August 10, 2012 posted by

Record On California’s 14ers

When I began the weekly Psyche posts I didn’t think it was sustainable. Prior to viral media there just wasn’t that much cool info to be scavenged in the news. Because of this I created a backlog of “fringe” posts that might only be entertaining to my friends. I’ve rarely gone there, however, because stuff like this keeps coming out of nowhere. And while I’ll be the first to admit that this challenge is a little fringe, once you get your head around what’s happening it’s got to be one of the most motivating Psyches of the year. Congratulations Sean O’Rourke, aka Dr. Dirtbag, for taking the Ca 14er record to the woodshed.

The Golden State’s 14er challenge is an odd one because one peak, Mt Shasta, is a long way away from the others creating a bit of a logistical nightmare. In fact it’s all broken up, meaning that how you strategize your support is vital and tricky. It’s been done without support, which is much different because you can’t sleep in a car as it’s moving from place to place. It’s been done with air support, which “kind of sandbags you,” according to Hans Florine, who did it,“because it’s hard to sleep while catching flights because you’re linking short shuttles.” It’s been done using all sorts of tricks like paragliders and bikes. And, I think, it’s been done with only human support—biking to Shasta et al—though I’m only sure it’s been planned this way. O’Rourke did it the most common way, having drivers drop him off and pick him up at various trailheads, and then driving him to Shasta.

Since this is the sort of thing I used to spend a lot of time doing it’s unsurprising that I have some history with it. An attempt has been in the back of my mind forever, at least since my friends Hans and Russ McBride set the record in the 90s by completing it in something like 9 days. It’s been whittled down constantly since, going back and forth between trail runners and climbers (who take shorter lines by climbing technical rock), before settling in at a little over 4 days (though Hans did 14 of 15 summits in 3 days 12 hours when Mt Williamson was closed to hiking). O’Rourke clocked it in 62 hours and 3 minutes, a time so fast it’s close to incomprehensible, certainly earning him that PhD in dirtbaginess.

It shows what’s possible when you spend most of your time running around in the mountains and have a lot motivation. I used to, and blogs like his make me miss those days but at least we can live them vicariously through the Internet while life’s diverting us from the dirtbag world.

Sorry for the long-winded backstory but, hopefully, it will set you up for a better read. Enjoy the spectacle, and keep in mind most (fit) people are lucky to do each of these summits in a long day!

I drove to South Lake, set my alarm for 2:40 AM, and (amazingly) managed to get to sleep around 9:00. I woke up before 2:00, too wired to get back to sleep, and used the extra prep time to eat my normal granola and coffee, pound a half-liter of beet juice, and brush my teeth in preparation for three days of sugary abuse…


  • Hi Steve, I love the blog, so glad I found it. I'm after some advice.I'm early 40s, haven't done any 'formal' exercise since school, can't stand gyms and own no weights, but have kept fit by walking and cycling daily. However, caught a bad case of pneumonia last year and have only just got back on my bike. Been bed-bound most of that time and am now feeling seriously unfit, plus noticing muscle atrophy and extra girth, so am looking for some advice re any kind of programme I can do each morning (ideally 30-60m) which will quickly strengthen muscle, tone me up and (ideally) build stamina. I'll likely get the latter two from cycling, but would also like to bulk up on the top half of my body as seeing myself naked in a mirror right now is a sorry sight! Am willing to work hard for results. I'd appreciate any advice you might have – especially if you can recommend something that doesn't involve weights or gyms! Thanks.

  • THIS it a seriously proud record. I can't see how I can fit in an attempt at the 14ers in a push. The pace set is now officially challenging to beat.

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