Ges and Jeanne | Handies Peak Elopement
Savannah Chandler Photography | 14er Elopement Photographer
Jeanne and Ges’ 14er Elopement | Hiking Handies Peak
Jeanne and Ges knew that they wanted to do an elopement just the two of them on a mountaintop, followed by family and friends joining them for a reception dinner elsewhere afterwards. Ges is a mountain runner, and knew that Handies Peak would be perfect for their 14er elopement.
– It’s BEAUTIFUL – the San Juan mountains are some of Colorado’s most stunning scenery
– It’s easy (relatively speaking). It’s just over 5 miles round trip with 2500 elevation gain.
– It’s Class 1 – no climbing over rocks or scrambling in a gown
– No permits are needed, just be sure and follow all LNT guidelines
The hike up to Handie’s 14,049′ summit begins in the beautiful American Basin. The upper trailhead requires a 4×4 (or great navigation skills). In fall, the water crossings can be minimal – but earlier in the year be sure to know if your car is capable of fording a river.
Coming out of the basin, the trail winds up and beneath the American Peaks with the stunning teal waters of Sloans Lake. Not to be confused with Sloans Lake near Denver ;).
After the lake, there’s a slight talus crossing – but the trail is very developed and easy to follow.
You then snake your way up some switchbacks to the final ascent up to the summit.
Things to Consider when planning a 14er Elopement
One of the biggest factors that plays into hiking any 14er is the weather and recent weather patterns. In the summer months, typically there are afternoon thunderstorms that begin roughly around noon in the higher elevations. In fall and shoulder seasons, the lightening risk tends to lessen (always be sure to check weather regardless of the season before attempting any summit).
For Ges and Jeanne’s elopement – we originally planned a sunrise summit. After much debate and thought around making it to their reception in Denver on Saturday – we made the call to look at a sunset summit on Friday as long as the weather looked to be safe. We lucked out and got some of the most mild and amazing shoulder season weather – especially considering neighboring mountains had received up to a foot of snow a few days prior.
Getting all your stuff to the summit
Having a pack large enough to comfortably fit all the needed equipment is one of the first considerations you should make while planning any hiking elopement. At some point – wether that’s on the way up the mountain or down – your wedding attire will likely be packed away in your pack.
If you’ll be packing your attire to the top-
• Roll your gown. It helps with wrinkles!
• Suits can be attached to the outside of a pack with a suit bag. Or rolling also works if you want to pack it.
• Remember all the essentials too – water, food, an emergency kit, gloves, beanie, etc.
• Flower arrangements can be caribeaner clipped to the exterior of your pack using a key ring.
If you’ll be hiking up in your attire (like Jeanne and Ges did)-
• WEAR GOOD FOOTWEAR. Jeanne and Ges actually got new trail runners for their elopement, which drastically helped to make sure that no one slipped, especially on the final pitch to the summit.
• Have your jacket and gloves accessible or easy to get out of your pack. Ges’ mittie gloves are some of my favorite gloves I’ve ever seen – I must get my hands on a pair.
• Don’t be afraid to get your dress or suit a little dirty. It’s going to happen on a trail – you’ll just be bringing a piece of your elopement home with you.
And a general piece of advice on what to pack –
Only pack what you’ll use elopement wise. Your marriage certificate, letters from loved ones, etc. Don’t pack a bunch of large extra weight. If you have something like a large book that includes letters from family – I recommend building time into our day at the Trailhead either before or after our hike to do items that will be adding a lot of extra weight.
Plans may need to change. Be flexible.
The mountains be crazy. The weather changes the week of, and that’s typically the driving factor of needing to switch dates for a hiking elopement. I’m here to be as flexible as my schedule allows – and if we do need to look at another date or location, I promise it’ll be spectacular. All of my elopements that we’ve looked at postponing have had something magical happen that wouldn’t have been the case otherwise. For Jeanne and Ges – we wouldn’t have had the most fantastic weather and not even need coats to hike down in the dark.
And one more general piece of advice, especially to all my lovely ladies –
Learn to change your tires.
We came down off the mountain to Jeanne and Ges having a completely flat tire and we had to change it. We were a group compromised of 4 females – but we got it done on our own and it made me think back into my memory bank for sure. Don’t ever let a lack of knowledge leave you stranded – especially as a female. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
The Deets, Nitty Gritty, and Sunset of Jeanne and Ges’ Handies Peak Elopement
Jeanne and Ges were referred to me from another photographer duo that I absolutely love and admire. Believe it or not, many of us wedding and elopement photographers are great friends and we all communicate on the regular. Some of my very best friends in the world are fellow elopement photographers. One such friend and awesome photographer, Natalie, joined us on our jaunt up to 14,000′.
We all met in American Basin, where Jeanne and Ges had an impromptu first look of one another. We then signed in on the backcountry log and made our way up the trail.
On our way up to Sloan’s Lake, we made a few scenic stops at a rocky outcrop and a waterfall. I absolutely love the look of the American Peaks booming over the basin – I think the shape of the peaks themselves is so unique and identifiable.
Upon our arrival to the teal shores of Sloan’s Lake, we basked in some sunshine and walked around the lakeside to get some photographs. It certainly felt amazing to drop the packs for a few minutes and walk around before our steep ascent upwards and onwards.
Just before the final pitch to the summit, there’s a tiny overlook that’s become one of my favorite spots on the entire trail. I photographed an elopement up on Handies Peak back in 2020 (my first summit of the peak) – and this was our first stop for photos. Since then, I’ve always stopped at the lookout point to gaze across the San Juan mountains and towards Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride.
With rays of sunshine lighting the small platform up – Jeanne and Ges walked out for some portraits. I think one of my favorite images thus far of my career was taken on that little platform ;). We made sure to also get some photographs of Sloan’s Lake down in the distance before making the final pitch.
At the summit – Jeanne and Ges read their beautiful vows to one another. One of the things that really stuck out to me in both of their vows was how they spoke about love being a choice – and choosing to love someone is such an absolute gift.
After a little hand warming break – we took advantage of the stunning sunset and photographed tons of portraits before heading downhill in the dark. Down at the trailhead, we took an image of the MilkyWay over the basin (we only took the one as we then realized about the flat tire and were totally consumed with rectifying that situation).
Congratulations again, Jeanne and Ges. I’ve said it numerous times – but I had such an absolutely amazing time celebrating with the two of you. I am so glad that you found and chose each other. I wish you the most amazing future, filled with love, mountains, and better luck driving over sharp rocks.