Handies Southwest Slopes
Handies Peak was a fun peak to break the rules on. We decided to hike at an unorthodox time to see the sunset, rather late for 14er efforts. Standard approach calls for being off mountains by noon, not heading up just before dark. What can I say, I’m a rebel!
We spent a few days in the San Juans this weekend without knowing the Hardrock 100 was taking place along the alpine loop. We had decided to hike Handies at sunset to avoid the crowds. Unbeknownst to us that evening one of the legs of the Hardrock 100 race would go up and over Handies peak. Furthermore, we had no clue we would meet Killian Jornet on the summit as he was in first place.
The approach through the basin is mild with great views swooning you with lush green beauty, wildflowers that time of year and endless views. After a short time on the trail we were passed by a young man carrying a large camera case and one bottle of water. After chatting with him we found out he was part of a media team there to cover the hardrock 100 race. This was the point my partner and I realized the race was happening and they were coming over Handies peak that evening.
It wouldn’t be long before the leaders in the top 3 positions of the race would top out on Handies before jaunting down the gulch to another basin continuing the Hard Rock 100. The leader being none other than Killian Jornet himself, pretty cool!
We took our time soaking in the views of the sinking sun over the basin. After passing the lovely alpine lake we started the last push to the summit running into another media photographer heading up. Here we thought we were avoiding the crowds and we were just in time for the live broadcast!
All jokes aside we were kind of giggly about the whole chance encounter and quickly made our way to the summit. Once on the summit we greeted other media teams and awaited the leaders and their pacers while basking in the sunset we were rewarded with. We threw on some layers to wait for the runners.
We shivered alongside great company and conversation with our dogs piling on our laps for warmth. Not long after we spotted the leaders approaching in the basin. Killian topped out first. What a humble experience for him to stop and shake our hands, say hello while smiling and then casually jaunt off down the other side of the mountain. So rad to meet him at 14,000 feet mid-race, a race he went on to win that year. Grateful for this encounter!
We wished our new friends well as we bid goodbye to the others waiting for the other two leaders. Slowly we made our way down the basin with the last remaining light. More runners and their pacers passed us heading up before they split and pacers departed to reconnect later down the trail.
We made it back down to the car well past dark and were exhausted but stoked about our summit journey and meeting Killian. We all crashed in the car that night at a busy trailhead, dogs included!