Over the past 40 years, Chris Townsend has trekked thousands of miles, covering the world’s greatest trails as well as creating his own hikes.
Author and hiker, Chris Townsend was the first man to walk all 517 of Scotland’s mountains over 3,000 feet (the Munros and Tops) in one continuous trek. He has walked the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada; and the 1,300-mile Scandinavian Mountains Walk across the peaks of Sweden and Norway from the North Sea to the Arctic Ocean.
By comparison, his yomp from Land’s End to John O’Groats seems tame in comparison. He lives in Scotland, and has been gear tester of Outdoor Fitness’ sister magazine The Great Outdoors since 1991.
- The best way to experience wild places is to go alone. The full intensity of being in nature, of feeling part of it and blending in only comes with solitude. Wilderness is a question of definition; is it a pristine area that is untouched, or is it how it feels? There are very few places in Britain that are pristine wilderness, but there are plenty of places that are wild enough that they feel like wilderness. The more manicured and waymarked the path the more it intrudes. Step off the path and the world changes. Suddenly there is no line leading you on. This is just the wild. You are in the landscape and not on the edge looking in.
- I don’t have an organised training plan. I live in the countryside and get out regularly. Walking over rough ground in light footwear keeps my ankles flexible and strong. Before a long trip I will start going out more frequently, but I have learnt that the first week of any trek is a breaking in period. To set out thinking I am going to walk 25 miles a day from day one is a recipe for disappointment. After the first week I will start getting fitter.
- For the backpacker who loves wilderness and pristine landscapes the Pacific Crest Trail is arguably the ultimate trail. My PCT journey lasted from April to late September – en route I saw black bears and rattlesnakes, moose and coyotes, strange Joshua tress in the desert, giant firs in the mountains, smoking volcanoes and bubbling mud pots. I learnt to carry a gallon and more of water in the desert, the hassle of hanging my food to protect it from bears and the need for snowshoes or skis when hiking through soft, deep snow.
- My favourite hiking recipe is macaroni cheese. I have always found pasta more sustaining than rice. After two weeks of hiking my appetite will rocket. I’ll be eating about 5,000 calories per day and I will still have lost weight by the end of a long walk.
- If I had any advice for my younger self it would be not to push too hard and to take rest days. On my first trek along the PCT, I had a very fixed idea of walking every day and never taking a break, but after three to four weeks I would be winding down and finding it difficult to keep going. You do need to take days off, but I only learnt by trial and error.
Out there: A Voice from the Wild by Chris Townsend, £8.99, sandstonepress.com