The 14er Speed Record: Where Youth and Experience Converge

For 9 years the 14er speed record has stood untouched. It’s surprising considering the explosion in popularity of the FKT (Fastest Known Times) website that tracks these sort of records. The competition has grown so tough that any athlete lucky enough to set a time on a worthy route is lucky to stand at the top for even a short amount of time.

The 14er speed record has meant so much to me personally. I first gave it a shot in 1999 when I was 24. Looking back at myself I can’t believe that kid who literally knew nothing was able to complete it on raw determination. It really changed my life as it gave me a sense of confidence in my ability to persist through tough challenges. Then back in 2014 and 2015 when I failed and then finally succeeded in dramatic fashion despite landslides, and 8 days of storms. I tapped into that persistence and determination that I discovered in my youth, but as a much more experienced version of that younger self. I think what I remember most about that experience was just the sheer amount of excitement it generated in the 14er community, and how my family and friends rallied around me to help me succeed.

A Flurry of Record Attempts in 2023

After many years…last year two young athletes gave the record a shot. The first two since Eric Lee tried several years ago. Their vigor, dedication, and innovative approaches to training and execution were commendable and inspirational.

Yale

The first attempt was by 29 year old Chris Fisher. At 29 Chris still has the strength of youth but is probably just nearing his prime decade of endurance abilities. Chris was coming off a successful winter where he climbed the 14ers in a single winter season, beating the time I set back in 2018. He endeavored to set both the winter record and summer record in one year. As a sponsored athlete he can devote is entire life to traveling around and just trying to set FKT’s. His attempt on 14ers.com is here:
https://www.14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=62957

Chris set a blistering pace, rivaling that of Brett Maune back in 2014 and 2015, with his raw physical strength and had a huge lead over my 2015 time before succumbing to breathing issues on Day 5 on Mt Yale.

Pyramid

The second attempt was by 22 year old Drew Francis. I remember thinking the poor guy was possibly getting into something way over his head. This was based purely on his age, nothing else. He is a firefighter with a strong physical background and came in with an additional strength: his quick transitions. These really set him apart from anyone else in 14er speed record history. I believe his parents have a triathlon background and I think that helps explain how they could get him in the vehicle and on the road so quickly after he finished a set of mountains. His attempt on 14ers.com is recorded here: https://www.14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=63037.

Drew held a lead even over Chris heading into that 5th day, and he pushed into the night in the heart of the Sawatch peaks until having to call it quits on day 6 on Pyramid due to fears of compartment syndrome and rhabdomyolysis.

A new Flurry of Activity in 2024

Both Chris and Drew have plans of going for the record in 2024. Both have stated they plan to train even harder and with knowledge gained from their 2023 fails I don’t think anyone would be wise to doubt their abilities to pull it off.

Meanwhile, after putting up an astounding time on Nolan’s 14 in 2022 https://www.14ers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=62106, Andrea had been considering giving the record a shot in 2023, but was sidelined by her never ending list of injuries. As we watched the drama unfold in 2023, we started considering the idea of the first ever Coed attempt on the speed record.

But we have been riddled with self-doubt. How can a 35 year old girl just coming off hamstring surgery and a 49 year old guy who can’t run anymore and who complains about his hernia all the time possibly compete with super-fit athletes in their 20’s? Can Andrea possibly get ready for something like this in just a couple of months? Can Andrew pull this off at 49? We really don’t know.

In mathematical terms, success on the 14er record is an equation something like this:
fitness + mental + plan + luck = success

We know we will be lacking on the fitness part of the equation. So we hope we can make up for it with the mental and plan part of the equation, and maybe some luck too. The energy of our younger competitors is infectious, reminding us that passion for the mountains knows no age limit. Their approaches have offered us fresh insights, proving that learning is a two-way trail. We hope to use those insights to put forth the best plan yet attempted on the 14er record.

So ultimately if all goes well and all of us make it to the starting line, it is shaping up to be a great battle of the strength of youth vs the experience of old. While the younger athletes bring to the trail an enviable energy and the boldness of youth, there’s an unspoken dialogue between their quick steps and the paths carved by experience. This journey isn’t just about speed; it’s about the stories we tell, the lessons we learn, and the mutual respect we share.

So as we stand on the precipice of an exciting summer for those who love 14ers, we wish Drew and Chris the best, and hope our bodies can hold it together.

A New Beginning

It has been 9 years since I have posted to this website. Honestly I had completely forgotten how to log in. I’m excited to have figured it out again and revamped the website. I have a lot of adventures to catch up on. The main goal for this year is that Andrea and I will be attempting to set a Coed 14er speed record. Its a daunting challenge as I am almost 50, and Andrea is healing up from hamstring surgery.

I’ve completed 2 months of insanity and started Rucking this year. I’m up to 60 pounds with a goal of getting up to half my body weight, 85 pounds. It was pretty hard yesterday up on North Table, look at all that snow!

I’m planning on updating much more frequently now to document the lead up to our record attempt!

9DAYS 21HOURS 51MINUTES

I apologize there is no order to these pictures!!! ENJOY!

GAME OVER!!!
GAME OVER!!!

Longs Peak
Longs Peak – Photo by James Sims

at least they didn't hit the storms on Sherman that we got!
at least they didn’t hit the storms on Sherman that we got down here!

me and Kyle, playing the waiting game, over and over. Except this time, it was the last one we played. :(
Kyle and myself, playing the waiting game, over and over. Except this time, it was the last one we played. ūüôĀ

ah, US
ah, US at the 14er Happy Hour the day of Andrews finish.

HAPPY HOUR celebrations
HAPPY HOUR celebrations

Cave Dog, Mandy, myself
Cave Dog, Mandy, myself – Longs Peak

Cave Dog - It was an honor to finally get to meet you in person!!!
Cave Dog – It was an honor to finally get to meet you in person!!!

14er happy hour celebrations! Natalie, myself and Charlie
14er happy hour celebrations! Natalie, myself and Charlie

ALL OF US SUPPORTERS OF ANDREW!!!! Thanks 14er community, this would not have been possible without your motivation and support!
ALL OF US SUPPORTERS OF ANDREW at 2 AM!!!! Thanks 14er community, this would not have been possible without your motivation and support!

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Kat and Danielle – best.signs.ever!!!

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us and Noel "cookiehiker"!!!! epic cookies, over and over!
us and Noel “cookiehiker”!!!! As we were coming down from Longs, they were hiking UP! Epic cookies, over and over! Thank you!

driving to LONGS!!!! #58 weather couldn't be better.... right?
driving to LONGS!!!! #58!! Weather couldn’t be better…. right?

Andrew and his daughter "Bird"
Andrew and his daughter “Bird”

Axel
Axel and the awesome sign to whoever made it!

THANKS CAVEDOG! You are so awesome, and it was an honor for you to fly out on YOUR BIRTHDAY, to meet Andrew on Longs! Thanks for setting the standard of pure CLASS in our world of 14er mountaineering!
THANKS CAVEDOG! It was an honor to meet you! Thank you, for flying out on YOUR BIRTHDAY, to meet Andrew at the finish on Longs! Thanks for setting the standard of pure CLASS in our world of 14er mountaineering!

handing it over!
Handing it over!

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I see headlamps!!!!
I see headlamps!!!!

US - one solid crew.
US – one solid crew.

CONGRATS
CONGRATS

Cave Dog and Andrew - Cave Dog came out with an awesome "plaque" for Andrew
Cave Dog and Andrew – Cave Dog came out with an awesome “plaque” for Andrew

DONE!!!!
a job well done, and a record rightfully earned!!!!

waiting game.
waiting game.

Parking Lot of Longs
Some of us, right before we hiked up to meet Andrew, in the parking lot of Longs Peak

FINALLY you are BACK! and off to LONGS
FINALLY you are BACK! Off to LONGS!!!

oh the willows of Bierstadt, how you are not missed.
oh the willows of Bierstadt, how you are not missed.

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Brenda, James, myself

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Laura and Brenda
Laura and Brenda

the waiting game - it sucks. (B/E)
the waiting game – it sucks. (B/E)

Andrew and Stefan - Hiking Bierstadt and Evans
Andrew and Stefan – Hiking Bierstadt and Evans

 

David! our co -logistical manager.
David! Our co-logistical manager.

Well, it is my last post on the Blog, and oddly enough there are quite a bit of emotions attached to that statement.  Although its a week or so later, the memories of this epic feat, will last my lifetime. Thanks Andrew for that.

Coming off G/T we transitioned quick, and headed to B/E, in the rain, of course. I can’t believe the consistency of Andrews speed, despite the fog, rain/snow throughout this attempt. Although, Andrew did get lost on Grays, he claims he took the “Tour de Grays” haha. I guess that’s what happens when you are fogged in.¬†¬†Then it was B/E where Stefan met us and off they went. Starting down the road to meet the 3000 ft rule, often seemed so tiring and tedious¬†when having to hike on a long¬†road, for quite a while, but such goes the rules of the game. ¬†We waited and waited for what seemed forever, I slept, and then woke up to¬†our own entertainment as some friends from the 14er community joined us. We all hung out in Charlie’s van,¬†and it continued to rain,¬†off and¬†on¬†again. We ate cinnamon bread, and were interviewed by reporters.¬†We often stood out staring (with binoculars)¬†up at the gully Andrew and Stefan had planned to come down, until we finally saw them! Yes, the jackets finally stood out, almost when I couldn’t take the waiting any longer. They finally reached us after what seemed like forever, but¬†as usual they were right on schedule. I should have known better by now (after the 57th mountain!!!!), but I was ALWAYS so antsy awaiting his return.

Now,¬†finally the moment we have been anticipating since day one, the drive to LONGS!!!!! It was not a pleasant drive, actually quite intimidating as we drove the Peak to Peak Highway in a downpour.¬† We arrived at Longs and already, there were lots of friends from the 14er community welcoming us. We finished getting¬†Andrew ready,¬†finished packing his pack,¬†crampons,¬†ice ax and all, and then set him off! Knowing the conditions up¬†there were not ideal, I was nervous as he walked away to begin his final ascent.¬†¬†I knew he would be just fine though, and it comforted me he had some fine friends to hike with! At around 10 Pm, we all set off, to hike up to 11,255′ where we would anxiously await Andrews arrival at 2:21 AM!!!!!!!!! As the night progressed, many more from the 14er community showed up, with noise makers, bright signs (Danielle and Kat, THANK YOU!),¬†fireball whiskey, and Champaign – OH WE WERE READY!!!!!!¬†The skies cleared, the stars were out, and the air was chilly. It was so¬†refreshing to be up at 11,000′ with such¬†wonderful people.¬†Finally, we saw what we have been anticipating. Head lamps, 5 of them! YES THEY WERE COMING DOWN! The constant “WOOHOOing” and noisemakers began, and before long, Andrew had reached us at 11,230′! At 2:21 AM on July 9th, 9days21hours51minutes after the start of this amazing feat, Andrew was finished! He had broken the standing 15 year record set by Teddy “Cave Dog”¬†Keizer of 10 days 20 hours and 26 minutes. Let the celebrations begin!!! Thank you to EVERYONE who took part in this record. From hikers to forum supporters, you all played a vital role of support for Andrew, and were able to keep him motivated through his hardest hikes! Thanks to everyone who came out to Andrews finish, to be there and celebrate with all of us! You guys are the ones who make these memories so much fun. Thank you,¬† a hundred times over!

Congratulations Andrew, you have set the¬†bar high. You were prepared, you scouted, you learned from past mistakes, you didn’t let demoralizing hikes get the best of you, you stayed smiling (most of the time) and you did it! You have inspired THOUSANDS¬†to get out and¬†get after¬†what they too dream about,¬†and have inspired those to go the extra mile (as we all know, its the¬†road less traveled).¬† You¬†have¬†demonstrated what it is like to persevere through pain.¬† You have a heart of dedication, a mind of focus, a body of strength, and the will to succeed. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this amazing journey, and just like everyone else, you have inspired me, to keep going, keep pushing, knowing we are much more capable than the limitations our minds try to¬†tell us.¬† Be proud of yourself, no matter how long your record stands, this¬†time on day 9 hour 21 and minute 51, it was your moment, you accomplished something no one else in the world has ever done before, and THAT will¬†ALWAYS be yours.

(Stand by for Andrews POV of this amazing accomplishment)

After the chaos dies and we set Andrew off! This girl- One of my most favorite person to crew with. Too many laughs with you, and I'm not really a funny person, all credit goes to our state of delirium
After the chaos dies and we set Andrew off! This girl (Laura)- ¬†the greatest person to ever crew with. Too many laughs with you, and I’m not really a funny person, all credit goes to our state of delirium

Quandary–>G/T

This was a rough one. Demoralizing I’d say, and Andrew has said. He came off hating the mountain and his Hokas. It rained for a while, but he came off only damp. His feet are hurting, but only small blisters, that I could only imagine hurt like hell with every step of a wet foot! So thankful for all you guys who came out to support Andrew last night (Glen, Andy, Bill Middlebrook(and family), Brad!!!!) YOU GUYS ROCK!!!! I know he appreciates it, especially with these night hikes that are extremely difficult for him! He didn’t eat much last night and was so tired, so hoping this morning light will boost his morale! (Although GLEN, Thanks a million for those cookies, those were basically the only things he was excited to eat, and as he hobbled away, asked for a baggie of more cookies!!!) He has some good friends hiking with him today, so I hope his spirits will lift. I am continuing to work on him as he sleeps, we will transition for G/T … And just wait for sun. He has some sleep built in here as he was planned to start at 6 and it is 0353 so he requested 30 more minutes to let his “brain sleep.”

We packed his pack and got some food in him and set him off! Andrew has 5 peaks left!!! GO ANDREW GO!!!!!!!!!

Andrews quote of the night “sorry I’m being such a big baby!!” haha it’s okay Andrew, you have hiked 53 mountains so far, I’ll allow some complaining on my watch ūüėČ

Hot and Tired

So tired, eyes are burning. 6 peaks left as Andrew just finished summiting last peak of Lincoln group!!!! It’s so wet out, constantly drying Andrews gear/clothes out. WE ARE LIVING IN A DRYER constantly sweating. You’re welcome Andrew! lol at least I’m not hiking in it.. Right?! GO ANDREW GO! Fingers crossed for some good weather tonight on Quandary!!!

whose hiking what??!

Just waiting anxiously for Andrew to come off Sherman, wow those clouds were dark and that thunder was LOUD.. Glad he is on his way down. Quick transition to Decalibron is next!!! Laura will be back tonight!!!! Most likely right before Andrew hits Quandary? But not entirely sure. GO ANDREW GO!! WE ARE GETTING CLOSE!!

Whose hiking with Andrew?! BIG THANKS!!!
Sherman: Luke
Quandary- (our very own), David and Andrew supporters who came to join!!!
Grays and Torrey’s- Charlie Nuttleman
Bierstadt and Evans- Stefan Griebel (remember the epic story of hells bells?!)

Update

An hour ahead of schedule and Kyle comes back with Homie and Andrew after completing Columbia–>Missouri!! What a relief to see these three awesome guys pulling up! (I was anxious because I was not receiving, and/or getting delayed “I’m on top of a peak” messages from Andrews tracker, not knowing if our tracker was working, because our message requesting a response from Kyle was extremely delayed, so this was a sigh of relief moment). 0225 after 2 hours of sleep(Andrew had this sleep built into his schedule), doctoring, food (calzones), and pack packing, Andrew left for Huron with an additional hiking buddy in the back seat!!! BIG Thanks to Luke for hiking with him on this one and Homie, what an awesome friend to stick around for Columbia–> Missouri. I know Andrew appreciated that more than you know!!!!
-Missouri class 4 section was a little sketchy, and Andrew didn’t have his ice ax which would have been helpful for the snowfields. He has actually been rained/snowed on quite a bit up there and when he found out we didn’t know he was getting so wet he wasn’t too thrilled because he “wants us to know how much he is suffering!!” HAHA (because when he comes back to us, he is somewhat dry- well, not soaked let’s just say) Anyways, another day of mountains in the books. Let’s keep it going!!! GO ANDREW GOOOO!!!!!!

We expected him right around 6 and before long, (0606) there the 4Runner came with Andrew and Luke after a night on Huron. Andrew was in a good mood! Smiling! I love that, because sometimes it’s hard to predict what his mood will be. Extremely tired? hurting? good mood? demoralized?etc etc lol. 10 minute transition to shove some food down and change out packs, he didn’t even want to change his shoes so we roasted last night with heat blasting just for the fun of it :). You’re welcome Andrew. Have fun boys up LaPlata!! Luke, you are wonderful,
Quote from Luke as Kyle takes them up for Huron:
“Hey Andrew, I’m Luke, thanks for taking me on my first 14er!”
Andrew: oh… Really??
Hahaha good one. Andrew appreciates you.