In Minnesota, Dan Hobbs is a guy who lives in Bloomington.
In Colorado, he is a mountain lord.
On July 19, Hobbs established a mountain hiking record in the extreme that, for the most part, was improbably forged in the flatlands.
Colorado's "14ers" — 58 peaks above 14,000 feet — are bucket-list material for beginning mountaineers and rugged veterans, who set out to summit them individually or in clusters or, like a section hiker, all of them over time.
Hobbs did all 58 consecutively over 14 days, 17 hours and 33 minutes in the Fastest Known Time, or FKT, a now-established measure of prowess on or off-trails. Judging from 14er website forums and the crowds turning up to hear Hobbs' stories and snag a selfie with him, he's still peaking. The previous best self-supported mark was set by Peter Jones in 16 days, 13 hours and 43 minutes ending on Sept. 15, 1995, according to FastestKnownTime.com.
"He has got our admiration. That is quite an achievement," said Roger J. Wendell, who has navigated the 14ers and said the news has made the rounds. Wendell is a spokesman for the Colorado Mountain Club, an outdoor education group based in Golden.
That Hobbs pulled off the FKT self-supported drives his accomplishment into the realm of the unimaginable. The logistics were their own extreme.
No one was waiting with a Clif bar, a recovery drink and dry socks after Hobbs completed rock-strewn, multihour ascents and descents.
No one drove him to the next trailhead. In fact, Hobbs drove his van about 1,600 miles in pursuit of his record on foot.
No one prepared a meal between peaks. And there was no need — or time — to shop for food. He modified his van around efficiency, installing a small fridge, freezer and microwave for food prep and retooling a passenger seat area to serve as an eating space.
Hobbs began plotting his attempt two years ago, with a spreadsheet accounting for "every minute of every day," he said, trying to dial-in the best sequence of peak to peak, where to begin, where to shave time. The possibilities seemed limitless.
"I drove 6,000 miles last year in the mountains trying to figure out how to combine these [14ers]," said Hobbs, who manages rental property and is a busy husband and father of two. "That was intense and, honestly, going into it I wasn't entirely sure I had it right."
There also were hundreds of hours combing through information on his computer. Nothing was left to chance: Every piece of gear had been tested by the time launch day arrived. Every meal and snack planned.
Outdoors, he needed to simulate elevation during his training. Hobbs turned to Hyland Lake Park Preserve near his Bloomington home as a stand-in. He'd climb 10,000 feet over 20-25 mile hikes that took several hours, including 70 to 75 trips on the 140-foot ski hill.
"It made the real thing easier for sure," he added.
Going it alone, Hobbs said safety — his and strangers' — was rule No. 1. Sleep deprivation was a concern he took seriously because of the driving. He occasionally took "micro naps" on mountains before descending or, when time allowed between travel, snag two or three hours of sleep. Small amounts of sleep on a frequent basis were key over 14 days, he added, rather than prolonged periods without. He'd researched that, too.
"To set the record, the logistics is the most important part," he added. "It's more important than your athleticism because if you screw anything up it can cost you a whole day."
But the 14ers are familiar turf for Hobbs. He climbed them in 2013 over 24 days. He wasn't out to set a record at the time — he wasn't aware there was one. His goal was more consequential: He was depressed and suicidal and sought refuge in the wild. The experience ("I had no idea I could do it that fast") set the stage for future visits to the mountains. About nine years ago he began considering an FKT attempt. He did 30 to 40 summits since then before doing all 58 over 25 days last summer in a slower-paced shakedown for this summer's attempt.
Like other highly visited attractions, some of the 14ers are suffering from too much love, said Wendell, of the mountain club. Areas around some of the peaks are private parcels owned by mining companies and are now off limits.
Still, he said Hobbs observed access rules (FKT-keepers vetted his GPS data) and the club welcomes the attention he brings to all Colorado peaks — whether above 14,000 feet or below.
"I don't know how you can emphasize … what a tremendous physical and mental accomplishment this was," Wendell said.
Not all was euphoric. One thing a spreadsheet can't account for is weather, and toward the end of the grueling FKT it brought Hobbs to his lowest moment. It was his second-to-last day. He awakened from a nap during his descent from Mount Lincoln, with no exit, above timberline and in a frightening lightning storm.
"It is what I imagine being in an artillery barrage is like," he recalled. He screamed at the sky. He cried. The ordeal punctuated an odyssey that had been "full pain, full suffering."
Ultimately, though, it's the alone time in training and on the peaks — years ago and now — that Hobbs calls to mind. Unlike logistical details, there were some interior realms that can't be planned for to be known.
"I spent a ton of time by myself not seeing another human being, and I learned how to find inner peace and comfort with who I am," he said.