On Friday September 25th at approximately 6:00 am MST Osprey Athlete, mountaineer, filmmaker and ultra-runner Ben Clark kicked off his 6th attempt to complete Nolan’s 14. Nolan’s 14 is a challenging traverse that links 14 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot summits, one that covers nearly 100 miles of some of the Sawatch Range’s toughest terrain, one that must be completed in less than 60 hours.
Osprey employee Scott Robertson pretty much sums up everyone at Osprey’s awe and appreciation for Ben’s efforts and accomplishments with the following reflection:
An unsanctioned, unofficial route that’s pure madness and beautiful in its absurdity, Nolan’s 14 is not a race but pure adventure itself, and over the past 24 years only 13 people have finished the course with two women becoming the first female finishers on August 18 of this year (a contested issue – read more here). My apologies if any of my stats are off, they probably are.
Nolan’s 14 is a storied route only spoken about respectfully in hushed tones after quick and furtive glances to ensure no one hears you even suggest interest in making an attempt; it makes a normal 100 mile trail run sound casual, cute even. I remember reading about it in 2004-ish in awe. Aid stations, pacers, cow bells, covered areas with chairs to sit and rest, soup and de-fizzed soda; Nolan’s 14 is gloriously devoid of all those things.
No one to cheer you on except maybe a few friends, no one to clean up your cuts and scrapes, no one to help pick up your spirits during the low times. Right now, just as it was hours ago and will be for many more to come, Ben Clark is out there somewhere in the mountains, moving under his own power. Makes a man want to weep it’s so damn beautiful.
Trail running in itself receives little publicity, and challenges like Nolan’s 14, the Barkley Marathon, and others are so under the radar that you may wonder what the big deal is, but damn is it ever the opposite. These feats require not only world-class athleticism forged through thousands of hours of uncelebrated training, but also a level of discipline, focus, mountain savvy, and determination that is hard to fathom.