Joel Strickland from Baldock looks out across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Picture: Joe Boot
A pair of students hiking 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada have now raised more than £1,000 for charity – as they approach the halfway point of their great American odyssey.
Joel Strickland and Joe Boot, somewhere in Colorado. Picture: Joel Strickland
Baldock’s Joel Strickland, 25, is tackling the Continental Divide Trail south to north across the United States along with his friend Joe Boot, 23, in aid of mental health charity MQ and the University of Leicester’s widening participation programme.
Their progress along the five-month route has been slowed by the biggest snowfall in 20 years – and as of Tuesday morning the intrepid pair are just approaching Berthoud Falls in the Rocky Mountains, about 30 miles west of Denver and more than 1,000 miles into their journey.
Speaking to the Comet from Colorado, Joel said: “We’d like to stress the record-breaking snowfall in 20 years, and the harsh weather which made us come off the San Juan mountains and take a lower route.
“It’s been so difficult to stay motivated on some days – but how happy we are to have reached over £1,000 for our charities, and to have hiked more than 1,000 miles.
“Postholing in the snow – where your foot just falls through – really does slow down the days, and adds extra mental and physical challenges in Colorado. In the San Luis pass in the Rio Grande national forest – one of the most difficult parts of the trail – we were postholing up to our waists.
“We went to an elevation of 3,800m, had snowshoes on and still postholed. We managed about 12 miles this day, compared to our usual 20.
“The snow in general adds an extra physical and mental dimension. The altitude was difficult to adjust to at the beginning, but we’re used to it now.
“We’re having to navigate with no trail in the snow, which is hard and adds an extra navigational challenge.
Joel Strickland straps on his snow shoes at San Luis pass in Colorado. Picture: Joe Boot
“Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming to us here in the USA – and though I’m eating more than 4,000 calories a day, I’ve lost about 20 pounds in two months!
“We’re looking forward to the rest of the trip and the beautiful scenery that awaits us.”
Aeronautical engineering PhD student Joel, who went to Hartsfield Primary and Knights Templar schools in Baldock, said before leaving for America that he had always dreamed of being a “modern-day pioneer” and conquering nature.
He and Joe are being guided to the Canadian border by a special GPS called Frodo, which also allows supporters to see where they are online in near-real time.
Joel Strickland and Joe Boot at Cumbres Pass, on the border of New Mexico and Colorado, after completing mile 800. Picture: Joel Strickland
To follow the guys’ progress or make a donation, see facebook.com/walkingthecdt and joelandjoewalkthecdt.wordpress.com.