A HAPPY RETURN
The Great Outdoors|February 2020
For more than 30 years, Chris Townsend dreamed about doing a long walk through the high reaches of the Colorado Was it everything he hoped for?
Chris Townsend

RETURNING TO A PLACE you’ve dreamed about for years has risks. Maybe it won’t be as wonderful as you imagined. Returning for a long walk could be even more disappointing; if your expectations aren’t fulfilled day after day, you may end up spending the entire trip with a feeling of anticlimax.

I knew this might be the case when I finally went back to Colorado to walk 400 miles (644 kilometres) along the Rocky Mountains. It was thirty-four years since I had traversed the state during my Canada to Mexico Continental Divide Trail (CDT) hike. On that walk, winter had come early, and deep snow and blizzards had forced me down to a lower route for the southern half of the trail in Colorado. I’d been in forest most of the time and hadn’t had more than glimpses of the mountains. Now I was going back to tackle the high route I’d missed, and experience what many say is the finest landscape on the whole of the CDT.

The Colorado Rockies are high – in fact, they are the highest in the whole 1900 mile (3000 kilometre) length of the Rocky Mountain chain, which stretches from British Columbia in Canada to New Mexico in the United States. I would be above 10,000 feet (3048 metres) most of the way.

Eager to be up in the mountains as soon as possible, I chose the ski resort of Copper Mountain as my start point. This was a mistake. Copper Mountain lies at 9800 feet (2987 metres) and the trail climbs to over 12,000 feet (3657 feet) in the first 10 miles. I soon felt the altitude and could only walk at half my usual pace.

THE HIGH COUNTRY

I didn’t mind. I was in the company of two friends – Andrew Terrill and Igloo Ed – and happy to climb slowly and camp early. The landscape was lush and lovely with beaver ponds along the creek, luxurious flower meadows, and magnificent conifer forests. I relished every step. It would be many days though before I was somewhat acclimatised to the altitude, and for the whole walk I was slower on ascents than I am at home.

The second day we climbed above the trees and the world opened up, with alpine tundra stretching to rugged mountains in every direction. This was to be the pattern for the walk – climb through forests to high mountain passes, traverse the high country, then descend back into the trees. Sometimes the trail would barely brush the forest before returning to the high country, but there was always much climbing every day.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM THE GREAT OUTDOORSView All

More Ways than one

Roger Smith calls for more clarity around the increasing proliferation of named trails

3 mins read
The Great Outdoors
February 2020

THE LONG PATHWAY

Kat Young and Liv Bolton both walked New Zealand’s South Island from north to south via the country-spanning Te Araroa Trail. Here they each describe a section of this spectacular and life-changing route

8 mins read
The Great Outdoors
February 2020

THE CRUX

Last summer, self-confessed ‘average adventurer’ James Forrest completed all 282 of Scotland’s Munros in an intensive six-month push. Here he describes the most knee-trembling part of the journey – Skye’s famous Inaccessible Pinnacle

8 mins read
The Great Outdoors
February 2020

A HAPPY RETURN

For more than 30 years, Chris Townsend dreamed about doing a long walk through the high reaches of the Colorado Was it everything he hoped for?

6 mins read
The Great Outdoors
February 2020

Practice Makes Perfect

Preparation is key if you want to enjoy, and not simply endure, the TGO Challenge. Organisers Ali Ogden and Sue Oxley look at how to be ready for the demands of a long-distance walk

3 mins read
The Great Outdoors
February 2020

Happy When It Rains

With an unpredictable winter approaching, here are TGO’s tips for enduring – even enjoying? – our ever-changing climate...

6 mins read
The Great Outdoors
December 2019

Mind Boggling

Rising rivers, quaking bogs, ferocious winds, possible thunderstorms and annoying theme tunes – will Paul Beasley be able to take all this in his stride and successfully cross Dartmoor?

10+ mins read
The Great Outdoors
December 2019

Errigal

Donegal’s highest mountain is a sight to behold – unless, as Jim Perrin discovered, the weather has other ideas…

3 mins read
The Great Outdoors
December 2019

Commuting: Lochaber Style

For Many Of Us, The Daily Commute Can Be A Chore. But, For Neil Adams, Living And Working In One Of Scotland’s Finest Mountain Landscapes Gave Him The Opportunity To Turn It Into An Adventure...

9 mins read
The Great Outdoors
December 2019

The Depths Of Time

James Roddie goes under the surface of Assynt to discover a whole new dimension to an extraordinary, ancient landscape.

4 mins read
The Great Outdoors
November 2019
RELATED STORIES

GEOLOGY IN THE NATIONAL PARKS

The Science Behind the Scenery

10+ mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
June 2021

How do you trailside camp?

Fact: For most of us, camping and wheeling go together. It’s a safe bet that where there’s folks gathered to wheel for more than a day there’s probably camping involved.

2 mins read
Four Wheeler
May 2021

Come Together

SOMETIMES IT’S EASY to get bogged down in negativity, especially coming out of 2020. We’re going through a pandemic, many of us haven’t seen our families in almost a year, and all the fun activities we used to do (horse related or not) have been rescheduled, canceled, or set aside for the time being.

3 mins read
Horse and Rider
Spring 2021

MIKE FARRINGTON

Woodworker, content creator; a lesson in contradictions

5 mins read
Woodcraft Magazine
February - March 2021

PHIL HEATH A MILE HIGH ABOVE THE REST

Numerous factors contribute to fat loss.

7 mins read
Muscular Development
February 2021

US SPACE COMMAND SITE TO BE LOCATED IN HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA

The U.S. Air Force announced that the new U.S. Space Command headquarters will be in Huntsville, Alabama, after the state was selected over five others competing for the project, including Colorado, where Space Command is provisionally located.

3 mins read
Techlife News
Techlife News #481

“The Mountain Decides"

The ninety-eighth running of The Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as “The Race to the Clouds,” is an invitational automobile hill climb to the summit of Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain in Manitou, Colorado.

3 mins read
Diesel World
February 2021

The Saga of COLORADO GOLD - 53 Million Troy Ounces and Counting

Colorado has been mining gold even before the region became a territory and is still mining it today.

10+ mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
January 2021

WHY MOTORCYCLISTS CAN'T AFFORD TO JUST SIT BACK AND ENJOY THE RIDE?

Many different things draw people to motorcycling. For some, it’s the sense of freedom.

3 mins read
Born To Ride Southeast Magazine
December 2020

THE ICONIC SAN JUANS

With a mining history dating back to 1860, the San Juan mountain range in Southwestern Colorado has been a destination for adventurers for years.

2 mins read
4LOW Offroad Magazine
December/January 2021