab for awhile, yep.

iRunFar: You got in your head a couple years ago that this was a line you wanted to try?

Gosney: Yeah. When Jared [Campbell] and Matt [Hart] did this line…

iRunFar: 2012? 2013? Sorry, guys.

Gosney: 2012? No, they did it in 2012. I hadn’t ever really considered anything like that. I watched them do their effort. I went, This is it. This is the coolest line. I really… I do believe it’s aesthetically one of the best lines in North America for sure. When they did that, I went, Ooooh, that is really neat. I got it in my head that I was going to see if I could do that some day.

iRunFar: In 2013 then, is that the summer you sort of came out and experimented with different pieces of the route?

Gosney: Yes, so 2013, we thought about trying it, but we also were doing TDG that year. So we just used it as a place to train for TDG and decided that was a big enough event for me that year. So we did some recon here that year. Then last summer, 2014, Jason Koop, Brett [Gosney], and I attempted it.

iRunFar: You got as far… You got nearly…

Gosney: We got to Antero.

iRunFar: Yeah, you got so far. You got to peak 12. You were looking at the finish. You spent 55 or 56 hours out there?

Gosney: I think we had come off Antero and it was about 55 hours?

Frost: 54 or close to 55 hours.

Gosney: Honestly, I made what I considered a mountaineering mistake which is you always have to know how you’re going to get off a mountain, right? The last part is super important. I just had not spent any time on Antero, Tabeguache, and Shavano in terms of reconning it, studying the maps. My drop bag for there just said “extra.” I never imagined we’d get as far as we did. So when we got off Antero, Jason and I, and Brendan Trimboli was with us, and we were looking to go over to Tabe, I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. I didn’t even know where to drop in. Yesterday when we dropped in there, I had this full sense of relief. We’re going to go into a place I’ve never been. When we started into the route, Oh, if we’d have come in here last year, we would have just been sitting in Pine Creek scratching our heads like, “What are we supposed to do?” Things happen for a reason—that we got to be able to do it really well this year. There was no way I was ready to do that last year. I was psyched we got as far as we did.

iRunFar: Anna, you have known about Nolan’s for a couple of years. You’ve spent a lot of time climbing and training on 14ers in the Sawatch. This year you picked off two major mountain circuits. Why Nolan’s?

Frost: I think I guess I learned about Nolan’s when I first came out here to help out at Leadville. I met up with Tony [Krupicka] and was seeing him in the mountains. We were on these 14ers, and I was like, “Is this really the trails? There are no trails here.” “No, this is the Nolan’s route.” So I knew nothing about it until I met him and was speaking with him about these different routes. The way that I learned Nolan’s was his way. I loved it. I was like, not only are we in these majestic mountains, but we’re also up on these routes where there are no people. You have to learn the mountain. It’s such a beautiful, calming feeling when you’re going up this huge mountain and you’re never on the trail, but you know exactly where you are by the rock or by the flower or by the contour of the mountain. That’s something really like…

Gosney: Like the dead tree.

Frost: Yeah, the dead tree.

Gosney: Anna knows this route better than anybody, I think. I’m sure there are other people who know it, but it was really amazing to watch her work this route over the last three days.

Frost: Between us, we’d gone through the route before, who knew what, just to make sure we had everything covered. There were some sections like going up Princeton from this direction, I had no idea, so it was entirely Missy. It’s hard up there. It was long. We were out there forever, and ever, and ever. It was just brutal, and she nailed it. Without each other there, there would have been some sections where we would have been done for. That was the great thing about the partnership. So, yeah, for me, it’s been really fun to get to know this range so well and to learn it through other people, as well, has been really cool. There are some routes where I’ve explored myself and created my own little paths, some that are Tony’s paths, and some that are Missy’s paths. Yeah, it’s been really fun.

iRunFar: Walk us through your experience. I know we’re talking about 58 hours, 14 mountains, being above 14,000 feet for… I don’t know… it has to be three-quarters of that time. You started at the Fish Hatchery trailhead on Sunday morning at 6am. I’m guessing buy following your SPOT tracker, you guys flew over the first three mountains. Did it feel like flying?

Frost: No, I didn’t feel like I was flying. We knew we were kind of going for four hours per mountain for the first ones. We’d done our drop bags, and that was basically our times, wasn’t it? How much food we wanted in each drop bag was how long we’d sort of thought we’d be over a mountain.

Gosney: I’m looking at you and just cracking up. “Oh, no. No big deal.” Every time we’d get down to our crew, I was like, “She’s just beating the shit out of me. She’s going so fast. I’m burning myself up.” Both Koop and Brett were like, “Okay, just slow her down. Just get in the front of her and don’t let her…” So that is so funny because…

Frost: Then we came… we were kind of like, “Let’s get those first three mountains done. Let’s just get them done.” Then the game changes completely after those first three because you go into night. You go into finding really dodgy routes from there.

iRunFar: You go off of trails to route finding.

Frost: Exactly. From there it’s like you’re slow anyway because you have to concentrate on where you’re going, and it’s dark. You’re going into the first of two nights.

Gosney: Also, those first three peaks, they’re spread out. They’re the big boys. They’re the two tallest 14ers in Colorado. So once you get that, we started to have a rhythm, a pattern. We knew, “Okay, this is how long it’s going to take us to do these.” So it was important to get those done, but after La Plata, I was like, “I’m not sure I can keep up with her.”

Frost: Then we came off La Plata and I was like, “Let’s just fill our stomachs up with food and water and start off really slowly.” So I’m on the ground pretty much so full of food and water, and she’s like, “Okay, let’s go! Doo doo doo doo doo doo… up the road.” I’m like, “Missy, wait for me. Ohhh… I’m so full.” It was horrific.

Gosney: Well, I…

Frost: I had to say to her, “Missy, you know how we said we were going to go slower from here on? We’re sprinting, and I’m going to puke, so we need to slow down.”

Gosney: We were going into the night. I love the night. Yeah, that’s good.

iRunFar: So the next section, you kind of climb mountains and you don’t return quite as far down. You stay high in the traverse between Missouri and Oxford and Belford. That’s been a crux for people in the past that they’ve not made it past that, or they’ve made it past that and they’ve been cooked. It happens in the nighttime. What was that like up there? Was the weather good for you? How did you feel up that high?

Frost: It was quite hilarious for us up there, wasn’t it? We got up Missouri and the storm started hitting. So it was raining. It was raining a lot. We knew we’d meet our crew at Elkhead because they were hiking tents in. For me, it was a saving grace because I was like, “I really don’t want to be here at all. At Elkhead, I’m going straight into the valley back to a car.” I’d done that from the top of Massive. I was like, “I’m done. I don’t want to do this.”

Gosney: I think it was something you said like, “I have not had one fun step since we started.”

Frost: I was like, “I am not enjoying the mountains.” I’d said to everyone, “I do not want to do this not enjoying it. I can do it. Physically I can do it, but I don’t want to be out there hating it.” So when we were going into Elkhead, “I know there’s a crew there. I know there’s a tent there. I can have a sleep there. I can go down the valley.” It was good to know that they were there. We got in there, soaking wet, the storm was going crazy, and it was just carnage in there. They had tents on the ground with stones on the ground.

Gosney: It was so funny.

iRunFar: Trying to keep them up?

Gosney: One of them was flattened, completely flattened. You asked about the weather—it was awful.

Frost: Yeah, it was awful there. We kind of bunkered into the tent. They were cooking there in the tent as well with us while we were trying to sleep. We were eating out of those bags.

Gosney: The backpacker meals. I was in the middle of the tent. You were on one side. Hannah [Green] was on one side. Brett was kind of shoved in the corner. Hannah was sick. She had come and done Huron and Missouri with us. She was puking. You were like, “I’m gonna’ puke.”

Frost: Then we woke up and I was like, “Oh, gosh, I’m going to puke.” The guys were outside.

Gosney: I’m like, “Really? Can we just go? Should we just pack our bags and go?”

Frost: Then we had to put on wet socks… because we hadn’t thought to take dry clothes, so it was all wet then. But from there the storm was cracking. That got us over Belford and Oxford super quick. We hammered them because the storm was right behind us. Once you’re up there, you’re up there. You can bail, but not to anywhere very good.

Gosney: You asked that question, “Why is that a place that people stop?” It’s because you can do Belford and Oxford and then go down Missouri Gulch really easily. Once you drop into Pine… so when you go off Oxford, if you’re going north to south, you go off Oxford and you drop into Pine Creek before you go up Harvard. It’s… you’re committed in there.

iRunFar: It’s a long walk out.

Gosney: It’s a long walk out.

iRunFar: Which I think a couple people have done? It is a long walk.

Gosney: Yes, but you also look down. You’re dropping all the way into Pine and then having to climb up Harvard. That’s a tough… it’s beautiful in there. I think it’s the most beautiful place, but it’s a really tough one. I think that is why that tends to be a splitting place is that you can drop out one way easy and the other way is really committing.

iRunFar: The ridgeline between Harvard and Columbia is, at least in my experience in the Sawatch, one of the funnest places. That was morning the second day?

Gosney: Yes.

Frost: Yeah, the sun rose as we were going down Oxford.

Gosney: The sun rose as we were going down Oxford, and then we did the climb up Harvard which I loved. It’s a really pretty ridgeline in there. Then Harvard to Columbia, there’s the one ridgeline that you wish you could do, but it’s pretty technical, so we kind of dropped to these grass benches around. I don’t know what happened to you, but you turned onto fire. You were amazing. I was kind of dragging, and you just… it was the first place where you just went, “I got this,” and you just hauled us right up Columbia. Yep. Super. Then that other route… instead of going down the standard route of Columbia, Anna had gone in and reconned the nose of Columbia and it was…

Frost: It just goes straight down to the bridge where you cross the river.

Gosney: You were so on fire. This is why you were here.

Frost: Yeah, I just loved that it’s different. I think… I’d said I hadn’t enjoyed or didn’t have excitement for the mountains which I hated that feeling in me because I’m so excited when I go into the 14ers, and all of the sudden I was like, “Where has it gone?” So when we had the storms on Belford and Oxford, I was like, “Okay, there it is,” because we were sprinting across those things. That came back really quickly, and I think from then, the fire kind of came back for it. Physically, I can do this. Mentally, I’m not sure, but I’m just going to keep going. Coming off Columbia, it’s a beautiful route. I’d done it a couple of days before. We just had fun. I knew Missy would hate me for it because Missy is much more into the zigzags. I’m more into the straight ahead.

iRunFar: Go straight up?

Frost: Yeah, or straight down.

Gosney: She’s the bomb queen. She just bombs it.

Frost: Yeah, but we had fun in there.

Gosney: It was beautiful in there, so that was fun. Then we got to North Cottonwood Creek. Koop and Catherine [Mataisz], and Rickey [Gates] showed up, so that was fun. That was the perfect group of people because it wasn’t our entire crew. I was pretty tired there. My legs were fried. I thought, “Okay, she really did it. She killed me. I’m done.”

iRunFar: Officially cooked.

Gosney: I was trying to keep up with Anna.

iRunFar: I just wanted to make sure it was still recording. We’ve been chatting awhile. Sorry.

Gosney: So we got down there. That was perfect because I was thinking, I don’t know if I have it. Koop was great. He’s like, “Just put your bag on and get out of here. You guys are out of here.”

Frost: Yeah, there were no options.

Gosney: It was good Brett wasn’t there because I think I would have been, “Ohhhhh…”

iRunFar: Oh, Honey, tell me something I want to hear.

Gosney: So we got up and then we had Yale.

Frost: It’s one of my favorite mountains, Yale. I really love it up there. We had the storm starting when we went up Yale, so we sat it out for a little bit before we went into the basin. We could see the storm right on top of Yale—lightning, thunderstorm going really well. We sat it out. The blue came across. We could see the storm still, but it was out above over here I guess. We were okay. It was all clearing up. We went up onto Yale and we went along the ridgeway thinking if the storm did come in, we had places to bail rather than going straight up the gut where you’re exposed. Then we got on the top of there and literally four minutes later you could see this big, black storm coming. We were like, “We have to move!” So we took off over the ridge. We decided to keep going because it was coming from the Denny Creek side (behind), so we decided to go off the ridge down to Colorado Trail. We were sussing out bail points all the way down left and right, left and right, whichever way the storm was coming. We just got to maybe 3k from where the Colorado Trail pops on, and the storm just lit up on top of us. So we just bailed off the side down into the trees. It was just hailing…

Gosney: Off to the north side of that ridge.

Frost: Hailing… storm right above us cracking thunder in our ears. We were huddled under the trees waiting for a minute, and then going down to another patch of trees that was better.

iRunFar: “I think we’re lower here.”

Gosney: I’d go, “I’m going to go check to see if we can go.” I’d look up at the ridge. BOOM! “AHHHHHH!”

Frost: Back into the trees!

iRunFar: Mother Nature says, “Not yet.”

Frost: Yeah, she gave us a few warnings, I think, like probably the whole time she was warning us.

Gosney: The whole trip, for sure. We were probably there for an hour?

Frost: An hour or maybe more than an hour going from tree to tree on the side.

Gosney: I think it was a really good time for you and I just to hang together and not… when you’re out there trying to do Nolan’s in 60 hours, it is all business. Everything is efficient. Every step is important. So just to have an hour where it was just you and I hanging out…

Frost: Just sitting under a tree talking about the difference between hail and graupel.

iRunFar: Super technical conversation.

Gosney: Stories—let’s tell some stories. I think that was a really nice time. We really haven’t spent that much time. We trained a little bit with Hardrock together, but for the most part, we haven’t spent that much time together. Then you just get slammed right into this pretty intense effort. It was nice to just stop and enjoy what was going on.

Frost: Chill… amongst the storm.

Gosney: We finally made a dash over… we traversed over to the Colorado Trail at that pass over into Avalanche. Then we dashed up and over between the storm. Because as we were running down the Colorado Trail, it was still thundering and lightning and raining and pouring. By the time we rolled into Avalanche Creek…

Frost: It had just got dark. We had come in with no head torches, just.

Gosney: We were laughing and having a good time. Our whole crew just went… just relaxed because the last time they’d seen us at North Cottonwood, we were like, intense, and how were we going to be when we got to the other side? We walked in and they had all these contingency plans about what to do, and who was going to go with who if something happened.

Frost: If we weren’t talking anymore.

Gosney: We came in laughing and everybody was like, “Oh, thank goodness. Yay!” We had a blast. That was good.

Frost: I think from there, I had just said to Missy, “I’m not going up Princeton if it’s storming.” We pinky promised. I just said, “I’m not going.” We decided to have a sleep down there. We got into the tent, and I just said, “When we wake up if it’s still storming, I’m not going.” We got the wakeup call. There was no storm. There was no rain. Apparently there were stars out there. I didn’t bother to look. We got ready to go, had everything almost ready, and it started raining a little bit.

iRunFar: Of course it did.

Gosney: Oh, no. It was this beautiful bolt of lightning.

Frost: Massive. Massive. Just red thing lit up the sky. I was like, “That’s it. I’m not going.”

iRunFar: You can’t make me do it again!

Frost: But we went. We really, along the Colorado Trail, it’s like seven miles, isn’t it, before you turn off?

Gosney: I think it’s like 7.2 miles.

Frost: It’s in the dark, and you’re just looking at this trail, and we were getting bolted on top of with rain and thunder and lightning. The whole way we were like, “We would regret it if we didn’t at least try it. So we’ll at least try it. We’re going to get to treeline on Princeton. If it’s storming, well just turn around and come back. We had the SPOT tracker, so we knew the guys would see that we turned back down and come and get us. So we were happy with that. The whole time we were dripping wet. We were like, “This really, really stinks, but if we don’t just do it…” not only for ourselves but for our crew and to everyone else to see that we had given it a go and had given it our best shot to that point and had every reason to turn around with the storm. We got there.

Gosney: There was no reason to turn around—blue sky.

Frost: It was brutal wind.

Gosney: The winds were awful.

Frost: It was freezing cold. We were just going right up the ridge, and it was blowing, blowing, blowing. We were cold, and we were going so slow.

Gosney: I’d look at the altimeter…

Frost: The mountain is slow anyway.

Gosney: The route we chose is a really long ridgeline. I’d look at the altimeter and it would be one hour and we’d gone 500 feet up. “This is so brutal.”

Frost: We’d stop behind rocks just to feed each other and get warm. We were both shaking. At that point we were cold and just fatigued, I guess. It was just such a long way up to the top of there. We’d spoken a couple of times about which way to bail off the mountain, whether to come down off the main route of Princeton. Because the ridgeline you take off the top, we were just like, “If it’s windy like this, we’re just going to get blown off.” That was kind of worrying us a little bit, wasn’t it?

Gosney: Yeah, down into Alpine.

Frost: I think when we got to the top we realized it was all windy either way anyway, so we were like, “Well, let’s just take it.” We were comfortable and feeling a bit better. Did it bother you? It was light.

Gosney: It was almost light. I think it got light when we were just starting to descent towards Grouse. The question, “where to bail to”—when you bail one way, you’re done. When you bail the other way, you still have options. We kind of worked ourselves into the right place so we could continue. Really that was the crux. Every couple of hours it was, “Why are we taking this next step forward?”

Frost: For me, that’s for sure. Every mountain it was like, Okay, there’s one more mountain. We got ahead of ourselves quite a lot of the time. We’d really have to drag each other back and say, “Let’s just get this one done, and we’ll see what happens next.” We did that a couple…

Gosney: A lot.

Frost: Nearly every mountain probably… for me, for sure nearly every mountain. Yeah, it was just a matter of saying, “Okay, you just have to do the next 500 meters of vertical, and then we’ll figure out what to do next.” If you look at it as, “What about the next six mountains?” it just blows your head apart.

Gosney: It’s too big of an objective.

iRunFar: You had two epics, Yale and Princeton, back to back, and then morning came. Then it’s still a full day’s effort to get to the finish. Was there any question of going on or not going on when you got to the bottom of Princeton?

Frost: No, we came off Princeton feeling good for going. I was hallucinating. It was pretty awesome. There’s a route down in there where you come of this creek onto this really pretty trail, and I know it like the back of my hand. I couldn’t find it, and that was kind of driving me nuts.

Gosney: That’s because you were talking to guys that weren’t there and animals—every rock was a different animal.

Frost: Yeah, it was really strange. My distances had gotten really short. I was saying, “There should be a track right here,” but it was actually in another kilometer. I’m like, “It should be here. It was here. I’m sure it’s here.” Things got a bit weird for me, but there was never any question, was there? We had said we’d have 20 minutes sleep when we came down into Alpine, but we got down there and we were like, “Let’s just do it.” We had Coke, we had caffeine, we had food, and everyone was there. We’re like, “We’re just going to get this done.” At that point, I think we fired it up then, didn’t we?

Gosney: Yeah, we actually did really good from there.

Frost: Yeah, the last three mountains were pretty good. I did those last three with Gavin [McKenzie] and [Brandon] Stapanovich last year. I had recced those three on my own. I’d recced them with Gavin. Like those three for me, I could tell you exactly how to get every meter. Sitting here I won’t because it would be nine hours of boredom.

Gosney: It was really nice. She’d point, and I’d just go wherever she’d tell me to go.

Frost: Usually with me it’s straight, so now Missy knows that if I don’t say left or right, it’s keep going straight up or down.

Gosney: Efficient.

Frost: Those three were good. We got up to Antero and you can see from there Tabeguache and Shavano. I think you know at that point, “We’re there.” Tabeguache is a killer. The wind was brutal again. You literally just climb up big microwave-sized rocks for two hours. That’s all you see. That’s all you hear. That’s all you feel. The wind is banging on the side of your head. It’s draining. It’s really draining. You want to scream at the wind, but the wind takes the scream out of your mouth anyway. We got up there. Once you’re there on the saddle just before you go up to Tabeguache and Shavano, you know you’ve made it. It’s a pretty amazing feeling, isn’t it? I was totally wrecked at that point going up Tabeguache. I was like, there’s nothing. There’s absolutely nothing there. Missy was on fire there at that point. She was hoohaaing away.

Gosney: Let’s go!

Frost: It was awesome. Missy amazed me the whole trip how strong and solidly consistent she was at getting up those mountains and getting down—the route finding, the eating, keeping it together. We didn’t have any major problems physically. We both got nauseous when we were going up above 14,000 and coming down again.

Gosney: Maybe above 12,500 feet up we were both kind of sick.

Frost: But we never vomited. We tried to eat. We were pretty good at eating down at the feed stations or life stations. In the mountains we were kind of chomping on grass.

Gosney: Drinking water. We were a good complement to each other. When I was down, Anna was up. When Anna was down, I was up. We were taking care of ourselves but also checking on each other. You had certain parts of the route wired, and I had other parts. We were super lucky.

iRunFar: Let me ask you about how you felt when you were making that passage, the traverse over to the last peak, Shavano—exhaustion, elation, relief?

Frost: You’re feeling everything at that point. You’re at almost 60 hours, and I think we’d had in total maybe two sleep spots…

Gosney: Of 25 minutes each.

Frost: But we’d probably slept 10 or 20 of those minutes total. You’re in major fatigue. Your muscles are dead. There’s nothing there. But you know you’ve just done that. At the same time you’re like, “What have I just done? What’s going on? This is ridiculous. Why have we done this?” But you’re looking at that and just saying, “Wow, that’s an amazing achievement.” I think, for me, it was just like, “I can’t believe we’ve actually stuck it through and got this far.”

iRunFar: You had some crew up there on Shavano waiting for you? You had a little bit of a windy celebration?

Gosney: That was awesome.

Frost: We dropped over off the summit off the side.

iRunFar: Out of the wind a little bit.

Gosney: It was really windy.

Frost: There was just Brett and Braz [Ron Braselton], Missy, and I on the summit. The crew hadn’t arrived yet because we’d gone much quicker than they thought. So we had started to head down. We had two hours to get down to the carpark, so we were just like, “Okay, let’s head down.” We saw Dakota [Jones] just off the other side of the ridge sprinting, “Noooooo!”

Gosney: “Don’t move!”

iRunFar: “Stay there!”

Frost: We were definitely not going to go back up to the summit. We were in this beautiful sunny spot. I have no idea what time it was. It must have been 4 p.m.

Gosney: Something like that.

Frost: The evening was stunning. From there we could see the track coming up. We could see all the crew coming up. We just sat down in this beautiful little outcrop. Dakota opened his bag with two bottles of champagne, and the party started. Who came up? There was Matt Mahoney who came up to secure the Nolan’s finish for us.

Gosney: He was awesome. It was so good to see him. He’s the keeper of all the information. He said, “I wouldn’t miss this for anything.”

Frost: We had all the crew come up and have some champagne with us. I was saying to Brett on the way back down the mountain—because we sat there in the sun and hung out for awhile and all walked all the way back down to the carpark together as a big group… I stopped for a few one minute sleep sessions on the way down—I was saying to Brett that I think of the whole Nolan’s route, that was a sensation I’ll remember the most for the feeling just of doing it with me and Missy, but to know that we were sharing that part with the whole entire crew, walking down this beautiful mountain. That was the part I’ll remember the most.

Gosney: It was amazing.

Frost: With the group of friends that have just come out for 60 hours with you for no other reasons than their passion for the mountains, for their friendship, for doing something we’d just done that was so magical.

iRunFar: I want to ask you a couple hard questions if that’s okay. While you guys were celebrating on the top of Shavano yesterday, there was armchair jockeying on the internet going on—people asking you… people saying, “Get the heck off the mountain! The clock doesn’t stop until you get to the carpark!” It seems with the Nolan’s line, that there are multiple interpretations how you treat the line—as their own personal experience or an FKT effort. As far as you guys are concerned, you consider stopping your clock on top of Shavano yesterday and that you completed your goals?

Gosney: It is an interesting question, and I think people… this chatter on Nolan’s has been going on for a couple years. I watched it last year when we were out doing it. What are the true rules? Blake [Wood] kind of says it really well. “I guess it’s the Wild West; there are no rules.” We had had a conversation before we started, what we thought would be… what we thought our goals were. I was pretty clear I wanted to just finish the line. That 60 hours, who came up with that? Honestly for me, 60 hours, I knew it was really close. I knew I had to be super efficient because I’m not the fastest person out there. I can move, but I’m not the fastest. So 60 hours, I knew was going to be tight for me. This year I said, “I’m finishing this thing.”

iRunFar: However long it takes.

Gosney: However long it takes.

Frost: And wherever it is, whether it’s at the top or at the bottom.

Gosney: I just wanted it to be done. If it was on the top of Shavano under 60 hours, great, I have an official time. If it’s at the carpark, that’s terrific, too. I would have to say that everybody has to come up with their own goals when they set out to do it. I would never, ever change what we did last night. It was so cool. Somebody has this photo of all of us on the top there, and it’s amazing just to have that great party. Then you get down to the carpark and it’s cow poop and flies. Bill [Dooper] was at the carpark, so that was really awesome. The truth is, that was the celebration to have, and if we could have that celebration with those people on top of a 14’er, so be it. People should chatter all they want, but go climb a peak instead of writing about it on Facebook.

Frost: I think for me, I’m the same. It’s carpark to carpark. When you do a mountain, you have to get back off anyway. But who’s saying, “the Nolan’s rules?” Do you even see what it is—it’s stupid. It’s a stupid thing. It’s people doing this silly goal in the mountains. It’s not really that important what it is or how long it is or where it is or what it is. I think Matt Mahoney has said that for the last 25 years it had been from the start to the last summit. Just in the last few years, “Why don’t you go down to the carpark?” Now we’ve got two times. For sure I was like, “Let’s just get to the carpark because we’ve got to get to the carpark anyway.” But we were at the top and were like, “This is awesome.” When we saw the crew coming up, it was like this is it. This is where we are. I would never change it either. There’s absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t have done what we did. It was really fantastic.

iRunFar: 57:55.

Gosney: To Shavano.

iRunFar: Fish Hatchery to Shavano summit.

Gosney: That’s a long time.

iRunFar: It’s a long time, but that’s a pretty magical number to just be able to put your stamp on it like that.

Frost: I’m really proud to do it. I’m really grateful. I think I said that on the summit of Shavano that I was so grateful for what we already had in those 50-whatever hours. I really didn’t need anything more than what we had right on the top of that mountain.

iRunFar: Another hard question for you: The Nolan’s line was a line put together by a couple Colorado Mountain enthusiasts quite some time ago. It had some popularity when it was first established. The U.S. Forest Service asked to kind of keep it on the down-low and not have these organized race-like outings. The popularity has come back again in the last five years or so, I would say. I think some mountain enthusiasts would argue that this is a line not a lot of people should take because 1. It’s sensitive, un-trailed territory, and 2. It’s a difficult line. There’s definitely increased risk out there that you guys experienced and articulated. What would you guys say to those or to that notion that this is a “proceed with caution” or a “don’t proceed with caution?” Go try it.

Frost: I definitely don’t think you should go try Nolan’s without being very, very, very prepared. By being very prepared, you need to get in the 14ers. Last year, I spent six weeks in these mountains just doing one a day, finding the route, walking back-and-to, back-and-to, back-and-to until I knew exactly where I was going before I carried onto the next point with Tony. A lot of the mountains I never went on my own until I really had it nailed. I wouldn’t go out there without someone like Missy or without someone I could really trust they’d have my back if I went delirious or if things got really bad. I don’t have the experience in these mountains and the weather conditions. I don’t really know what a storm is going to be like in the next hour and what’s going to happen and what’s going on up there. It’s fatiguing. We’ve trained hard. It’s not just been one year. It’s not just been one month. I’ve been racing eleven years, professionally, nonstop every year. It’s all played into what we just did in the last few days. It’s not like, “I’m going to go do Nolan’s tomorrow.” It’s been a lot of preparation. I think people should not go and do it just because they want to do this neat line.

Gosney: Yeah, it’s a mountaineering line. The endurance piece plays a role in the 60 hours. I can’t even imagine thinking you could walk in in there without spending a few years in the mountains whether you’re trying the Nolan’s line or out doing some other things, anything in the mountains. It’s great to have a project. It is a project. It’s a multiyear project. All those pieces you just said I think are really important.

iRunFar: Last question for you: You just became the first two women to finish the line and to finish it under 60 hours. There are women who’ve come before you who have given it a go.

Gosney: Thank you. Pretty amazing women.

iRunFar: There will probably be some women inspired by you.

Frost: Hopefully.

iRunFar: Is there a piece of extra pride that you’re going to take away in being a women in doing this or is it, “I wanted to do it. I don’t really care what my gender is?”

Frost: A bit of both, for sure. I am who I am. Missy is who she is. We happen to also be women. I’m really proud of what we did because of who we are, but as females, I’m also really proud of that. I love pushing the fact that women are strong, that if women set their mind to it, we can do it. Sure there are some differences in what men can do and what women can do, but if we never try, we’ll never know. I think we’re already seeing this massive growth of women in our sport, in all sports. That’s fantastic. I think it’s just a bit of a motivational push. We’re seeing women rise above not just men but rise above their own challenges and what they’ve been able to believe in themselves before. I think that’s a most awesome thing.

Gosney: We were talking with Dakota last night, and he asked a similar question—is there a difference between male and female doing Nolan’s? I said, it’s really just a difference of that question of the skillset that you just asked, too. If you have the skills, it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female. It is awesome to be the first girls to do it.

Frost: Yeah, we had a little presentation at our dinner party last night. It was just so special, wasn’t it? We had just done that and felt really great about it. Koop was just saying, “You ladies are the first to do this. No one can take that away from you now.” That was amazing. It was really like, “Wow, we just did that for the first time.” Yes, I think there will be other girls and other females doing it—Betsy [Kalmeyer], Ginny [Laforme]. Those girls have done a lot of effort on that route.

Frost: That’s inspiration. We were saying that during the whole night—to do 10 of the peaks of Nolan’s, it’s incredible. Do it and be proud of what you’ve just done. Do two of them? Be proud of what you’ve just done. Do one? Be proud. They’re hard. They’re not easy. To link up any of them is an enormous feet. Those women should be so proud of what they’ve already done.

Gosney: More girls in the mountains.

Hicks: Girls on peaks. On behalf of all the women out there and all the men, there are a lot of dudes who are super proud of you, congratulations on being the ladies to complete Nolan’s 14 line.

Gosney: Thank you. We had skirts on the whole time.

Frost: We did. We wore skirts the whole time.

Hicks: F*** yeah.

Frost: Yeah, exactly.

Gosney: Yeah, that’s good.

Meghan Hicks

is iRunFar.com's Senior Editor, the author of 'Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running,' and a Contributing Editor at Trail Runner magazine. The converted road runner finished her first ultramarathon in 2006 and loves using running to visit the world's wildest places. For more information on Meghan and her adventures, please visit her personal website.

There are 21 comments

  1. Jason

    Tremendous effort, but they did not finish the course (Fish Hatchery Blank Cabin) in under 60 hours because they stopped atop Shavano instead of getting down to the cabin. 26.0 miles does not make a marathon.
    http://mattmahoney.net/nolans14/maps/index.html
    “Nolan’s 14 is a run over the 14 summits,” not over 13 (up & down) and to the top of the 14th (up only).

    Note how the map below notes the Start and Finish (though you can run it the other direction).
    http://mattmahoney.net/nolans14/map.gif

    1. Jason

      Above should say “Fish Hatchery to Blank Cabin.” Comment tool did not allow double-ended arrow. You can “finish” on Shavano’s summit any more than you can “start” on Massive’s summit.

      1. yhk

        The link you posted also reads "… with a time limit of 60 hours to the last summit." The main page also reads "Cutoff is 60 hours to the last summit.".

  2. SansSou

    Anna and Missy, nodding along with all you have said here … although it's tough to believe there is a being out there that can "kill" Missy. What a powerhouse pair you are!

    Missy, sending a donation today to Outward Bound Canada, knowing that a young person can be inspired by your accomplishment. I know this 55-y-o woman is!

  3. Luke_B

    Awesome, love their discussion about valuing being on a mountain more than anything else including FKT details. The suggestion that internet discussions of the official end point matter relative to the nature they'd seen and experience they'd just live through seemed to amuse them, which is something I can get behind.

  4. Jason

    Where will a female runner who gets to Shavanno at 58:00 but down to the finish at Blank Cabin trail before 60:00 head rank for a fastest known time (FKT)? Five minutes behind Gosney and Frost in third place, or is this the women’s course shorter?

        1. alicia_h

          Exactly. Fair enough if they wanted to do their own thing and end wherever they felt was best, but in that case don't report it as a Nolan's finish, because that's not fair to people who do care about finishing Nolan's.

          1. another_william

            Two great athletes just ran their butts off for nearly 58 hours (on a route they obviously care very, very deeply about), and you are basically telling them, "Good job, I guess. Too bad you didn't finish Nolan's like people who really care!" Sitting in front of your computer, at home, you are saying Frost + Gosney, who were actually out there, didn't care about finishing? That's actually quite funny.

            1. alicia_h

              You left out an important part of what I said. I didn't say they didn't care about the route, I said they didn't care about finishing Nolan's, i.e. the specific challenge of doing the entire specified Nolan's route in under 60 hours. That was what they were saying in the interview–that they wanted to finish that great line of peaks, that they wanted to finish somewhere more aesthetic than a car park, and that these things were more important than following some arbitrary set of rules. I totally get that, it's just how you report it afterwards that's the issue.

      1. Jason

        And if that woman gets to Shavano in 58:01 and to Blank Cabin in 59:54, who holds the women’s FKT then? If another woman starts at Blank Cabin and “stops” atop Mt. Massive in 57:54 instead of going all the way to the Fish Hatchery, will she hold the woman’s FKT then even though neither have even one common point for a start/finish?

  5. corunr

    Awesome accomplishment and a fantastic example of what women can do! As a father, I just with I could have my daughters (7 and 6) watch the video without the salty language (call me old fashioned). They did Elbert and Massive as their first two 14ers this year and were really excited to hear about this adventure after we pulled out the map and looked at doing 12 additional peaks in succession. Maybe you could record a "PG" version?

  6. Jason

    “57 hours and 55 minutes” Historic Irony?

    Both Blake Wood and John Robinson made it to the summit of the 14th fourteener (Shavano) in 57:55 just like these two women did, BUT only ONE made the finish within the 60-hour cutoff (Blank Cabin).

    “2001 Results: Aug 16-18, 2001, Fish Hatchery to Mt. Shavano summit (north to south) and Blank Cabin. Out of 12 runners, Mike Tilden and Blake Wood finished at Blank Cabin within the 60 hour cutoff.”

    Mike Tilden 14 in 56:22, finish in 58:51

    Blake Wood 14 in 57:55, finish in 59:38

    John Robinson 14 in 57:55, finish in 60:01 (after cutoff)

    Jim Nelson 14 in 59:06, finish in 62:09 (after cutoff)

    The splits have times for “Start, Massive, Halfmoon, Elbert, Lake Ck TH, (snip), Antero, Tabeguache, Blank Cabin” and note the above runners’ times as “1651 1738 1801* 2209u*” with ” * Over 60 hour cutoff.”

    Source: http://mattmahoney.net/nolans14/01nolan.html

    So, what are Anna Frost’s and Missy Gosney’s time to the finish at Blank Cabin?

    The door is still open for the first women to complete the Nolan’s 14 start-to-finish within 60 hours!

  7. Buzz

    Frosty and Missy did an outstanding trip – one of the best Nolans ever, by anybody, and by far the fastest by women! They easily hold the female FKT on this route.

    They muddied the water by stopping on the last summit, which means the door remains open for the first female completion of Nolans 14 (trailhead to trailhead within 60 hours). All previous attempts have been very clear on this, as was the originator, Fred Vance; when the first person to complete it, Mike Tilden, radio'd him from the last summit, saying, “I’m done! I did it!” Vance told him he did not, radioing back “To give an official time, you have to get down to Blank Cabin.” Last year Andrew Hamilton made all 14 summits easily within 60 hours, but got lost descending from the last summit, arriving at the trailhead a mere 19 minutes after 60 hours, and self-termed it an "epic failure."

    The two ladies seem fine with it, happy to have partied with their friends who had hiked all the way up there and wanted to meet them – a worthy choice!

  8. Shelby

    I was one of those expecting the ladies to finish at Blank Cabin, since that's what I've seen the men do previously. After listening to this interview, I can appreciate their desire to stay at the summit and party with their crew at the top. If the feelings they experienced celebrating with their friends and walking down to the TH with them was worth stopping the clock, then I can't argue against that. They did what they wanted to do and they still accomplished something epic, for which I heartily congratulate them for.

    That being said, I do look forward to seeing a woman take their run TH to TH and run the same distance that the men have. Matt's Nolan's site may recognize a TH – SUM finish as a Nolan's finish, but in practice, the men who organized the original run and have completed it since have recognized the TH as the finish.

  9. FernandoNBaeza

    It so unfortunate that so much criticism goes at such a remarkable accomplishment, and all because of a paragraph that has been misinterpreted by "he said she said." I read Mr. Mahoney's webpage (and its a great website by the way), and found the course definition to be a bit of a paradox. With all due respect, to Mr. Mahoney of course, the paragraph says the "finish is to blank cabin," but then a sentence later says, "within the cutoff to the last summit within 60 hours." What gives? No wonder theres been so much confusion to some, and undoubtedly, two female super athletes have paid the price for it. Could Mr. Mahoney please re-edit that paragraphy to clearly, without a doubt, define what is the start/finish? That way, future endeavors will not be "muddied," as clearly these two great females accomplishment has! Go Frosty! You two ladies have at least accomplished what no other female has! Congratulations!
    Fernando Baeza
    San Antonio, TX

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