Andrew Okerlund, 20, becomes youngest to complete Washington’s Bulger List

Andrew Okerlund, age 20, summited Washington's 100 highest peaks in one season. He is now the youngest to have completed the Bulger List.
Skye Michel Skye Michel
Associate Communications Manager
September 22, 2023
Andrew Okerlund, 20, becomes youngest to complete Washington’s Bulger List
Andrew assessing the first pitch of Hard Mox before taking the lead on the climb. All photos by Ross James Wallette.

On September 11, Andrew Okerlund became the youngest person to have completed the Bulger List: the highest 100 peaks in Washington. Not only did he climb all 100 peaks, but he managed to do so in a single summer – 85 days to be exact. He is the fifth person to have completed the Bulger List in one season and the second fastest, right after Jason Hardrath. Andrew's timing was impeccable as his college classes began only nine days later, making him the most interesting classmate in all of San Luis Obispo. 

Andrew was strongly pulled to this test of endurance, noting that “it could be a wonderful experience or kind of a terrible experience.” With flexible standards on the climbs, it was the perfect choose-your-own-adventure and, at the very least, an opportunity to “just see what's out there.” 

Although now the youngest to complete the Bulger List, Andrew wasn’t out to set any records. His purpose for attempting the list ranged from wanting to explore local landscapes, to having a curiosity about sustained mental focus, to simply finding out whether or not he was up for the challenge. “I've never really done something where success is so up in the air,” Andrew shared. “At first, [success] was just gathering the courage to even attempt it… rather than writing it off as being too big to try.”

Photo Jul 12 2023, 7 44 13 PM.jpgAndrew on the final stretch of the ridge to Devore Peak.

Andrew planned his climbs strategically: beginning with the easiest, he worked his way up the ladder of technical difficulty. “I planned it like building blocks,” Andrew said, where each climb served as a prerequisite for the next. “I had one hundred opportunities to learn... They were all different lessons and tests.”

One of the biggest challenges while completing the Bulger List was not necessarily physical, but logistical. Smoke, road closures, and last-minute schedule changes from climbing partners proved to be the most cumbersome. One partner who had planned to accompany Andrew for most climbs ended up tearing their meniscus. Others who agreed to join back-to-back climbs often dropped out the second day. “Basically after every trip I had to replan something because a partner would change or something would happen. Most of the stress came from planning.”

IMG_8833-Edit.jpgAndrew climbing the ridge on the way to Easy Mox. Smoke in the air lingers orange, pink, and purple hues.

Photo Jul 14 2023, 7 23 46 AM.jpgRoss transporting some of his and Andrew's gear from Stehekin to Holden. Photo by  Andrew Okerlund. 

Not being one to take unnecessary risks, Andrew avoided climbing alone. Luckily, he found a network of reliable climbers through an unsuspected platform: Instagram. “It’s kind of like a resume,” Andrew shared. After pursuing a climber’s profile for adequate skills, Andrew would slide into their DMs and pitch a first date. Once he assessed their skill level in person, he invited them to join more technical climbs. Andrew met one of his main climbing partners, Ross, through Instagram. Ross served as an unofficial photographer for Andrew’s Bulger List undertaking. According to Andrew, the worst thing to happen while adventuring with an Instagram stranger was a bland conversation.

When it comes to determination, Andrew’s – aided by tortillas stuffed with Nutella, trail mix, candy, and chocolate chip cookies – was unyielding. “There were a lot of really hard days, and very long days,” Andrew shared. Fortunately, he maintained his mentality: “you take a step in, and you don’t leave until you’re done.”

IMG_3878-Edit.jpgAndrew and a stack of Chips Ahoy on the summit of North Gardner Mountain.

IMG_0738.JPGKevin Hsu standing in Mt Logan's Christmas Col. Kevin climbed 20 peaks with Andrew.

In my communication with Andrew’s family, I found that this determination runs in their genes. In early September, Andrew’s great Aunt Joan, a lifetime Mountaineers member, stopped by to provide an update on his climbs. She was worried that Andrew may not be able to finish, having 11 climbs left and a short window to complete them before the first day of school. “I hope he decides to start college late and finish these climbs,” Joan said. Her reasoning was resolute: “It’s the peakbagger way.”

While the Bulger List prioritizes summiting peaks, Andrew recalls that his favorite moments weren’t summit related at all. “I would just be sitting down or something and then for some reason I’d get hit with a wave of emotion. It’s not a break in concentration, but a break in something where your mind shifts perspective for a moment. You kind of laugh and want to cry… those are the good moments.”

Jack Summit photo.jpgAndrew at the summit of Jack Mountain.

Photo Aug 21 2023, 11 50 13 PM.jpgAndrew and Lucas Gibbons setting up a rappel to get down an icy snow slope.

After months of climbing in Washington’s remote areas, Andrew shared that the biggest change he noticed is his relation to risk. “If you're out there all the time, it's easy to get overly comfortable. Just because nothing bad has happened doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen.”

While climbing Sinister Peak, Andrew experienced a near miss as he hiked on loose rock and eroded slabs that were prone to rockfall. During the descent, his partner dislodged some rocks, many the size of basketballs. Andrew was quick to react and evade the falling rock, escaping by mere inches.

IMG_8844-Edit (1).jpgAndrew, Lucas Gibbons, and Ross Wallette traveling a glacier at Dusk to stay on schedule for the next day’s climb.

Photo Aug 19 2023, 4 42 48 PM.jpgAndrew rappelling down from the Mox Peaks with two other Bulger peaks in the background. Mt Custer, left, and Mt Spickard, right.

This changing relation to risk hit especially hard on September 4 when Andrew and Ross came across the gear of a deceased climber while climbing  Jack Mountain. It was apparent to Andrew that these climbers had been well-prepared, their only blunder being the unpredictability of the backcountry. “The mountains are very active and alive,” Andrew said. “Stuff will just happen.” On their way back to the trailhead, Andrew and Ross decided to gather the scattered gear to return to one of the climber’s widows. With an extra 20 pounds each, they trekked the 12 miles back to their car in the dark of night. 

IMG_9668-Edit.jpgAndrew on a sunrise traverse between Fortress Mountain and Chiwawa Mountain.

Photo Aug 21 2023, 6 59 56 AM.jpgAndrew leaping rocks to cross a stream while staying dry.

Four pairs of trail running shoes and thousands of burned calories later, Andrew completed his last climb on September 11, making it home just in time to freshen up for his mother’s birthday dinner. “I feel very lucky that nothing bad happened,” he said. “You can control a fair amount, but after being in the terrain and exposed to that environment for so long, you definitely are kind of rolling the dice.”

After a jam-packed summer, Andrew is excited to start school and take a break from intense decision-making. “It’ll be nice to have things picked out for me. You do this big thing and then don’t know what to do with yourself after. So it will be good to have school to get back into.” 

All images were taken by Ross James Wallette (unless otherwise noted). Check out his photography at For more images of Andrew and Ross’s climbs, find them on Instagram at @andrewoakoutdoors and @rossjamesphoto. Stay tuned for the release of Andrew's documentary film at

Photo Jul 06 2023, 12 56 24 PM.jpgRoss and Andrew taking a break in the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness.
720472958.237091.jpgAndrew and his mother pictured in Best Hikes with Kids: Western Washington & The Cascades, Mountaineers Books 2006.