Our gear editor Chris Townsend is a week into a 450-mile hike along the mountainous spine of Colorado. He sent us this update from the trail.

The mountains ahead looked glorious, shining in the sharp, hard Colorado sun. The trail wound through the forest above a beaver pond-filled valley. This is what I had come for, this wild nature, this beauty, this feeling of freedom.

My body felt anything but free though, as I laboured through the thin air, my head and lungs unattuned to 11,000 feet. I’d set off a few hours earlier from the Copper Mountain ski resort, itself at nearly 10,000 feet, with two friends; frequent TGO contributor Andrew Terrill, and igloo-builder extraordinaire ‘Igloo Ed’. Andrew hoped we could get above the trees to camp but he’s younger and, crucially, lives at 9000 feet, not 1000 like me. My head spinning, I realised I wouldn’t make it that far, so we camped on a bench overlooking the beaver ponds, a fine site if not out of the trees.


My plan for this trip is to walk the high trails and see the mountains I’d missed back in 1985 when I hiked the Continental Divide Trail. Snow and blizzards had forced me down to a lower route, the mountains hidden in swirling snow. I’ve always meant to come back and finally I’m here, on the CDT, which for much of the way coincides with the newer Colorado Trail.

With Andrew Terrill and Igloo Ed at the start of the walk

From that first camp we climbed to the 12,034-foot Searle Pass, where Andrew turned back. The views of mountains and forests without end were exhilarating and overwhelming. A long traverse led to Kokomo Pass, again above 12,000 feet. We would have loved to have camped up here but there were rumbles of thunder in the distance and dark clouds building. Lightning is a real threat here in summer. Dropping down into the trees was wise. I was still acclimatising to the altitude too and felt a little dizzy.

That night’s camp was deep in the woods, well sheltered from a storm that never came. So were the next three, which I had to myself as Ed had also departed, as the trail has not yet gone back above the treeline. Glimpses of mountains have come and gone but mostly I’ve been wandering through peaceful, relaxing woods watching squirrels and jays.

Then I came down to the little hiker-friendly (thru-hikers get a discount at the store) settlement of Twin Lakes where I’m having a rest day before heading into the Collegiate Peaks where I’ll be above the trees much of the time. In six days I’ll meet Andrew again, who’s bringing me supplies. 

Gear Notes

I’ll do a full report on all the gear on my return. Here are some comments on how a couple of new items are doing so far.

Altra Olympus 3.5 shoes.

These are wonderful! Fit, cushioning, grip and comfort are perfect. Now to see what they’re like after another 300 or so miles.

Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Solar Panel.

This works well when in direct sunlight. Much of the time in the forest I’ve been in shade though and then it ceases to work. On the day of the two high passes, with many hours in sunshine, it almost fully charged the Goal Zero Venture 30 power pack. On a cloudy day in the forest it only charged it enough to boost my phone 1%.

Chris Townsend is undertaking 400 – 450 mile journey through the mountainous wildernesses of Colorado, including sections of both the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail. Most of the route is over 10,000 feet in altitude, and it will involve climbing the 14,728 foot Grays Peak and go through Wilderness Areas such as Collegiate Peaks, La Garita and South San Juans.