Regular TGO contributor Andrew Terrill met with our gear editor Chris Townsend for a magnificent lakeside camp at 12,000 feet. He gives us an update on his progress so far.
The plan was simple on paper: I’d carry in six day’s supplies and meet Chris by a small pool at 12,000 feet deep in the Colorado high country. Since leaving Twin Lakes Chris had been out of contact for six days, and he needed the re-supply for the next stage of his walk. But would he be there? It was the thirteenth day of his journey after all. What could go wrong?
But with Chris: nothing, of course! Some walkers might arrive a day late, others might fail to even find the obscure location, but Chris turned up on cue looking relaxed and carefree; a long distance walker utterly in his element.
Along with Igloo Ed I’d joined Chris for the first few miles of his walk, and it was good to meet Chris again 140 or so miles later. The two of us camped beside a wee ‘lochan’ and feasted upon a grand view of a 13,700-foot peak that bore a striking resemblance to Cairn Toul in the Cairngorms, an intriguing link back to Chris’s home. As evening shadows lengthened stories from his walk poured forth: tales of endless wildflowers, colourful butterflies, quiet miles, peaceful camps. I asked about moments of awe, the kind of moments that make long walks worth taking, and Chris reminisced about a 15-mile stretch northwards from Cottonwood Pass, all of it above 12,000 feet. I could see the magic of it settle upon Chris’s face while he described it.
From the stories he shared I think it’s safe to report that his journey is going well. Progress may be marginally slower than hoped for, acclimatisation to the altitude longer to arrive, but I got the sense that such things didn’t matter. Chris was finally walking across mountains that an early winter had kept him from walking back in 1985, and that was clearly enough. What impressed me most was the manner in which Chris was walking these big Colorado hills, not greedily the way some might, or fearfully as others do, or hurriedly in order to fit in as many miles as possible, but the way a connoisseur would, that is: slowly, thoughtfully, deliberately, appreciatively. It was a treat to be granted a peek into Chris’s laid-back backpacking existence, and a useful reminder that the best moments in life should never be rushed.
The next morning Chris was yet to start packing up camp by the time I was ready to leave, clear evidence of his leisurely approach! My destination was home, and kids to be collected from school, his was a magnificent open-to-the-sky ridge, the Continental Divide itself. His next re-supply point – the small town of Creede – lay six days distant, and as I walked away I felt no doubt that Chris would savour every single step it took to get there.
Our gear editor Chris Townsend is now almost three weeks into a 450-mile hike along the mountainous spine of Colorado. Read his first update from the trail here.