Best Foot Forward

By Terrill, Walker Andrew | Geographical, August 2000 | Go to article overview

Best Foot Forward


Terrill, Walker Andrew, Geographical


Walker Andrew Terrill starts the first leg of his journey along the entire length of the Rocky Mountains to raise money for the homeless

PERHAPS IT'S THE COMPLETE disorganisation which appeals most, the fact that I never really know quite what lies around the corner. There's only one absolute: the self-imposed and strictly observed role which states that I have to walk every single step of the way. The rest just happens almost of its own accord.

The plan is simple: to walk the length of the Rocky Mountains and then on to Denali in Alaska, finishing within sight of Mount McKinley, North America's highest mountain. The distance is roughly 10,000 kilometres, and the terrain is challengingly varied and wild -- ranging from desert to grassland to forest to high alpine to sub-arctic. Self sufficiency in these hazardous environments is a must.

I've travelled alone to the mountains for 12 years, and throughout 1997 and 1998 I walked from the southern tip of the Italian Peninsula to the North Cape at the top of Norway. After that journey I developed the confidence that would allow me to spend time alone in wilderness regions vaster and wilder than Europe can offer. The Rockies called.

I started at Antelope Wells on the Mexican/USA border on 1 April. April Fools Day seemed like a good day to start; as a sense of humour is important on such journeys. On my back I carried everything I'd need for the next 11 days; tent, clothing, and food. I'd restock when I reached the next town and 16 supply parcels lined the first 4,800 kilometres of my route, each one sent out by the backer of my journey, Radical Ltd, a global logistics company. Their support would be invaluable.

This walk has many aims, one of which is to raise money for Shelter, the UK's largest charity caring for the homeless. Why walk for the homeless? Well, as a mountaineer I know what living outside in rough conditions can feel like, although I'm always aware that I have a home to return to when the expeditions are done. In the mountains on past walks I've been frozen, exhausted, lonely, drenched, and on humbling and unforgettable occasions when seeking shelter, my dishevelled appearance has been examined with contempt bordering on disgust and I've been turned away, left feeling worthless, I may never have been homeless, but maybe I have a small understanding of what homelessness might be like. …

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