It was easy to miss the news of a Bloomington man’s remarkable accomplishment last summer among the headlines of international war, rocketing gas prices, and upcoming elections. But for many outdoors enthusiasts, word of Dan Hobbs’ record-breaking, fastest known time to summit all 58 of Colorado’s 14ers, or 14,000-foot-plus peaks, on July 19 spread quickly. The 36-year-old completed the monumental feat in 14 days, 17 hours, and 33 minutes, reaching the trailhead of the notoriously dangerous Longs Peak in the presence of his parents, wife, and members of the dedicated 14er community. Hobbs bested Colorado’s Peter Jones’ 1996 record by two days, spending half a month sleeplessly driving deadly off-road trails to remote trailheads—and, of course, hiking up and down the peaks themselves.
Despite the accomplishment, Hobbs says he didn’t feel elated or proud. “I didn’t feel anything,” he says. “I didn’t feel tired, I just felt blank. … It took everything and drained me, and I didn’t have anything left.”
Jones met with Hobbs before the attempt, to encourage him, and again afterward to congratulate him: “I knew it could go faster, and he proved it. He took it to the next level. That’s what someone needed to do to break the record, and I was stoked that it was him.”
It wasn’t Hobbs’ first adventure in Colorado. Nearly a decade earlier, in 2013, Hobbs bolted to the mountains from Minnesota, convinced hiking every 14er could heal him from his suffocating depression after a divorce. It worked. Despite naively showing up in a Saturn sedan, embarrassingly unaware of how many 14ers there were, the farm kid who grew up in Wisconsin with “zero sporting background” checked them off in 24 days.
Two years later, he was working for a company called REVL and sitting in his Rand Tower office in Minnesota reading about Andrew Hamilton’s new supported—or assisted 14er record of 10 days. Glancing at the hustle of Marquette Avenue, he couldn’t help but let his mind wander back to Colorado.
“After seeing that article, I decided that this was what I wanted to do,” he says. “It was a very specific memory. … I was tired of the sportcoat.”
His plans for the epic trek escalated at the start of the pandemic. He transformed a cargo van into a seriously rad rock-crawling machine he named “Beast,” complete with a built-in air compressor, a second gas tank, and a 30-gallon-capacity water system. The passenger seat was eliminated in favor of a driver-facing microwave, allowing Hobbs to consume all of his premade calories by hand while commuting SOLO? to the next trailhead. He knew the hardest part of the record wouldn’t be the climbing.
“There’s so much stressful four-wheel driving,” he says.
On one day, Hobbs spent nine hours commuting—a third of that on sketchy four-wheel drive passes—after summiting three peaks. “I underestimated the stress of the driving aspect,” he admits.
During the pandemic, Hobbs, who is now married with kids, completed more than 100 Colorado summits scouting his route. He says he has summited every 14er five to seven times now. Those reconnaissance trips produced a spreadsheet every tech geek would envy—with every minute accounted for.
“Of course, that kind of went to hell on the first day,” he laughs.
Back home in Minnesota, he lapped Bloomington’s 140-foot hill at Hyland Hills ski resort up to 70 times per day for training, often finishing his daily requirement of 20 to 25 miles and 10,000 vertical feet in the dark in time to eat dinner with his family.
“That made me really mentally tough,” he says of the monotonous routine.
His mind-over-matter abilities would prove crucial: the 5’11”, 145-pound man who is admittedly scared of heights and “so uncoordinated I can’t play video games” navigated Class 4 and 5 climbs.
“[It’s] about mental control over yourself; there are a lot of really tough situations,” he explains.
Though his parents did not pass on any particular sporting pedigree, his father gave him an education in “self-control and doing hard things.”
One indelible memory revolved around his father’s arbitrary decision for his son to learn horseshoes. “I hated it and I was terrible and it was boring,” Hobbs recalls of his 14-year-old self. For one month, he was required to play for at least 60 minutes per day.
“That was actually one of the most important lessons in my life,” Hobbs says. “While you hate it to start with, it’s pretty miserable to hate something, so I just taught myself to like it and to be good at it.”
After 30 days, his skill in—and love for—the backyard pastime grew.
“That changed my perspective on just about everything in life,” he says. “You can learn to like something you hate, and you can learn to be good at something you’re bad at. You just gotta change your mental attitude and then work hard at it.”
Peaks and Valleys
On the first day of his record journey this summer, Hobbs’ body decided now was the time to reveal a hidden dairy allergy. For the next five days, in addition to growing exhaustion, he battled debilitating nausea, nearly stumbling off of Mount Blanca’s exposed ridgeline. It took five days to discover the cause and a sixth to get over the lingering effects. From there to the end, 75% of his premade meals were inaccessible because of the dairy content.
From snowstorms on the most difficult section of the Maroon Bells traverse to nearly driving “Beast” off of Lake Como Road, Hobbs endured the extreme ends of the human body’s physical, mental, and emotional spectrum. Jones’ parting warning on a five-minute phone call a few days before the record attempt came rushing back more than once.
“It’s going to be really miserable, and you’re going to go to some dark places,” Jones had advised. Hamilton had also cautioned Hobbs, saying, “This is like suffering at a level that humans should not encounter.”
Hobbs discovered they both were correct.
“It was extreme suffering, to a point of being like mentally twisted.”
“The hardest part is really convincing yourself to keep going,” Jones explains. “If you’re doing it solo, you don’t have a team, you don’t have anyone encouraging or helping you. You have to wake up every four hours and just be like, ‘Yep, this is something I want to keep doing,’ which is insanely hard to do.”
Hobbs says, “It was hard through the whole thing. Every day I thought, ‘Tomorrow will be easier,’ and it never was. Every day was maximum difficulty, all the way through the end.”
He says he had a spiritual epiphany during the record-setting challenge: “God doesn’t owe you anything.” For him, it was discovering “how to be happiest through the hardest times.”
Will he return to try for an even quicker time? “No,” he says with conviction. “It was so hard and miserable, and I suffered so much. Unless someone breaks my record, I have no intention of going back.”
Still, he thanks everyone who supported him along the way. “Everyone sacrificed so much for me to do this. Once I got started, I had to honor the investment everyone else had put into me and just finish.”