Today was Handies Peak course marking. Jim Sweat and I decided to go to the top and come back the same way to avoid the 2 hour drive out from the other side. This involved recrossing American Basin and climbing the Grouse-American Pass yet again but always beats that truck ride. Anything beats that truck ride. Starting at close to 10,000ft at the site of the Grouse Gulch Aid Station (bad, bad memories from 2008-see report on side bar for more info) the trail switch-backs steeply up, up, up until we can see the pass high above us. With only a couple of short snowbanks to cross the traveling will be clear by race day.
We stopped and regrouped at the pass, 13000 feet and had something to eat. The American Basin opened below us and I was surprised how little snow there was. Looming above that was the brooding hulk of Handies Peak, imposing and impressive all at once.
We dropped down into the basin, picking our way through rocky outcrops and streams. Then the long, long climb up Handies. The trail switchbacks continuously before a final steep crumbly ascent. We gathered below the final pitch out of the wind while the stragglers caught up. We sat in the sun and ate with the most spectacular view. You know this is a sport for older runners when the main topic of conversation was everybodies annual colonoscopy. Hmmmm. That and stories of past Hardrock disasters. Jim Sweat always wins those: 9 starts and never finished.
Finally we were up and climbing the final pitch and on the broad summit. The 360 degree view was worth the effort. Lots of pics and signing the register in the tube and Jim and I headed back down. Marcie and John had hiked over from the other side so joined us on the return. In the short space of time the marmots had already eaten half of the flagging tape off the markers by the time we passed back. Luckily the metal reflectors are to tough for them.
On the final descent the heavens opened and we picked up the pace. 10 miles in 6:45hrs.