Local adventurist making the most out of life
Tesch hopes to travel the world and conquer mountains
December 27, 2016
Many teenagers get the same spiel over and over. From holiday gatherings to family reunions, they hear questions such as "Are you going to college?" or "How much money does that job make?"
Local 21-year-old Sully Tesch heard all of this, and then some, as he was nearing graduation from Park City High School in 2014. He heeded the advice of ones close to him, opting to go after a dream he had since a little kid when he walked onto the men's soccer team at the University of Wisconsin, where he planned to major in civil engineering, a well-paying industry.
He spent a year and a half on the Madison campus. At first, he was loving life. As a little kid playing soccer, it was always the goal to grow up and play the sport at the Division-1 level. He was finally achieving that, all while obtaining the valuable experiences one gains at college.
"It was seriously the [most fun] school," Tesch said. "Playing soccer and going to a nice school like that, that was my life."
At some point after his freshman year, though, Tesch, who has always been a lover of the mountains in Utah, just wasn't feeling it.
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Suddenly, he found civil engineering classes he was taking were uninteresting. And while he loved playing soccer, he knew he wasn't going to continue it after college. Most of all, he felt like he was wasting valuable years of his youth when he could be achieving other big dreams.
"I always knew that I wanted to do a lot of really cool stuff with skiing and climbing mountains," Tesch said. "I was just like, 'I'm young right now. This is the time to do it.'"
Tesch decided to drop out of college and move back to Park City at the beginning of 2016, to the dismay of many of his family members
"[My parents] did not support the decision," Tesch said. "We [eventually] got on good terms, but if I wasn't going to go to school, they weren’t going to support me."
His family even had intervention dinners to try and persuade him to stay in school. But as Tesch said, he and his parents are now on good terms, but because he wasn't going to school at this point in time, he moved in with a friend named Insa Riepen, the Director of Recycle Utah.
He stayed in her son's bedroom while he was away at college. During this time, he paid the water bill and completely supported himself elsewhere.
Tesch worked the graveyard shift — 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. — at Stein Eriksen Lodge, where he was a custodial worker.
"I was getting paid $15 per hour to be a janitor basically," Tesch said. "I go up there every night. I grind through that job; literally the worst job I've ever worked."
Working the night shift would lead to knocking out the second your head hits the pillow for most people, but Tesch isn't like most people. Instead of going home to sleep after working eight hours, Tesch made runs to Pete's Coffee, downed two black coffees and took to the slopes for the rest of the day.
It wasn't until after he got done skiing around 4 p.m. that he would finally make his way back to his borrowed bedroom to catch up on some much-needed sleep before waking up at 10 p.m., heat up some boxed mac and cheese and head back to work for another eight hours.
He was living the skier's dream, his dream. But he still wasn't satisfied.
While he was enjoying himself, Tesch, again, felt he was wasting his time. In order to combat that feeling, he came up with a goal most people would deem crazy or impossible; climb and ski the 50 tallest mountains of the Wasatch Front.
With no prior touring experience under his belt, Tesch had none of the equipment necessary to accomplish his goal. After saving up a few of his paychecks, he was finally able to get the touring gear he needed, but didn't have a climbing partner.
"All my friends that I would ski with growing up don't tour, so I had to do this alone, which is kind of scary," Tesch said.
Scary indeed. In fact, Tesch had a few near-death experiences during this journey, but none more terrifying than when he climbed Mount Raymond — 10,241 feet in elevation — in Salt Lake City back in March.
Right from the start, the expedition got off on the wrong foot. After skiing the three days prior and working a shift at the lodge the night before, Tesch was dead tired when he went to put on his gear to make the trip. So much so that he ended up falling asleep as he was putting on his gear.
Tesch slept until about 10 a.m., or so. At this point, he was supposed to be en route up the mountain. It was already noon by the time he gathered all of his equipment and got himself to the trailhead. With the sun scheduled to set around 6 p.m., Tesch knew his time was limited to get up this mountain.
"I was like, 'It's alright. I'll get up there. No big deal," Tesch said.
His schedule continued to get thrown off as he began his ascent up the mountain. Tesch knew he should probably turn around at 3 p.m. to make it down the mountain before the sun sets, but at 3:30 p.m., he still hadn't reached the peak.
But he could see it, which was good enough for him. He was so close, and even as it reached 4 and 5 p.m., Tesch was not about to give up.
"I'm right there," Tesch recalled saying. "It kept getting harder and harder as I got closer to the top."
Finally, he did it. He reached the summit just before the sun set at 6 p.m., and though he still had the task of getting down the mountain in the dark, the view at the top was worth it.
After taking in the beauty of the Wasatch Front, Tesch figured it was about time to make his way down the mountain. As an experienced skier, he wasn't too worried about the skiing aspect of it, but with it being dark out, the setting becomes much more dangerous.
Luckily, he had a headlight and was able to somewhat see in front of him as he skied his way down.
Only one slight problem: his headlamp went out. Opting to put his goggles up on his head because it was too dark to see with them on, Tesch was tasked with finding the best way down without seriously injuring himself.
Luckily, after traversing and hiking his way to the spot, Tesch found a ridge that would get him down the mountain, similar to the way he came up. But then, his new $250 goggles that were on his head fell off. Because they were new, he wasn't about to leave them behind, despite the circumstances.
"I see them going down the ice," Tesch said. "That's a quarter of two weeks of paychecks right there."
So he skied down to his goggles that luckily got caught before falling all the way down the mountain. Unfortunately, this put him out of position to get to that ridge he was previously going to go down. He could have hiked back up to get there — about a quarter mile — but with it getting darker and darker, Tesch took a risk.
"I was just like, 'Hopefully this works out,'" Tesch said.
With a steep gully aiming down the mountain and his skis strapped on, Tesch decided to just send it. Everything seemed fine at first. He was skiing for about a half hour with no issues. Luckily for him, there was a full moon, which helped light the way, but the shining light showed a new obstacle: cliffs.
They were too steep to ski down. With the previous ridge now about two miles up the mountain, Tesch was running out of options. He was running out of water, too, so he continued to take more risks.
"One step at a time," Tesch thought to himself as he approached the cliff. "I put my skis in my backpack, and wearing ski boots, literally slowly made my way down 100 feet of cliff."
Anyone who has worn ski boots would know the traction between a boot and slippery rocks is pretty much nonexistent. Tesch had a few close calls where his boots would slip out from under him, causing him to fall as far as 10 feet onto more rock. Because of this, though, there was no turning back, as climbing up the rock in ski boots was an even more impossible task.
Finally, he made it to the bottom of the cliffs. Without water, Tesch dumped his head in the stream and started drinking. When he picked his head up from the stream, he realized he had a clear shot to the bottom of the mountain.
By the time he got there, it was roughly 10 p.m., four hours later than his planned time to finish. He hitchhiked from the trailhead to his car, which was about two miles away, and finally started to make his way home.
Unfortunately for him, he didn't have much time to rest.
"I had to go to work," Tesch said. "I didn't sleep for like three days [during that week]."
The summer months of 2016 came around for Tesch, which is normally the time he would return home from Wisconsin had he stayed. Because of this, Tesch got permission from his parents to move back home. He also decided to transfer to the University of Utah in the fall.
He just completed his first semester at the U, where he's decided to study geography, the perfect major to help him conquer the quests he plans to take in his lifetime.
"On my semester off, I learned about geography and thought this is exactly my realm," Tesch said. "Learn about the world, basically."
Why is this crucial to his plan? Because after he graduates from college in roughly two years, Tesch plans on traveling the world, climbing the tallest mountain on every continent. He's even working on obtaining his skydiving license so that he could base jump off of some of them.
Tesch just plans on getting as much experience under his belt as possible. He finished his expedition of climbing the tallest 50 mountains in the Wasatch Front on Nov. 18. Now, he plans to ski and climb as much as possible.
The eventual goal? Tesch wants to get a sponsor to help him reach his goals.
"I'm not one that cares about money, at all," Tesch said. "You just need money to do stuff, to buy a plane ticket or whatever. Literally, any company that was willing to just help me do what I want to do is really all I'm looking for."
It's been a long road for Tesch to get where he's at today. He seemingly was living the life as a Division-1 athlete at Wisconsin, but it just wasn't the life for him. Now, he's doing what he loves and for anyone who doubts him, he offers this advice.
"You just have to do what you want to do with your life," Tesch said.
He certainly is.
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