Telluride is a snow-sport paradise for those so inclined and every other shop seems to sell sportswear of some kind. In the warmer months, it’s all about mountain biking, hiking and All-Terrain-Vehicles (ATV’s). You come to Telluride for action and excitement.
The most action we had was a ride on the cable car to Mountain Village.
It was a 12 minute ride, locked into a tiny box hundreds of feet from the ground, nose to nose with a couple who had not yet discovered the art of conversation – not even Rachel could break the deafening silence. Despite the view, it was the longest 12 minutes of my life.
Mountain Village is centred around a cluster of up-market hotels, sports shops (yes, more sports shops) and cafes and has a lovely Alpine feel to it. It’s what I imagine a Austrian ski resort to be like.
It’s expensive and you need serious dollars to kit yourself out for the slopes here so the most we splashed out on was a chocolate and vanilla milk shake before heading back to Telluride. This time, thankfully, we had a lovely couple from North Carolina, who liked our hair (don’t ask) and a mountain biker to talk to.
By the way, mountain biking here looks amazing – all the cable cars are free so you can hang your bike outside any car for a trip to multiple summits and enjoy a long ride down again. You can do it all day for free!
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was our next stop. Its stomach-churning cliffs rise almost vertically above the Gunnison River below and you find yourself hanging on to something while looking over the edge at each viewing platform. To get a feel for the height of the canyon, imagine two Empire State Buildings, stacked end to end. If you placed England’s highest mountain into the canyon it would only peek out over the top by a few hundred feet. Like the Grand Canyon, it’s really difficult to appreciate the size of the Black Canyon because it’s just too big to take in.
We ate lunch at the side of the canyon and had the distinct feeling we were being watched…
… and spent the next few hours touring the canyon to see it from every possible angle.
Just before sunset we joined a Ranger-led talk entitled something like ‘ Climbing Black Canyon’ or ‘Climbing in the Black’ – something like that. What it should have been called was ‘1000 ways to die in the West’. The question posed by the ranger was “why do people climb Black Canyon?” – a question we repeatedly asked ourselves throughout the whole talk. Apparently, it’s for the challenge. Well, I can think of a number of ways of challenging myself without hanging a thousand feet from the ground by a crack the width of my fingers, with nothing but death below me. How about trying to eat a full American breakfast without bursting or watching an omnibus episode of EastEnders without throwing yourself under a bus afterwards? We learned words like Bomber, referring to strong and secure rock and Choss, which is rock that is unstable for rock climbing. Benightment was the scariest – finding yourself stranded on a cliff-face overnight and the stuff that nightmares are made of. We were showed all the gear climbers use to keep themselves safe but we still had to conclude that the 1,500 people who climb here every year are probably insane. The ranger tried to comfort us by telling us that, on average, “only” one person dies every few years climbing “in the Black”. Well, I suppose that’s ok then!
We decided that, rather than climbing in the Black, we would wait for darkness to descend and view the stars in the Black – even that was dangerous as I twisted my ankle walking around in the moonlight while trying to spot the Milky Way. I gotta tell ya, it’s tough out here!
By the time we got back into town, what few restaurants we could find were shut so we had to settle for a Big Mac and another bucket of Coke – don’t you just love America?
Next we head north and west to Grand Junction.