Colorado has lots of mountains that rise over 14,000 feet high. They are known as 14ers. Depending on the criteria you adopt there are somewhere between 52 and 58 recognized peaks in the state. I am going with the list of 58 because it is pretty easy to explain: a point over 14,000 feet is counted if it has been given a name by the USGS (United States Geological Survey).
The Colorado 14er Speed Record
The first known Colorado 14er speed record was set in 1960. Over the last 50 years the record has been challenged repeatedly and lowered so that it now stands at 10 days, 20 hours, and 26 minutes.
This record has changed very much over the years. Originally there were no guidebooks. It would have been a serious challenge that required extensive use of maps just to find roads into the mountains. With no guidebooks it would have been a serious undertaking just to get within striking distance of the mountains. Once on the mountain you would probably have been lucky to find good trails leading you to the summits.
In the 1990’s, with the popularity of climbing the 14ers soaring, routes were more travelled and easier to follow, and some new guidebooks by Dawson and Roach made the 14ers more accessible than ever before. At the same time, ultrarunners became interested in the record, and they started lowering the record by large amounts. The record was now fast enough that to challenge the record you needed to round up a few intrepid individuals to provide support. Support crews would be responsible for cooking, driving, medicating, babying, and motivating you so you could focus on hiking or running.
In the late 1990’s and finally with the current record set in 2000, the nature of the record changed again as it became more of an endurance challenge. Logistics became key as every hour spent in between mountains became more important, and hiking peaks in the dark while sleep deprived became the new
In 1999, I shaved a few minutes off the Colorado 14er Speed Record and became the first to complete the 14ers in under 14 days. My time didn’t stand for long as it was first smashed by Ricky Denesik in early summer of 2000, and then doubly smashed by Teddy Kaiser in Late Summer of 2000. Teddy managed to take more than 3 days off my time only 1 year later.
Last year in 2014 we gave the record a pretty good shot, we had a good plan and a pretty solid lead on the record heading into the Elks. The Elks is the range where there is some significant time to be gained on the old record, however it requires a difficult 24 hour day with virtually no support in some of the most rugged mountains the state has to offer. To make a long story short, I developed an injury that I just couldn’t overcome. I tried to continue through the Elks and beyond but a few mountains later, with only another day and a half left to go I had to call it quits.
It was frustrating having to quit so close to the end, but I felt pretty good about what we had accomplished, and that we had given it our best effort. Despite taking quite some time to heal we started thinking about giving it another shot in 2015.
So we planned everything well in advance, friends and family scheduled vacations and flights around another late June attempt at the record in 2015. Everything was lining up nicely. Except there were some nagging injuries that were taking forever to heal, so I couldn’t train as hard as I wanted to. Then May sent huge amounts of late season snow all over the mountains, and now it looks like the monsoons have come early and the forecast is for rain, rain, rain.
So with all this bad stuff going on I’ve had a hard time deciding what to do. I’ve gone back and forth between cancelling the entire thing and postponing the start. The original start date was supposed to be June 24. It is hard to be flexible with the dates though because of train tickets, climbing the privately owned Culebra, and because of support crew vacation schedules. I have been so wishy-washy that I have been driving everyone on the crew completely crazy!
In the end, despite the terrible weather forecast I have decided to go ahead and start on June 29th and just see what happens. If the weather is too nasty or the snow is too deep then I will just have to stop and try again another year. But at least I won’t regret that I didn’t give it a try when we had a team lined up and ready to go.
So there you go. I am starting the record attempt but with a huge DISCLAIMER that I am just going to turn my tail and run home if the conditions are too tough for me.
Last year my overall goal was to climb all of the 14ers in the Contiguous United States. I realized though that for me the best way to do that would be to start with the peaks in Washington and California, because I know that I won’t be able to walk very well after finishing Colorado, it is just too tough on the body. So originally I had planned to start early in June with Rainier, and then California. However I just couldn’t get past some early season injuries fast enough so I decided to just focus on the Colorado record.
If you are interested, updates will be posted on this website, and I will include a link to a map that will be updated with my current position by a satellite tracker that I will carry with me at all times.
This year I am getting some big time help from my family. My wife Natalie has been able to get off some time from work for the attempt, and my sisters Laura and Jenny are both here, as well as Jenny’s boyfriend Florian. Andrea Sansone has accompanied me on several scouting trips this year and will help out again. And it wouldn’t be possible with Kyle Knutson, who has graciously offered to take on the job of 4 wheel drive expert. And of course it wouldn’t be the same without my sons Calvin and Axel. And thanks to my mom Brenda Siracusan who will come out for the last few days when most of the rest of the crew has to leave.