by Steve Simmons
Sept. 30, 2002
Shavano and t2.
The 1st climb was uneventful, I was considering a dns as I didn't seem to be really committed mentally. To many priorities back home in WV on my mind and it's hard to be mentally strong when your mind and concerns are elsewhere. I went as far as to even consider climbing to within a few steps of Shavano's summit and opting to take a dns from there, I was that indecisive about it all the way up. From the saddle just below the push to Shavano's summit, the view towards the West NW was great with the light overnight dusting of snow on the brown and orange peaks. We reached the summit in a small group, just after 8:00 A.M. At the summit I felt odd, my fingers get numb in the cold and winds all the time, but my wrists were oddly numb. Didn't feel the best at that point. T2 was quick and uneventful. I still was thinking I wasn't into it, but thought Antero was the best direction to opting out anyhow if that's what I could bring myself to do. Had some fun though on the lower descent of Antero in the deep scree and shifting rocks, which is a very slow but short section. Mahoney and me knocked some big rocks down that cascaded towards Bobby Keough, who was descending about 50 feet ahead of us. We had dodge a number of them ourselves. I still believe descending from t2's western summit ridge might be a better option than descending to the Brown's creek area.

Mahoney, Bobby and myself took a direct line up from the jeep trails from the Browns creek area, steep but efficient, and made good time up to Antero. They summated before me though. Being unacclimated, I seemed to slow from around 13,500 and up, especially around 14,000. I just didn't have any air circulating at that elevation. The Antero summit ridge was unique with the blue sky and light snow flakes falling. Reached the summit just after 12. 3 peaks summated, I was still unconvinced I was committed to the duration of the event, but I was bagging peaks, putting up a good charade of someone who was attempting Nolan's. Good time down from Antero. Fred's 13,000 foot + aid station really made me feel strong on the descent. I took the jeep trail around the prospects to the South SW and then cut the switchbacks deep into Baldwin Gulch where the jeep trail runs North down it. Felt better and thought that I'd at least continue over Princeton before considering withdrawing. From there I could at least sleep and it would be a 2nd day and I'd be with the flow of the race and still be in good position to do relatively well. I guess in some ways I had as much desire not to quit down deep as I had reluctance of continuing on. My Dad had told me to do my best, he always does but for some reason I was really determined to do so for that reason, and my best wouldn't have been to quit. No matter how many peaks I'd finish with, my best would be to go on through the 60 hours. Was longer than I would have preferred at the aid station, Fred had my drop bag but was still up on Antero's jeep trail, and I had to have some things for night before going over Princeton. Borrowed some fruit and 2 aa flashlights and set out at around 10 till 3.

Made good time. An unorthodox approach of Princeton from the western side is simply a relentless climb that never seems to end in each section, trail, treeline, gulch, scramble, summit ridge. Especially the section going up through the forest up through treeline in Grouse Canyon which seems to go on and on and on. Went further up N up the gulch to climb the steep slope I climbed in '99. I knew it well and it worked well again. Was surprised to notice Matt and Bobby skirting way up around the far northern wall of the canyon's upper ridge to my left as I begin the scramble. Towards the top a storm caught up from the West and I enjoyed a really fun, scenic, windy snowstorm. It continued as I climbed onto the ridge of the canyon and was quite a site in all directions. This was actual snow rather than ice pellets. Very memorable. Matt and Bobby were on the summit ridge just past point 13,971 about 1/2 hour ahead by then. I could also see 2 people nearing the bottom of a steep chute that dropped straight off the Princeton summit to the North. I hadn't ever descended Princeton towards Yale before and it seemed like a good route to consider at least from that vantage point. Summated around 8:20, said my common summit prayers and headed down the chute to the North just 10 yards or so back from the summit. Not an advised route. Hardly any of the rocks, big or small or boulder size are stable. Most shift underneath and it was a very slow, unstable, frustrating descent. It was made somewhat harder by the darkness. Was very inclined to opt out from the aid station with 4 summits while descending. Down in the basin the rocks continue in rock fields alot of the way down to treeline, although maybe in the daylight there are noticeable ways around these boulder fields. Just below treeline before the thick of the forest I spotted 2 lights slowly descending a steep chute down Princeton to my right, obviously Mahoney and Bobby. They must have gone on a bad route from the Princeton summit somewhere. Made good time along the Colorado trail, but when it finally reached the pavement and crossed over it I expected the aid station, I didn't know you had to continue on another 2 miles to it. I knew you headed on up the Co trail towards Yale to ascend Yale but I figured maybe there was a slight detour to the aid station in the low point area maybe, so I finally put on some warmer clothes and sat down to recline by the trail as I knew that Mahoney and Bobby would be around 1/2 hour or so behind. They came along and I learned about having to go 2 miles further and we made our way to the Hans's aid station. It was almost 3 and I opted to sleep and see if I was more up to it at sunup. Matt went to sleep in the back before Richard Hypio and Ricki Redland, who'd gotten their a few hours earlier and had been asleep in their vehicles close by, woke up from a few hours sleep to start up Yale, Bobby went out with them. I slept till just after sunup. I determined to continue on. 1 summit at a time. Methodically. That's all I could do.

Matt and I started out just before 8 P.M. and had a good climb up Yale. The eastern Yale ridge was fun with lots of bouldering and climbing on the different pitches. We went different descent routes from the summit ridge but hooked up at the top of the steep descent down the avalanche chute to the Cottonwood creek aid station. Came across a slight trail on the left side going down about 1/2 the way down through the bushwhacking. Had to get on the radio and get Blake to yell so we could locate the aid station when we got down there after wandering the forest for a few minutes. Enjoyed the aid station and left out to climb Columbia around 10 till 3:00.

Very steep straight climb, but I climbed very steady and strong most all the way up. We reached the summit at around 6:00. P.M. A storm caught us on top and the thunder was right over and around us. Some very loud cracks. Hard pellet ice snow that left the rocks slick and the upper summit areas frosted in white. Mahoney moved down quickly into a boulder filled depression, I opted to move down very slowly and stand and enjoy it. This, like the snowstorm on the Princeton summit ridge just 24 hours earlier, refreshed my spirit and made me glad I had continued on to at least that point to have had the opportunity to enjoy the unique weather and sites. After the 20 minute or so delay we descended and dropped down to the low-lying willow area and started to ascend Harvard.

A shorts ways up the steep grassy slope we heard Richard on the radio looking for the Harvard summit up on the summit ridge. They weren't having any luck locating the summit. We were surprised they were still up there. I had been thinking they would have been at least down to Pine creek by then. We saw their lights up on the left side of the 1st summit ridge block silhouette high overhead as we climbed the grassy slope straight towards it, those l.e.d. lights are really bright from far off. Matt told them where to go and we didn't hear anything more from them from around 1/2 hour. Reason being Matt discovered he no longer had his radio. It had obviously been dropped aways back. I got the radio I had and handed it to him since I rarely had it on or use it anyway. After radioing them we learned they were still having problems locating the summit. We reached the summit ridge shortly after and Matt, still in the "climbing" mode from his month of climbing technical peaks beforehand, climbed up over the 1st big block. I went around to the left side where we'd seen their lights from way down below. Just around the left on the southern side of the block I saw their lights not far up ahead. I worked my way up to them and sat down to rest. Richard was in a good mood despite their troubles, Bobby was more quiet and Ricki seemed to be either out of it or to frustrated to talk. Matt finally climbed back down and around the block and made his way to where we were sitting after some disagreement about which direction the summit was, and we all moved on West towards the summit. I'm not sure what their confusion had been, seemed like a straight forward summit ridge, much like Yale's which climbs higher over increasingly higher summit blocks. Matt still thinking vertical, went 1st and in the clearing skies and rising moonlight the summit ridge was more easily negotiated. Perhaps in the darkness of the evening with the storm and storm clouds, the summit ridge had been deceptive for Richard, Ricki and Bobby. Easy to imagine. But the night was awesome from there on out with bright moonlight and stars. I enjoyed this section immensely. This was the exact adventure aspect of a Nolan's attempt that I was writing about after the '01 event. Around 11 or 12:00 we made the summit and descended straight down the northern slope towards the aid station. I preferred that descent to heading NE towards the cabin on the Pine creek trail. I did mention people should go their routes as they thought best and that I was going this route down myself regardless. The descent seemed straight forward with only an unexplored place of getting through the trees at the bottom without much bushwhacking. There was an easy, open meadow trail that looped around towards the West in an arching circle that we only went along on so far before crashing through the lower trees and through the marshy area across from the aid station. The area to the West of the aid station with the trail, very grassy and open and easy, seems like it would be an area to explore further for possible ascent descent routes of Harvard. After around 40 minutes in the aid station, around 3 A.M. Matt had gone on and me and Bobby left out about 20 minutes behind to ascend Oxford.

Belford and Oxford.
Very enjoyable ascent up the steep northern facing slopes in the very bright moonlight. We didn't use lights, as I hadn't most of the night. We opted to climb up to the saddle in between Belford and Oxford. Mahoney's light could be seen ascending the steep direct route up Oxford across the basin. Unfortunately the bright moonlight pulled Bobby and myself towards the left as we climbed and we ended up climbing much higher up almost to the Belford summit ridge. We also likely started out more towards the left from below as the curve of the summit ridge makes the low point in the saddle deceptive from lower down at night. Bobby, climbing 1 draw over from me climbed the highest towards Belford and so was about 10 minutes behind me in reaching the saddle trail. It had still been an enjoyable climb in beautiful moonlight in mild conditions. From the saddle though I was immediately met by very strong and cold winds blowing up from the northern side of the ridge. I got cold as I moved along the ridge towards Oxford. After I reached the low point in the saddle and started to climb, about 1/3rd of the way up Mahoney and I crossed paths. Mahoney had reached the summit and was descending the saddle on his way to Belford. As we yelled briefly in the strong winds, a very intense sudden gust of wind actually blew Mahoney up and off the trail and pushed me over a few feet. Someone said afterwards that those types of winds are known as"sheer winds". There were a few more here and there along the way but none of that strength. But nonetheless I had become very cold on the short, windy traverse to Belford. From the Belford summit at around 5 a.m. I fought the desire to curl up behind the rock shelter as I sometimes normally do, and put on my poly pro and continued on. I passed Bobby about 1/2 way back down to the saddle as he was heading towards Oxford and he seemed cold himself. After summating Belford in the early hints of morning light I was shivering without control and took shelter behind some boulders briefly. Bobby caught up with me at that point and I got up and we went straight down the steep hillside towards the Missouri Gulch aid station. I didn't know it but Bobby had radioed and told them I was hypothermic, maybe I was but was doing well as long as I was moving, but nonetheless, Curt Anderson from the aid station was on his way up with some warmer gear. From the aid station in the early morning sun I ate then slept for around 20 minutes. Bobby had left out and Mahoney radioed from the Missouri summit while I was still at the aid station.

The trail up Missouri is exceptional and somewhat easy for a Sawatch 14'er and I made good time up to Missouri from the aid station, about 1 hour 20 minutes, and was there at around 10:00. I had time for 1 more peak. I descended the West ridge, lots of climbers on Missouri that morning. It was very hot, particularly because I was sunburned considerably despite using sunblock and bandanas to shield the bright sun on the other 2 days. The descent seemed slow and I sat in the forest below treeline and refreshed and prepared for a hard climb to make Huron in time.

It was after 1 P.M. and I had 5 hours to make the hot, rugged ascent. After being frustrated by not locating the Huron trail from the Huron trailhead about 1/4 mile down from Clohesy lake, I ended up back at Clohesy lake on another trail and finally determined to bushwhack up from the lake. I knew that was a rough, steep push through treeline, but direct, and I knew I'd do well as far as a route was concerned when I got to the basin East of Huron just above treeline. Worse bushwhacking by far than Avalanche Gulch overall, but about 2/3rds of the way I located an exceptional narrow trail winding up through the trees. Not long after Bobby, was descending on that trail. He had been up above treeline but couldn't figure out where Huron was from there and so was returning down. We went on up, he went back up with me, and we were able to locate a good line with cairns and occasional trail up through the rugged eastern basin of Huron. It's more a line through the boulder fields than a trail but it's definitely an exceptional route and should make for a much better descent route in the North to South direction GOD willing. Overall it was a taxing climb straight into the hot sun and my internal temperature control seemed off as it had been so irregular, so high and then so low throughout the duration, but it was pegged on hot this afternoon, and just the instant touch of the intense sunlight on any exposed areas on my legs, arms or face had felt as if it were directly under a hot sun lamp all throughout the day. When we reached the steep Western wall of Huron, Bobby had opted to climb high at the upper edge of the surrounding cliffs on the right-hand side of the basin, and I opted to go up the steep slope straight forward. Going up the middle worked well and the boulders made for good footing and travel. At this point I was seeing faces and signs in the lichen that colors the rocks and boulders of the range. That had been common a few times during the nights, but it was constant now, and I mistook the sounds of shifting rocks as someone calling out to me a few times, pausing quietly to listen before realizing it was just in my mind. About 3/4 ths of the way up the steep wall I opted to take the right fork at a cliff block and skirted the left side of that dusty scramble to the summit ridge. It made for quite an exclamation point climb to finish the Nolan's event. Bobby was about 10 minutes behind on his route, unseen from where I was. From there it was around a 30 or 40 minute climb up the trail up the Huron summit block and I reached the summit at around 5. We had an uneventful descent, but we did see some snowshoe hares, and reached Winfield around 8:00. No one there but it didn't matter at that point. Would have gone for the summit regardless of whether or not the aid station was there as that's after the fact of getting another summit. Overall I was very satisfied with the results. I had pushed on through the 60's hours and can honestly say that I believe I did my best. I have faith in GOD and know that GOD can grant me all the strength in the world to use in such an endeavor but if I quit and don't stay in the running all the strength in the world does me no good. I also believe, and reflected on quite a few times during the race, especially early on, that if a person is to contemplate how strong they are mentally, they shouldn't judge how they do when things are at their best, but judge how they do when things are the hardest, when it's not their day or race, that's the real measure of a person's mental strength. And in some ways I consider this Nolan's attempt to be among the endurance achievements for which I am most humbly proud of. That said, it's my opinion that 60 hours on the Nolan's course was seemingly equal to the 60 hours I spent on the Badwater course, and with reservations, Nolan's might very well rival barkley as the hardest of these events, for myself certainly mentally at least. Barkley might be slightly harder strength wise in what it takes to achieve success there, but it's seemingly not quite as physical as the Nolan's course with it's relentless boulders and rocks is. Of course I haven't been out on a barkley loop in quite a while and barkley has a way of luring you into forgetting how hard it really is till you're out there again. But that said, I would guess for most people who have the ability to excel at either, Nolan's might be more easily successfully finished than barkley. Perhaps it has to do with which coast you're from and what type of climbs you're used to as I could personally foresee a 5 loop barkley finish for myself GOD willing before finishing all 14 summits at Nolan's GOD willing. What an event and course. As anyone who's attempted it knows, you get on those summit ridges and look back across the 14'ers where you were and look over to the 14'ers your going to with all of those sharp peaks rising into the air and it's quite humbling. I give thanks to GOD the Father for the strength and safety granted us throughout the event and the time in Colorado. GOD bless all and Praise JESUS!!!!!!!!!