Nat Geo Covers Nolan’s 14 – One of the Toughest Endurance Challenges in the World

nolans 14 colorado ben clark

We’ve covered the Nolan’s 14 ultra-run on a couple of occasions in the past, thanks in no small part to our friend Ben Clark’s attempts to complete the run on a couple of occasions. For those who don’t recall, Nolan’s 14 is a grueling endurance challenge that sends trail runners on a hundred-mile long traverse of 14 peaks in Colorado, all of which are over 14,000 feet (4267 meters) in height. The endurance athletes who attempt Nolan’s can take any route they choose between those mountains, but they do have to summit each of them along the way. Oh, and to be successful in the challenge, they must also finish the entire run in under 60 hours.

Yesterday, National Geographic Adventure also ran a piece on Nolan’s 14, bringing this incredible challenge to a much larger audience for the first time. The article spoke to Ben about his most recent attempt at Nolan’s back in September of 2014, as well as a number of other notable ultra-runners who have been humbled by the undertaking. That list includes the likes of Anton Krupicka, who had to abandon his attempt back in 2013 after six peaks. A series of physical ailments caught up with Anton, preventing him from going any further.

The article takes a look at the origins of Nolan’s 14, which began as a challenge amongst friends Blake Wood and Fred Vance back in 1999. The idea was to combine ultrarunning, mountaineering and orienteering into one very tough event that meant to be a mostly personal challenge for themselves and other endurance athletes that they knew. They consulted with mountaineer Jim Nolan, who tipped them off about the line of 14 peaks in the Sawatch Range that would eventually become known as Nolan’s 14.

It took until 2001 for anyone to actually complete the challenge, which is when Wood, and three other runners, finished the route. In the years since then, only 11 other people have complete the challenge in under 60 hours, which has helped to create the legend of Nolan’s 14 within the endurance community.

The entire article is well written, and provides some great insights into Nolan’s 14 from the athletes who have done it, or are working on completing it. You can also learn more about the event through Ben Clark’s Nolan’s 14 film, the trailer for which you’ll find below. It will give you just a hint at what all the fuss is about, and the incredible dedication it takes to complete this challenge.

Nolan’s 14 – Trailer from Pheonix and Ash Productions on Vimeo.

Kraig Becker