Everything hurts. Every part of my body aches in some way and my blistered feet are screaming to get out of my boots. The sinking sun tells me it’s sometime around 7 o’clock at night, but time doesn’t matter right now. It’s been obsolete for the past 36 hours. All that matters is that my battered and bruised limbs hold on for one last mile of trail that leads to camp, and the end of a 16 mile haul over the rugged mountains that connect Montezuma, Colorado to Copper Mountain. Over mountain tops brushed with snow and wildflowers, and down steep rocky descents, we hiked — steadying our heavy packs on our shoulders and digging our trekking poles into the always-changing landscape. For three days, roughly 200 backpackers traversed the 33 total miles of the 2017 Fjallraven Classic USA — all in the name of nature. Some bleeding, most pushing their bodies to the limit, all moving with a sense of purpose and re-energized by the breathtaking backcountry views illuminated by an encouraging sun each day.
It’s a story told time after time. The tale of the tired hiker looking for inspiration in the wavy lines of a canyon wall. The mountain biker nursing her wounds after barreling down the side of a mountain. The trail runner popping his own dislocated shoulder back into his socket to finish a 100-mile long running race. But why? But why do we suffer for nature?
On the final morning of the Fjallraven Classic, I slowly emerged from my warm and cozy sleeping bag and unzipped the side of my tent. Drops of morning dew danced along its sleek outer walls. All around me, dense patches of Columbine flowers came to life under the first rays of the day’s sunlight. Birds chipped in the distance, their songs echoing out over the sleepy campers sprawled out throughout the blooming mountain meadow. Miles below me, the small mountain town of Breckenridge quietly slumbered away. Above me lay the snow-covered peaks that stood between me and the finish line of this unique and challenging event. “It’s really amazing, isn’t it?” Said a fellow trekker peering out of a nearby tent at the unparalleled scenery laid out before us. “How cool is it that we got to sleep here last night?”
Pretty damn cool, I responded before taking in a deep breath of fresh mountain air and a swig of campsite coffee to wash down the Aspirin.
In it’s second year, the Fjallraven Classic USA continues to serve as a safe introduction to overnight trips in the great outdoors. The three-day event includes 24-hour medical staff, check points and designated camps each night stocked with water, snacks, freeze-dried meals, marked trails, and educated volunteers and staff on hand to help with gear and tips for off-the-grid exploration and leave no trace principles. The original Fjallraven Classic began in Sweden ten years ago, and continues to host trekking events in the country as well as in the U.S., Denmark, and Hong Kong. To walk along the footsteps of the trekkers that tackled this year’s USA course, head to the Colorado Trail that connects the small town of Breckenridge and Copper Mountain resort.
Gear We Took
Three days speed-hiking 33 miles in often unpredictable weather in Colorado should not to be taken lightly. Here’s the gear that not only helped us get to the finish line, but made it easier while doing so:
Osprey Ariel AG 55
This women’s-specific pack is designed to carry heavy loads, thanks to Osprey’s innovative Anti-Gravity™ technology and mesh ventilation. This pack will keep your shoulders from aching and includes a designated pocket for a sleeping bag, and a detachable top-lid that conveniently converts into a daypack. $290 ospreypacks.com
If you’re going to carry one mid layer along on your trek, this one should be it. Fjallraven’s Keb Fleece is comfortable, cozy, and versatile enough to keep up with changing weather. Plus the jacket features leather detail on the shoulders to keep your backpack straps from digging in. $200 fjallraven.us
If you’re hiking in a group, add the Primus PrimeTech Stove set to your gear list. This fast-boiling stove includes a windscreen, making it incredibly efficient, and is so lightweight, you’ll barely remember that it’s stashed in your pack until it’s time for dinner. $129.95 primus.us
Mountainsmith Halite 7075 WSD
Whether you typically hike with trekking poles or not, they’ll definitely come in handy while traversing the rugged landscape along the Colorado Trail. Mountainsmith’s Halite 7075 collapsible trekking poles come in women’s-specific and regular sizes which feature easy heigh adjustments, cork handles, and padded wrist straps. $79.95 mountainsmith.com
Mountain House Freeze-Dried Meals
Mountain House freeze-dried food will save your life (sometimes, literally) out on the trails. The variety of delicious meals come in a variety of sizes and with the help of a little boiling water, cook up right in the bag they’re packed in. Warm yourself up at night with some Chili Mac with Beef, and fuel up for a day on the trails with Biscuits and Gravy. mountainhouse.com