Dayhike a Marathon
Backpacker|May - June 2020
Does “go big or go home” hold up on a dawn-to-dusk mission?
By Will McGough

DAWN PAINTS MY dust as I charge up the trail. I’m on a mission, marching past groups of overnighters who are moving at a more leisurely pace. Knowing I’m in a race against time puts a jump in my step, and I power past Maroon Lake, barely noticing the reflection of the Maroon Bells in the water.

The Four Pass Loop in Colorado’s Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness is one of the best backpacking routes in the country. Named for its four 12,400-foot passes, the trail follows a 26-mile loop, gaining and losing over 7,000 feet of elevation. Most people tackle it as a multiday backpack, and some do it as a hard trail run, but I’m short on time and am no runner. So I decided to hike it all at once. The idea of packing so much scenery into a day thrills me, plus, I’m naturally drawn to endurance challenges. An epic dayhike was born.

My 20-pound pack bounces on my shoulders as I climb the first rocky incline. The weight isn’t ideal for a fast-paced day, but it’s my safety net in case fatigue becomes an issue or a storm forces me to hunker down. I’m bringing enough gear to pass an uncomfortable night should my plan fail.

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