DU graduate student finishes project to summit fourteeners for disaster relief
Prior to her first summit July 10, Brittney Woodrum had never climbed one of Colorado’s fourteeners. But, less than 80 days later, the University of Denver graduate student would reach the top of all 58 peaks as part of her “Fourteeners Project” to raise money for ShelterBox, a global aid organization.
“This project is a result of not just my work, but the work of so many people. And one of the things I never expected when I started this project was just how much traction it would gain and the huge community that would rally behind this,” Woodrum said earlier this week. “I had never done a fourteener before this project. I felt confident I could do it, but did I actually know? No. And a lot of people were doubtful from the get-go. I think I allowed some of that doubt to seed in my own approach. But overall a lot of astonishment, joy and lots and lots of gratitude.”
Woodrum, a 27-year-old Kentucky native, is working toward a degree in humanitarian assistance at DU after studying nonprofit administration and Spanish as an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky. Upon moving to Denver a year ago, she immediately set out to find a way to give back and wanted to combine it with her love of the outdoors.
ShelterBox was the first to reach out to Woodrum. Known for its big, green box it sends out to those across the globe in crisis, its ambassadors have a reputation for going on great adventures with the box to raise awareness for its mission. Woodrum decided to tackle the fourteeners all while carrying one of these boxes, hoping to raise $1,400 per mountain, or a little more than $80,000.
After reaching the top of her final peak — Crestone Needle in the Sangre de Cristo Range — on Sept. 26, Woodrum said she had raised about $85,000 for ShelterBox’s COVID-19 emergency relief fund.
“There is a sense of relief, because obviously every day it went on there was a huge concern for weather and all these other things,” Woodrum said. “So I feel really relieved that everything kind of worked out in my favor. There were a lot of moving pieces that had to go right for me to be able to complete it.”
TAMING THE ELKS
While Woodrum did say her favorite climbs were those around Lake City in the San Juan Mountains, notably Handies Peak, the “majestic” Elk Mountains around Aspen certainly struck their own cord.
“Capitol was probably the first mountain I saw that I was like, ‘Yeah, that one looks like a fourteener.’ That’s what you would expect a fourteener to look like,” Woodrum said. “It was so majestic and the basin you hike into and the lake, that was such a special hike.”
Capitol Peak, located not far from the Snowmass Ski Area, is arguably the state’s most notorious fourteener and certainly one of its deadliest. That reputation had Woodrum a bit concerned, being a newbie to climbing 14,000-foot peaks.
Not to mention, the day she began her hike toward Capitol happened to be the same day the Grizzly Creek Fire broke out near Glenwood Springs, making for one of the most unique nights of her project.
“It was almost surreal because there was a meteor shower that night and then being up on top so high, you could just look across the valley and because of the fires you could see orange everywhere in the distance, which was wild,” Woodrum said.
“I was really scared to do it,” she continued, in reference to climbing Capitol. “But then I got up there, and this was something I found on every single mountain I did, it’s just about embracing the trudge. It’s more of a mental than a physical game. Get yourself to put one foot in front of another and you’re eventually going to make it. Sometimes you have to do a couple more technical moves than others, but Capitol for me, it was super fun. By the end of the project I found I really welcomed those technical climbs.”
THE NEXT HORIZON
With her project completed, Woodrum is looking forward to a little bit of rest. She’s taking a short break from her graduate studies and will soon become a Leadville resident, a community she really latched onto during her treks.
However, most of her work is just beginning. She already has her eyes focused on possibly doing a similar project next year, and sees her nonprofit work as a career, not a one-off summer adventure.
“I feel very service-oriented in general. I know that’s what I want to dedicate my life to. I feel very privileged with everything I have ever had in my life,” Woodrum said. “The best thing I can do with my life is pay some of that forward and help others who by no fault of their own have had the worst day or year of their life.”
For more, find Woodrum’s project website at http://www.shelterboxusa.org/fourteeners or search “The Fourteeners Project” on Facebook.