The Guy Who Pushed a Peanut Up Pikes Peak—With His Nose

Hogs555 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Hogs555 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0 / Hogs555 via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

As a 26-mile round trip, hiking the 14,115 feet of Pikes Peak is an accomplishment all by itself. In fact, Zebulon Pike, after whom the summit is named, never made it to the top—even after telling his expedition crew that they would be able to climb the peak and be back in time for dinner. The first man to climb the "fourteener" didn’t come along until 1820, when Edwin James conquered it. (James, by the way, also has a namesake peak.)

And then there’s Bill Williams, who decided that merely getting to the top of Pikes Peak wasn’t challenging enough. What would be really hard, he figured, was getting a peanut to the top of the mountain—with his nose. Williams had already pushed a peanut 11 miles in nine days in his hometown of Rio Hondo, Texas, and figured that a similar feat up Pikes Peak wouldn’t be that much different. In fact, he was willing to bet on it. The Texan accepted a $500 wager from a friend that he couldn't complete the task within 22 days. 

So, in 1929, Williams geared up in gloves, pants with special knee pads, and a 2-foot long “nose prong” strapped to his forehead that helped him keep the peanut in line. The trip up the mountain ultimately took him 21 days, during which he went through at least three pairs of shoes, 12 pairs of gloves, and 150 peanuts. Souvenir hunters were quick to snap up the worn out gear: “When Bill discards a worn-out shoe or a knee pad there is always a fiendish shout of delight and the gang goes after it like bleacherites after a ball that Babe Ruth has adorned with a home run trade mark,” the Pittsburgh Press reported.

Bizarrely, that’s not the only time a mountaineer has seen fit to shove a legume up the mountain. Ulysses Baxter accomplished the feat in 1963 in a little over a week and hired a rock band to serenade him as he crossed the finish line. And University of Colorado student Tom Miller smashed Baxter’s and Williams's records in 1976, getting the peanut up the peak in a mere four days, 23 hours and 47 minutes.