Weather, virus force Aspen’s Eric Sullivan to postpone Nolan’s 14 ski attempt
After weather forced an initial postponement, Eric Sullivan was regrouped and ready to dive into the Nolan’s 14 route beginning Monday. But he had a last second change of heart amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the statewide stay-at-home order.
“I didn’t want to leave anybody with a bad taste in their mouth,” Sullivan said Saturday. “I had to make the tough call, but I think people will respect it.”
The Aspen endurance athlete, who goes by Sully, was hoping to ski the Nolan’s 14 route, a series of fourteeners in the Sawatch Range from Leadville down toward Salida. It’s considered to be an incredibly challenging feat, with only a handful of people having completed it during the summer, including Aspen’s Ted Mahon.
Prior to his initial start date on March 13, Sullivan believed no one had ever completed the course on skis. However, he’s since pointed out there are at least two known finishers in the Leadville husband and wife duo of Rohan and Anna Lauer Roy, who skied the 14 mountains over 14 days in 2014.
Sullivan was hoping to complete it in around 100 hours and do it without a support crew, a change from his original idea to have help along the way.
He delayed his original trip two weeks ago because of recent storms and dangerous avalanche conditions. The new coronavirus then put an end to his second attempt this coming week. He had planned to go solo, which would certainly adhere to the social distancing practices that are in place, but he didn’t want to put any added pressure on first responders should an issue arise and decided to call it off.
“I’ll at least wait until the quarantine is done, but then who knows what the conditions will be like and how long it will take,” Sullivan said. “So it’s on the backburner, but everything is ready to go if need be. But it’s been nice. I’ve just been able to shut the brain off and relax the last couple of days.”
Should the Nolan’s 14 attempt not come to fruition this season, Sullivan said he’s far from done with it. It’ll be something on his mind until he’s able to give it a realistic go, whether that be in the coming months or next winter.
“I’ll never quit dreaming about it until I get it done,” Sullivan said. “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.”
On top of delivering orders for Big Wrap in Aspen, Sullivan is a local coach who specializes in mountain adventures and endurance endeavors. He’s spending his free time working on expanding his business to different clientele.
A devoted mountain biker, Sullivan has turned his sights on taking part in the 500-mile Colorado Trail Race this summer, should it happen.
He said his sponsors have been understanding of the situation regarding the delayed Nolan’s 14 attempt.
“They were all very respectful of my choice. They thought it was a good call. I didn’t want them to think I was bailing out on trying or anything, so they understood,” Sullivan said. “I’ll just focus on something else. There is plenty of stuff to do.”
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.