Morton completes Colorado Trail in under four days
'My goal was to overcome a lot of my own fears'
Morton made the solo journey from Durango to Denver – primarily aboard a mountain bike but with plenty of hike-a-bike thrown in – for the Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia. His ride covered a pledged distance of 850 kilometers (over 500 miles) for the organization’s Tour de Kids fundraiser.
Morton completed the demanding, high-altitude trip on Thursday in a total time of three days and around 22 hours, just two hours shy of the all-time record in his first ever attempt.
“I was totally destroyed afterward,” he said. “It was a pretty wild experience.”
As might be expected of a multi-day solo trek through long stretches of mountain wilderness at an average elevation of 10,000 feet, Morton’s ride on the Colorado Trail was full of difficult moments. Rolling out on Sunday, August 25, he had little time to settle in before running into trouble.
“The only proper crash I had in the whole thing was about an hour and a half into the first day. I had a pedal strike and then ejected myself down an embankment, probably 15 or 20 feet, and ended up upside down in a tree,” Morton said.
“Immediately, you have that unsettling feeling of like, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ That rattled me a bit, but then the sun came up and all the sudden you could see where you are and it was like, ‘Holy sh—, this is amazing.’”
Fortunately, things improved from there, putting Morton into a groove that led to a good first day. After a brief sleep in the wilderness, Morton pushed on into day two, taking on some brutal climbing sections that he recalls as the hardest stretch of journey on the way to a much-deserved full night’s sleep at the Hot Springs at Mount Princeton.
Not that he stayed long, of course. He was off again the next morning for day three, which took him through Leadville and then over another brutal climb before he stopped for the night at Copper Mountain. The fourth and final day kept things interesting to the end.
“About 40km to go, I came up around a corner and I could see a small cave on my left and I could see two sets of eyes with my headlamp,” Morton said. “I got closer and I’m like, ‘I think those are two mountain lions…’ So I got filled with adrenaline and started sprinting past it. I got about a hundred meters past, and whatever was in there, one of them had come out.
“It immediately brought me back to reality, like, anything could happen to me out here, even close to the finish.”
Fortunately, Morton was able to put some distance between himself and the local fauna to press on and face one last challenge: darkness. With one light broken in his opening-day crash and another running out of battery, Morton had to get creative to illuminate the home stretch, using the light on his cell phone after taping it to the front of his handlebar bag.
With 850 kilometers done and dusted, Morton could finally relax after the long journey, one he says might have been too big a challenge if not for the cause motivating him throughout.
“I almost a hundred percent sure I wouldn’t have finished otherwise. It was so tough. I had to call on that reason bigger than myself,” Morton said. “It definitely got to the point where I didn’t have enough self-motivation to push on. I feel like they ended up doing me a favor.”
After a well-earned full-night’s sleep, Morton was able to ruminate on the many takeaways from his trip.
“My goal was to overcome a lot of my own fears,” he said. “I feel like I’ve done that now.”
Not bad for a week on his calendar that was ostensibly free of racing. Morton will take the fitness and the confidence he gained on his incredible Colorado Trail back to competition soon, however, as another alternative racing adventure looms.
The Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross awaits in just over two weeks…
For more information on Starlight and the Tour de Kids, check out Morton’s donation page here. There’s still time to make a contribution.