So, Woodrum lived in her car and spent her days climbing and traveling to new peaks. By the time Woodrum had conquered every peak near the end of September, she had raised more than $80,000.
“If I had started this project, just as a desire to climb the Fourteeners just as a whim, or as some type of physical challenge, I probably would have quit on day two,” said Woodrum, a 27-year-old who resides in Leadville, Colo. “But the fact that I had this greater purpose, and I had this box and I was going to take it to the top, it was really what encouraged me to keep going every single day.”
Woodrum moved from Kentucky to Colorado in September 2019 to study international studies and humanitarian aid as a graduate student at the University of Denver. That month, she became an ambassador for ShelterBox, hoping to complete an impactful project. When the coronavirus spread throughout the U.S., in March, and Woodrum’s summer travel plans were canceled, she glanced at mountains from the window of her small Denver apartment. The idea of climbing peaks popped into her mind.
Few ShelterBox ambassadors had completed such ambitious programs, and organization leaders asked Woodrum whether she desired more time to cap a mission many people make a life goal. But Woodrum planned her trip and was confident she could trudge through the 540 steep miles. She used June to dehydrate fruits and vegetables to last throughout her journey. She didn’t want to enter towns because she feared spreading or catching the coronavirus.
The Culebra Peak was the first trail Woodrum climbed July 10, taking about five hours. She set up her camping set wherever she went, and she usually was awake between 4 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sometimes, people she met along the journey offered her a bed for a night. Most of the peaks were about a two-hour drive away from each other.
On her travels, she carried a 13-pound green box from ShelterBox on her back that contained water, snacks and extra clothes. Though Woodrum didn’t believe she would raise much money, many rotary clubs donated. When an organization devoted $1,400, Woodrum shot a photo with the company’s logo atop a peak.
Woodrum’s favorite memories from her project were the relationships she built. While scaling the Redcloud and Sunshine peaks in August, Woodrum met a family that serves margaritas and hot dogs to hikers every year. She spent the evening with them over treats Woodrum hadn’t enjoyed in months.
Woodrum expected to climb most of the mountains alone, but Colorado residents and friends who heard about the task joined her.
“I’m definitely very people-driven,” Woodrum said. “So people are always like, ‘What was your favorite peak?’ And I think it really just goes back to who was out there with me. What I didn’t expect was how many people would just hear about the project and reach out to me and want to join me on hikes, or who would actually meet me on the side of the mountain and then want to join me just because people were so excited about this project.”
Woodrum has hiked since she was a child, often visiting the Red River Gorge in Kentucky with her family growing up. She described herself as a tomboy, spending her childhood clambering trees and dashing through woods. When she was 24, Woodrum became serious about backpack hiking and trekked the Appalachian Trail through West Virginia and Camino de Santiago in Spain.
She has also spent her 20s helping less fortunate people. When Sam McLean, one of Woodrum’s hiking friends, met her in 2018, Woodrum’s hair was short because she had shaved it to serve as a monk in Yangon, Myanmar. There, as well as in Mexico and Thailand, she said she assisted with the countries’ education.
With her Fourteeners project, Woodrum helped ShelterBox purchase more building materials, solar lights, mattresses, blankets, food, water and school supplies.
“She was a gal on a mission to make a difference,” ShelterBox USA President Kerri Murray said. “During covid, she combined the things that she loves to serve humanity and particularly those who are most vulnerable in our world. We all know that every person on the planet has somehow been impacted by this virus, but there are those in our world that are really at risk and are particularly vulnerable.”
In mid-September, when she needed to complete five more mountains, Woodrum ran into a snowstorm and doubted for the first time whether she’d accomplish her goal. But she finished about a week later, rejoicing that the money she raised through her favorite pastime would provide shelter to those in need around the world.