Written by Rick Trujillo and edited by Cave Dog
Gerry Roach of Boulder has evolved as the
historian for this event and much of the following historical
information is from his Colorado Fourteeners guidebook, Colorado's
Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs: Second Edition
(1999). As you study the statistics below, keep in mind
that each of these Fourteeners speed record efforts was a milestone
for its day. In my opinion, the early efforts are no less impressive
than the latest ones in that early on: speed climbing had never
been attempted; there were few or no guidebooks listing and describing
access to the individual peaks; topographic map coverage was still
at late nineteenth century status for many peaks; and many peaks had
virtually no road or trail access. With the steady publication
of detailed guidebooks and maps, with the evolution of now beaten pathways,
and with the present greater public perception, it is only natural that
the latest efforts are much faster than the earlier ones. It should
also be pointed out that the controversial records are still records, just
records made by using different guidelines.
Author of a Fourteener guidebook
The history of the speed record begins in
1960, when Cleve McCarty climbed the then recognized 52 Fourteeners in 52
days. That record stood for 14 years until 1974 when the Climbing Smiths,
including Father George Smith and sons Flint, Quade, Cody, and Tyle, climbed
the 54 Fourteeners in 33 days. They then continued on to California
and Washington and climbed the 68 Fourteeners in the continental
United States in 48 days, a record which still stands. The
Climbing Smiths set the 3,000 foot standard, or Colorado Rule, which
has since been followed by most Fourteeners speed climbers.
The Climbing Smiths' record did not last
for long. In 1976, Steve Boyer climbed all 54 peaks in 22
days. Four years later, in 1980, Dick Walkers finally beat
the 20 day barrier and climbed them all in 18 days, 15 hours, 40
minutes. This record would stand for 10 years. In 1990
Quade and Tyle Smith of the 1974 Climbing Smiths, with their detailed
knowledge of the Fourteeners, regained the speed record with a 16
day, 21 hour, 35 minute effort. They were careful to adhere to
the 3,000 foot or Colorado rule. Except for arranging for others
to transfer their truck from the start to the end of five specific traverses,
the Smith brothers were essentially selfreliant in this effort.
This was the last record set without the aid of a support crew.
At age eight, the second youngest person to finish
all of the Fourteeners and the record holder for an unsupported
In 1992, runners began getting involved.
Ultramarathoner Adrian Crane ran on the trails and lowered the
record to 15 days, 17 hours, 19 minutes. Adrian also followed
the 3,000 foot rule.
In 1993, Jeff Wagener summitted 55 Colorado
Fourteeners, including Challenger Point, in 14 days, 3 hours.
In 1990, at the age of 21 and 53, Jeff and his dad,
Jerry Wagener, set the record for the youngest and oldest highpointers,
reaching the highest point in every state.
Click Here for Jeff Wagener's M4
In 1995, a pair of mountain runners, Rick
Trujillo of Ouray, and Ricky Denesik of Telluride took on the task
and after many route finding mistakes in generally bad weather, finished
in 15 days, 9 hours, 55 minutes. The two Ricks (Rick
2 ) were careful to observe
the Colorado Rule, gaining 156,130 feet in 337 miles during the
A mountain running legend
In August of 1997, Rick
2 tried it again, this
time with considerable more experience and careful route planning
behind them. Rick Trujillo dropped out of the attempt on
peak 39, Grays Peak, in a raging sleet snowstorm which was characteristic
of that summer's stronger than normal, El Nino enhanced, Colorado monsoon.
Denesik, however, continued onward and set a new record of 14 days,
0 hours, 16 minutes, gaining 153,215 feet in 314 miles, along the way.
As with his 1995 effort, he adhered strictly to the 3,000 foot rule.
If not for the occurrence of an ill timed storm on his last peak, Longs
Peak, Denesik would have been the first person to break the 14 day barrier.
In August-September of 1999, Andrew Hamilton of Boulder
shaved 1 hour and 28 minutes off the 1997 record, finishing all 55 peaks,
including Challenger Point, in 13 days, 22 hours, 48 minutes. Andrew
also experienced wet, rotten weather during much of his effort but, fortunately,
the seasonal monsoon stopped abruptly near the end of his saga. He
was not a runner like some previous record holders, but was extremely persistent
and climbed about 18 peaks in darkness. He was relentless, spending
much more time on the trail, 66 percent, than others before him. He
persevered through ankle and foot pain, blisters, and bleeding fingertips.
Many times he had to descend the trail backwards because of severe knee
pain. He also continued despite many routefinding troubles on and off
the trail, a motor bike wreck, worn down brakes on his mountain bike and
vehicle, snow and ice on the Class 4 routes, and many on the fly route changes.
Many times he was stuck sleeping on the side of mountains and driving during
the day. At one point, he hallucinated about bickering elves.
To his credit, without stopping the clock, he helped a mountain rescue helicopter
locate a dead mountain climber he found on Eolus.
He is striving for a new selfpowered record.
The summer of 2000 has proven to be the
most exciting hiking season for the record. In July, with
overlapping efforts, two challengers, Ricky Denesik and Danelle
Ballengee both made new records despite a running saga about whether
they would be able to climb the recently closed Culebra Peak.
After much finagling of his order of climbs, in midstream, Ricky was
granted permission for access to Culebra. Finally having an
attempt in good weather, Ricky went on to complete a phenomenal third
record with 12 days, 15 hours, 35 minutes.
Despite much bad weather and also having
difficulties gaining access to Culebra, Danelle Ballengee proceeded
to set the first women's record with an impressive 14 days, 14 hours,
Adding to the drama,
late in the hiking season of 2000 another competitor, Cave Dog,
put his hat into the ring. After two and a half years of
scouting and training he was able to fine tune the course to 138,558
vertical feet. He experienced strong winds on 12 mountains,
lightening on only 3, falling snow on 4, snow on the ground on 12,
and 5 tedious mountains with a coating of ice. However, he virtually
never stopped, doing 29 percent of the climbing at night and spending
67 percent of his time on the trail. Following tradition, he meticulously
followed the Colorado Rule. With the aid of a well disciplined
5 member support crew and 6 different vehicles, he set the current record
of 10 days, 20 hours, 26 minutes.