Saturday, July 4, 2020

Nolan's 14: Third Attempt and Failure

For the third time I attempted Nolan's 14 and failed. First was in 2014 unsupported, the second was supported in 2016, and then again supported starting July 1st. Well, a few hours before my running partner M and I started, Joey Campanelli started going South to North as well, and he smashed the record by about 5.5 hours, taking it down to just over 41 hours. I knew it was possible, and now someone did it. Funny that we started within hours of him, I mean, between the full moon, the summer solstice and the good weather, it was a good day to try.

I'm not actually that disappointed about this failure at the moment. When we were on Princeton and falling behind my idealistic schedule I debated stopping. But one of the thoughts I had was, 'if I stop now, on my third attempt, will I ever do it?' Now, two days later as I limp around my apartment with a clearly injured left lower leg I realize how ridiculous that thought is. I enjoy those mountains so much, that I could easily end up attempting Nolan's 14 every year for the next two decades.

We started up Shavano right at daybreak so that we didn't have to take headlamps. From there over to Antero and then down to the town of Alpine it was seven hours to the minute. I was pretty happy because it felt easy and that's 45 minutes faster than on the training run we had a few weeks ago. Joey did that section in 5:40.

Princeton was not as smooth. It's a loose mountain. Coming down I fell three times, one of those times I stood on about a one ton rock, that was resting on another one ton rock, and they both moved so I fell in an upside down way. When everything stopped my feet were uphill of my body and my butt is still sore from hitting first, which I am thankful for because it's a somewhat padded part of my body.

When we reached the Colorado trail we began running again, and it was delightful! All the negative thoughts went away and I felt confident we were going to do the whole route. We had some pizza thanks to W our crew when we hit the valley and at dusk started up Yale. The exact route we did I have not done, so it was a little disorienting. We weren't moving too fast, in particular I wasn't moving too fast. At 12:45 AM when we finally made the summit M was tired and my leg was not so happy, so we decided to hike down to the the trail and sleep. Unsaid was, 'this is probably going to be calling it quits'. The descent was painful on my lower left leg, and then my shoes appear to be a half size too small, so my toes were hating me on the steep off trail descent down Yale. As we hiked the 1.5 or so miles out on the trail we passed two groups of two starting up Columbia via the normal trail. It was so strange to have been out all day, that the next day's hikers were starting.

We slept for three hours, on the hope that I (we) would feel good enough to go back out there, but it was not to happen. We lounged around by the trailhead and bathroom for a bit then went into Buena Vista and had lunch and drove back to Denver. I don't know exactly what happened to my left ankle/lower leg but it's still swollen two days after finishing and I'm limping around when I walk.

Colorado mountains are a great playground. What I mean is they are big enough to take effort to get up and down, but they are small enough that the risk is generally quite small. Meaning, in Asia the mountains are so big that you can't really afford to make mistakes or you will get hurt badly, but making a mistake on a 14er or a 13er is usually something that is somewhat easy to recover from. Of course on technical routes it doesn't matter if it's 40 feet tall or 4000 feet tall if you fall and hit your head.

What's next? I have four official 14ers and six if you count the unofficial ones left to do and I think there is a very good chance I finish them up in July.

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