An intrepid WFR graduate has set out to climb 58 peaks over 14,000' to raise money for NOLS.
Peaks #13 - 15: Rematch
July 15, 2021
Just shy of 50 days into his summer adventure for NOLS, Eric Tutterow has officially checked 15 peaks off his ambitious list of 58. Number 13 proved far from unlucky, as he scaled the high point of Colorado and stood atop Mt. Elbert on June 28.
The day before climbing Elbert, Eric's skill as a Wilderness First Responder proved invaluable for an injured Continental Divide Trail thru-hiker. He met Eric after falling on the trail and complained of "pain on his upper left side and shortness of breath." As Eric reports, "I assessed him with a possible rib fracture and took him to the ER in Leadville, where the fractured rib was confirmed as well as a small pneumothorax." Thanks to Eric's quick thinking and assessment, the hiker was put on oxygen and sent home to recover for 4-6 weeks.
July 1st kicked off with a successful summit bid on Huron Peak:
Just a few days after climbing Huron, Eric celebrated the 4th of July by returning Culebra Peak, the one and only summit he was not able to reach on his first try in May. Mission accomplished! With this second attempt, Eric checked Culebra off his list.
Sudden thunderstorms are common during the summer months in Colorado, and they can be especially dangerous for folks exploring at high elevations. Thus far, Eric has had to plan carefully to avoid these storms and climb during certain windows of time. This often means extremely early starts or skipped days to ensure safety. Wildfires and poor air quality can also be concerns at this time of year.
Eric reports that current air conditions in the Sawatch Range have been poor due to smoke. If conditions continue to deteriorate, he plans to relocate to the San Juan Mountains in the southwest corner of the state and continue climbing there. 15 peaks down, 43 to go!
Peaks #4 - 12: Mountain Marathons
June 23, 2021
Just three weeks after the last update on Eric Tutterow's climbing progress in Colorado, he has successfully completed eight more peaks on his list of fundraising 14ers!
June 8: Eric summited 14,265′ Mount Evans via the West Ridge from Summit Lake trailhead, spending a long day navigating lingering snow and boulders. Despite that, Eric reported "great weather and some incredible views."
June 11: Eric polished off Mount Sherman (14,036'), his second peak in the Mosquito Range after Quandary in May, without much trouble and with more fantastic weather.
June 13: This would become an impressive trend over the course of the next week, but Eric's first double-duty climb led him to summit both Mount Belford and Mount Oxford in a 13.5-hour marathon climb. He experienced a little extra "unnecessary" excitement, however, on the trek down. "I met a bear on the way back to the trailhead," Eric said. "After a two-minute standoff, I backed away and went around it through the woods." Thankfully, it was a safe end to an already exciting day!
June 17: Not one to be satisfied with just TWO summits in 24 hours, Eric went on to climb the final three peaks in the Mosquito Range—Lincoln, Cameron, and Bross—in another fantastic one-day push. The Alumni Office staff is convinced that Eric's success was fueled by the Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies they mailed him as a special treat, but it was more likely his grit and iron legs that carried him up all three peaks.
June 22: Rounding out his impressive week, Eric climbed both Grays Peak and Torrys Peak back-to-back under more sunny blue skies. The 8-miles circuit took about 8.5 hours to complete and carried him to the highest point on the Continental Divide in North America at 14,278' (Grays). Longs Peak and Pikes Peak are the only two remaining in the Front Range for him to tackle.
Unfortunately, the weather turned stormy in the area for several days after that, and Eric has now transitioned from Alma, CO to Leadville. He will focus on progressively ticking peaks off his list in the Sawatch Range, along with returning to Culebra Peak on July 4th (to settle unfinished business on the only peak he hasn't successfully climbed on the first try thus far).
Despite feeling somewhat frustrated by the turn in the weather and some of the Forest Service road maintenance issues he has encountered along the way, Eric reports "feeling very strong" with twelve out of 58 peaks completed.
Peaks #1 - #3: Quandary, Bierstadt, Democrat
June 4, 2021
Eric Tutterow is off to a strong start in Colorado! His tolerance for adversity and uncertainty has already been tested in just the first few weeks of his endeavor. Like any good NOLS graduate, Eric is taking it all in stride, focusing on his successes, and adjusting plans and expectations along the way.
Lingering snowpack and inaccessible trailheads have been his biggest difficulties thus far, along with the the ongoing issue of acclimating to higher elevations. Eric made the drive to Colorado from Illinois the weekend of May 16, setting up camp in the Dillon area and spending his first week adjusting to life above 9,000'. His first summit attempt—Culebra Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Range—did not go quite as planned on Friday the 21st.
The entire range remains blanketed under snow, including parts of the approach road leading to Culebra. Even with a new lift kit added to his truck specifically for the trip, Eric was forced to park over 4 miles from the usual start of the hike and walk to the trailhead. After several hours of trekking (with a permit from Cielo Vista Ranch, private owners of the area), even snowshoes proved ineffectual as he climbed higher. "It will be at least 2-3 weeks before conditions improve," he reports.
Despite stopping short of his first summit, Eric remains unshaken. He turned north again and set up base camp in Alma, the highest incorporated municipality in the United States at 10,578 feet. Ever the committed NOLS supporter, Eric also decided to update his own personal fundraising pledge: in addition to donating for each summit he succeeds in climbing, he will also donate $100 for each peak he attempts and fails the first time (even if he goes back and completes it later in the summer)!
Things began to look up on May 27, when Eric stood atop 14,265′ Quandary Peak as his first successful summit of the 58-summit goal. Two more summit victories followed in quick succession after that: 14,065′ Mount Bierstadt on June 1 and 14,155′ Mount Democrat on June 3.
For the next 2 weeks, Eric will continue to wait for trailheads to open around Alma. As the weather improves and the snow dissipates in June, the Sawach Range and the Chicago Basin are likely next destinations. Thus far, he has enjoyed meeting other hikers along the way, telling them more of his story, and even sharing some of his own NOLS-branded gear with others to spread the word about the school.
Why This Fundraiser
For Eric Tutterow, when you love being outdoors and have worthwhile goals to pursue, age is meaningless. After a career as a financial analyst with JP Morgan, Eric retired in 2017 and immediately set out to do more exploring.
“The day after retiring, I was on a plane to Patagonia,” the intrepid WFR graduate says. Expeditions became a more regular part of his life in locations all over the world, from the Arctic to Antarctica and everywhere in between. He climbed an impressive four of the Seven Summits after the age of sixty, insisting that “sixty is the new forty.”
Turning 65 this year, Eric has set his sights on another impressive goal for summer 2021: to climb all 58 Colorado peaks over 14,000 feet as a fundraiser for NOLS.
Eric took a Wilderness First Responder course in 2019 after encountering numerous sick and struggling people during his travels. He felt helpless in those situations and wanted more training to recognize warning signs, assess hazards, and offer better assistance in the backcountry.
Eric also completed the Wind River Traverse in 2020, one of the first NOLS alumni trips to run after several months of COVID-19 uncertainty and cancellations. He was impressed by the skill and professionalism of his instructors, as well as saddened by NOLS’ temporary shutdown and heavy staff losses experienced during the pandemic last year.
“NOLS will always be a part of my life,” says Eric.
To help celebrate his 65th birthday, and to help ensure that NOLS will be around for many years to come, Eric came up with the idea to climb all the 14’ers in Colorado as a fundraiser. He hopes others will follow along with his journey and pledge to support him—and NOLS—in the process. Whether through a pledge to donate for each peak he successfully summits, a single donation amount given in solidarity for the cause, or simply sharing his story and following along online, Eric is thankful for any support given.
What drives him to pursue this goal, and what he believes will drive him every step of the way this summer, is his commitment to honor the sacrifices made by so many NOLS employees during the global COVID-19 pandemic. He looks forward to doing what he can to ensure that they continue to be the leading source and teachers of wilderness skills and leadership that serve people and the environment.
How You Can Help
NOLS is a nonprofit global wilderness school that seeks to help you step forward boldly as a leader.