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News / Life / Clark County Life

Camas High School grad the youngest person to scale 100 highest peaks in Washington

By Kelly Moyer, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: February 27, 2024, 6:05am
4 Photos
Andrew Okerlund, 20, climbs the northeast ridge of &ldquo;Easy Mox&rdquo; in Washington&rsquo;s Mox Peaks during the summer of 2023.
Andrew Okerlund, 20, climbs the northeast ridge of “Easy Mox” in Washington’s Mox Peaks during the summer of 2023. (Contributed photos by Ross Wallette, courtesy of Andrew Okerlund) Photo Gallery

The mountain-climbing list detailing Washington’s 100 highest peaks is filled with firsts, seconds and youngests.

Russ Kroeker was the first to finish in October 1980. Bette Felton was the first woman to finish in 1986. And Nathan Longhurst was — until being bumped from the spot by a Camas native last fall — the youngest person to complete the 100 “Bulger List” climbs.

Andrew Okerlund, a 2021 Camas High School graduate, noticed Longhurst had set the Bulger List’s “youngest” record Aug. 6, 2021. He decided he wanted to beat that record.

“I wanted to be the youngest one to do it … but I didn’t know if it was possible,” Okerlund said.

Okerlund decided he not only wanted to be the youngest person to complete the Bulger List, he wanted to climb all 100 peaks in a single season.

Realizing his dream, however, would take careful planning and more climbing education.

“I identified the things I really had to do if I was serious about it,” Okerlund said. “I knew my summer break, from June 18 through Sept. 22, was my maximum amount of time.”

He had already climbed Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier in Washington and taken an introductory glacier-hiking course on the base of Oregon’s Mount Hood. But Okerlund knew he would need to learn more mountain-climbing techniques before his summer break began in June 2023.

“There were gaps in my climbing education,” Okerlund said. “I hadn’t rock climbed, so I had to find a mentor and learn traditional climbing skills.”

After finding a skilled “trad climber” near his college, California Polytechnic State University where he’s studying computer science, Okerlund learned the mechanics of safe rock-climbing.

“Ideally, you shouldn’t fall to your death,” Okerlund said, laughing. “You want to have something to attach yourself to the mountain. … Eventually, I met someone who knew how to do that type of climbing, and they taught me those skills.”

Before tackling the Bulger List, Okerlund practiced his rock-climbing skills in Moab, Utah, California’s Joshua Tree National Park and Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon.

Okerlund reached out to another recent Camas High graduate — Zach Hein, the founder of Range Meal Bars, a company that makes high-calorie meal-replacement bars popular with hikers.

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Hein offered to help create a documentary movie about Okerlund’s climbs, which will be released this summer.

Okerlund began his quest to climb all 100 Bulger List peaks in June 2023. On Sept. 11, 2023, Okerlund realized his dream and, at 20 years old, earned the title of youngest to finish the list.

Along the way, Okerlund experienced a few low points — the mosquitoes, the mice that moved into his car, painful blisters from a pair of bad hiking shoes and a frightening rock slide that sent Okerlund sprinting across a steep, smooth, slippery slab of rock to avoid being injured by the avalanche of “basketball-sized” rocks tumbling toward his head.

But the good outweighed the bad, he said. When Okerlund recalls his season of climbing, he mostly thinks of the positives.

“The problems you’re facing every day are so human,” Okerlund said of his daily mountain-climbing routine. “They’re just much simpler, and they seem more meaningful.”

And, of course, the tremendous views didn’t hurt.

“The landscape is so beautiful,” Okerlund said. “And I love that feeling of total freedom — of doing whatever you want and not having anyone to hear you or see you.”