Cells surviving crisis are often tumorigenic and their telomeres are commonly maintained through the reactivation of telomerase. However, surviving cells occasionally activate a recombination-based mechanism called alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). Here we establish stably maintained survivors in telomerase-deleted Caenorhabditis elegans that escape from sterility by activating ALT. ALT survivors trans-duplicate an internal genomic region, which is already cis-duplicated to chromosome ends, across the telomeres of all chromosomes. These 'Template for ALT' (TALT) regions consist of a block of genomic DNA flanked by telomere-like sequences, and are different between two genetic background. We establish a model that an ancestral duplication of a donor TALT region to a proximal telomere region forms a genomic reservoir ready to be incorporated into telomeres on ALT activation.