On Tuesday afternoon, just before 1 p.m., Andrew Hamilton put a cap on a summer that will go down in history.
Coming into the parking lot of the Fish Hatchery outside of Leadville, Colo., only a few friends, some chips and some homemade margaritas were there to witness an unprecedented feat of endurance and fortitude. Hamilton had just shattered the famed Nolan’s 14 record, completing the almost 100-mile route with 44,000 feet of elevation gain in 53 hours and 39 minutes. Not only was this a new Fastest Known Time (FKT), but Hamilton completed the entire route solo and unsupported.
But that is only the finale of an incredible summer for Hamilton, a 40-year-old stay-at-home father of four who lives in Denver with his wife. Earlier this summer he also destroyed the record for climbing all of Colorado’s 58 named 14,000-foot mountain peaks, taking a full day off the previous record held by Ted “Cave Dog” Keizer.
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Most people who know Hamilton saw this coming—just not in the style or magnitude that it happened. He previously held the FKT on the 14ers in 1999 before losing it to Keizer in 2000, and has been working on breaking Keizer’s record ever since.
Last year, after almost breaking the record, Hamilton had to stop just a few summits shy as he had developed a terrible case of compartment syndrome in his shin, which ultimately led to rhabdomyolysis. After recovering for a month and a half, Hamilton set off on the Nolan’s 14 course, which covers 14 peaks exceeding 14,000 feet in Colorado’s Sawatch Range. Many were not sure if he would make it—and talking with Hamilton it was clear that he wasn’t sure if he would either. But he endured immense pain, blocked out the suffering, and conquered the sleep demons—finishing the Nolan’s line just over the 60-hour cutoff.
“I was a little disappointed with that, since I had made the summit of Mt. Massive in 57 hours. But when I came down, I took a wrong turn and that cost me the 17 minutes. I considered it a failure, but since I had gone solo and unsupported and Matt Mahoney told me that the time was to the last summit, I guess it counted.”
His typical training during the week is unique: 3 miles pushing his kids to school in the morning, 3 miles home; then again in the afternoon, so 12 miles each day, totally flat. Then he does an Insanity (like P90X) video workout in his living room 4-5 times a week for 60 minutes. That’s it … then he tries to get out into the mountains every weekend. As for altitude performance, no secret. Last year he got altitude-induced asthma, but this year no problems.
This summer, after setting the 14er FKT time in a staggering 9 days, 21 hours, and 51 minutes (which involved over 140,000 vertical feet of climbing and 270 miles of high-altitude hiking and running) Hamilton had two other goals in mind: The Elk Traverse and another go at Nolan’s 14.
Starting at 7:05 a.m. Sunday at the Blank Cabin trailhead, Hamilton set off for another solo, unsupported attempt of Nolan’s 14, making his way up the slopes of Shavano, the first of the 14 peaks. Fifty-three hours later he trotted into the Leadville Fish Hatchery, breaking the previous Nolan’s record by John Robinson by over an hour.
In the course of just three months, Hamilton has established two of the hardest mountain running records out there. The 14er FKT record had stood for over 15 years, and many thought that it would be impossible to break. The Nolan’s 14 FKT record was similar, standing for 13 years. Yet in just a short time, Hamilton broke both of them, and in a style and magnitude unheard of in the mountain running world.
When asked about his 14er record, Hamilton noted that, “I’m really happy with it. Keizer set the bar really, really high, and I was able to take what he did and add in the Elk’s in a single push. That was my contribution, which allowed me to take a day off of his time.”
Now, on setting the Nolan’s 14 FKT, Hamilton has done it again, taking what others have done in terms of the route, and adding in his own contribution—going solo and unsupported. “I’m really good at sleep deprivation and pushing through pain.”
That is not all, and as many have commented online after his achievement, Hamilton is the “King of the 14ers”–and he has the records to back that label up.