Grad Set to Tackle 58 Peaks as NOLS Fundraiser


May 17, 2021

Backpackers hike in front of stunning Pingora Peak in the Wind River Range
Photo by Nathan Page

An intrepid WFR graduate has set out to climb 58 peaks over 14,000' to raise money for NOLS.

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 attemptCulebra Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Rangedid not go quite as planned on Friday the 21st. 

Snowy peak with footprints leading out of sight and ski poles in the foreground
Photo of conditions on Culebra Peak by Eric Tutterow

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.

Mount Democrat summit view. Courtesy of Eric Tutterow.

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.

Fans and followers are encouraged to sign up for email updates (including more photos) and make their own fundraising pledges to support NOLS and Eric's 58-peak goal. Stay tuned for more updates!

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.

Close up of Eric wearing sunglasses and a hooded jacket for hiking
Eric on the Kungsleden Trail in Sweden. Photo by Kris Verhofstadt.

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.

Eric with NOLS instructors Jake Wallace and Brenna Meagher.
Eric with NOLS instructors Jake Wallace and Brenna Meagher. Photo courtesy of Eric Tutterow.

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

Eric began his adventure on May 17, and you can follow along! Keep an eye on this page for updates and photos from Colorado, as well as NOLS Instagram and the NOLS Alumni group on Facebook.

Sign up here to receive email updates or pledge to support NOLS in honor of Eric’s fundraising efforts.

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NOLS is a nonprofit global wilderness school that seeks to help you step forward boldly as a leader.

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