Over the past 26 years, the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund (RKMF) has sent Colorado College students on all-expenses paid wilderness trips throughout the U.S. and Canada. This fund was created in honor of Ritt Kellogg ’90, a skilled outdoorsman who died tragically in an avalanche. His family hopes to inspire students to dream big and foster personal growth through outdoor exploration.
On Tuesday, Oct. 9, the students who spent a portion of the previous summer on a “Ritt Trip” presented slideshows on their experiences. The programming began with an introduction from Andrew Allison-Godfrey ’18, Outdoor Education’s Ritt Kellogg coordinator, recapping the past year. The 2018 RKMF sent out 10 trips with a total of 29 students, as compared to its inaugural year of four trips and nine students. Explorers ventured as far as the Gates of the Arctic National Park, and more students attempted thru-hikes this year than ever before. While there were some evacuations caused by wildfires and directional mishaps, all students returned home safely. To highlight just how much a Ritt Trip can impact one’s life and career, Thor Tingey, co-founder and CEO of Alpacka Rafts, spoke about his trips 20 years ago.
Tingey took advantage of the RKMF twice during his years at CC, traveling to Alaska both summers. His first trip was a 165-mile backpacking trip with about 30 miles of floating on pack rafts spread throughout; his second trip was a massive 39-day odyssey through 700 miles of the Alaskan wilderness with around 60 miles of floating. Back when Tingey went on his trips, the technology for pack rafts was a limiting factor, but this didn’t stop him and his friends: they purchased floats from Walmart and Cabela’s and spent most of their free time repairing their vessels. Tingey affectionately referred to these floats as “ice baths,” as they would fill with water at even the slightest wave. These trips gave him the idea of creating a pack raft that could actually be used to explore long stretches of river, without ripping and filling with chilled water.
Twenty years later, Tingey runs a successful pack rafting company, Alpacka Rafts, which he founded alongside his mother, a talented outdoor seamstress. Needless to say, Tingey’s Ritt Trips shaped how he went on to live his entire life, and he emphasized that it could change yours, too.
Ritt Trips are open to all students, and there is no cap to the number of trips that the RKMF will pay for each year. If the RKMF Committee, comprised of Ritt’s friends and family as well as Ritt Kellogg trip alumni, thinks that your proposal is of sufficient quality, the funding is yours. All trips need to be within the U.S. and Canada and last at least 12 days, and all participants need to be Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified. Otherwise, virtually any trip that students can dream up and fulfills these requirements has the potential to receive funding.
After watching students present on trips that went everywhere from the Everglades to Olympic National Park, it is hard to deny the sheer beauty that can be found in the wilderness. Each student who spoke had nothing but excellent things to say about these life-changing trips. The fact that the RKMF gives students all the tools they need to be able to see the beautiful outdoors is something unique to CC and worth taking advantage of.
If you’re interested in applying for a Ritt Kellogg Grant, check out the page on CC’s website, or send an email to Andrew Allison-Godfrey, the current RKMF coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.