After delays, Eric “Sully” Sullivan ready to give Nolan’s 14 ski attempt another go
Maybe the third — fourth? fifth? — time will be the charm.
After a couple of delays, noted endurance athlete Eric Sullivan, who goes by “Sully,” will attempt to ski the famed Nolan’s 14 route beginning Wednesday. He had originally wanted to attempt the feat in the middle of March, but postponed his trip due to dangerous conditions.
Then, right before his second attempt later that month, the new coronavirus hit the area hard and various stay-at-home orders were put in place and Sullivan decided it was proper to bail on that attempt as well.
But, a month later, everything seems to be lining up for a real attempt this week.
“Conditions are primo. We spent three days over there and we’ve been reconning and the trailheads, we can drive to them,” Sullivan, 39, said Monday. “The quarantine — waiting on that paid off. It was soft, lots of snow, and now it’s firm, spring, nice days. It’s not going to be getting cold and freezing.”
The idea behind Nolan’s 14 is to climb and in this case ski 14 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains in one go. The fourteeners are centered on the Sawatch Range, just over Independence Pass from Aspen, with a general area being from Salida up toward Leadville. It’s considered a challenging test piece for endurance athletes, with few having completed it on foot during the summer months.
Aspen’s Ted Mahon is one of those few.
The only other people Sullivan knows to have done the route on skis are the duo of Rohan and Anna Lauer Roy, who skied them over 14 days in 2014. Sullivan has long hoped to complete his trip in 100 hours, although he says he should be able do it much faster than that.
“The conditions are perfect. I’ve never seen this much snow, and perfect snow. Firm, fast snow. No post-holing,” Sullivan said. “We are just going for it, and it’s going to be amazing.”
Sullivan, a native of Kansas who long lived in Aspen, moved to Crested Butte earlier this month where he has started a new company that builds and customizes off-road RVs, as well as a new video production company called “Adventure Anytime Anywhere.” He’s already started posting videos on his YouTube page — Sully Eric Sullivan — including a rather emotional post where he talks about his previous battles with alcohol and drug abuse.
He’ll have a team with him during his Nolan’s 14 attempt — which he plans to get underway by 8 a.m. Wednesday, if not sooner — that will update his various social media pages with status reports and video. He’ll be wearing a live GPS tracker that is connected to his Facebook pages so people can follow his progress.
Part of the reason Sullivan is doing this is to raise money for SEAL Future Foundation, which supports Navy SEALs after their service. The other is to simply feed his own competitive fire and finally conquer something he’s long desired to add to his resume.
“I’ll never quit dreaming about it until I get it done,” Sullivan said last month of Nolan’s 14. “A lot of people can run 100 milers and stuff like that, but to just finish this thing is a huge task and it’s just medieval. There is no easy way around it. It’s all in your face all the time.”
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Tejay van Garderen has long been one of the country’s top professional cyclists, having spent 12 seasons on the World Tour with various teams. His career came to an end in June when the 32-year-old announced his retirement.