by Bethany Taylor, and others who loved Hannah
Untamed New England
Several years ago, when my sister Hannah Taylor began dabbling in Adventure Racing with her close friends Olof and Whitney Hedberg, the Hedbergs happened to mention an Adventure Race back East called Untamed New England. “But…that’s me! I’m definitely New England, untamed!” said Hannah, gleeful to have had her New Hampshire roots and her Rocky Mountain athleticism suddenly converge. To be Peak Hannah, I think she’d have had a look on her face like Hobbes the Tiger going feral, a bike-grease stained Middlebury College hoodie over her rain-soaked running clothes, and a set of ski-skins in her—aggressively nail-polished—hands, and possibly giggled like wind-chimes to learn the phrase that described her perfectly.
To some, it might be important to list off all of the races she ran, the lines she skied, the miles and hours she spent on any sort of trail in every sort of weather. I’m not doing that, because Hannah herself was never about the resume and pedigree. She was about the adventure. The 100 mile races she started to run in 2015 were just because—in Hannah-logic—the best way to extend a good hike. Time in the mountains, to Hannah, was time in the mountains, so more miles and more hours simply equaled more fun, more of being around what’s up there and out there. She explained the endurances races to our mother by saying, simply, “it’s just an extension of you teaching me to love and hike in the White Mountains. I’m doing all the same things, just with bigger mountains.”
But that’s just Hannah the Athlete, the Hanimal as some friends dubbed her. And that’s who most people knew—a tiny bad ass woman with friendly black dog and an incandescent smile who was always getting faster and stronger, finding new ways to test her own limits, and then new ways again when she found herself somewhat unstoppable. Although, I’ve learned that she would stop her workouts and hike with friends if she found them on the same trail, because the companionship of sharing the woods and mountains with the other people was better than running really fast alone. She could always do the workout another time.
Hannah knew, better than many, how hard it is to make a life in a mountain town. They’re places and economies built for people to visit, to come for their adventures, but then go home to elsewhere to earn their money. Hannah, with characteristic tenacity and the student loans to accompany her New England education, hung on to make it work, to stay in the mountains. She barista-ed at Starbucks, landscaped at Keystone, sold madras shorts at J. Crew, and a few other shorter term jobs before learning how to live on what she earned juggling work for Summit Huts Association and as an assistant ski coach for Summit Nordic. That is the real endurance race—it takes a special person to make the balances and tradeoffs and choices to build a life, and not an escape, in these places which are rife with sexism and classism.
Many people reading this may know Hannah or recognize her name from her tragic and dramatic death—on July 21, 2018, while out on a run with Olof in the Gore Range, near the Silverthorne Spire, Hannah rested her hand on a rock which came loose, sending her falling down a scree slope. A larger rock was dislodged above, and hit her in the head, killing her instantly. She is my sister, my best friend, and all who knew and loved her will never be whole again. However, as her sister, I am resolute that Hannah’s death only ever be a reason for more women, more girls to go to the woods, the waters, the wilds…the whatever that brings them joy, peace, adventure, and radiant glee.
One of Hannah’s Nordic athletes, Noelle Resignolo, looked up to her coach with great admiration she talks about her mentor and friend, “Hannah had been with Summit Nordic Ski Club for 14 years and there are no words that can describe the impact she has had on our club. We all know that this club wouldn’t exist without her. She wasn’t just a coach with SNSC, she was the heart and soul of SNSC. Her impact on our athletes reached far beyond their ability to ski. She didn’t just help children become successful athletes, but successful and great people.”
Noelle continues, “Her dedication to our athletes was undeniable. She kept a record of every wax used for every race over the last 10 years and cried every time we missed a wax on a race. She always wanted every athlete to have the best possible situation to perform and spent hours and hours making sure everyone had the perfect conditions no matter if you finish first or 30th.”
She instilled values like hard work, integrity, truthfulness and a sense of adventure into our club. To say that Hannah was an SNSC coach is not enough. SNSC as a whole is a reflection of Hannah Taylor and her values. Without ever asking for the spotlight, she shaped SNSC to a reflection of herself, and every day going forward we will try to honor that reflection and be the best we can. We miss her every day.
Mike Zobbe recalled the passion and dedication of his employee and friend Hannah Taylor who worked at Summit Huts Association for 14 years. “From the start, a few things became apparent – that she was smart, tough, independent thinking and not afraid to let you know what she thought.”
She worked mostly in the office but was never afraid of taking on a task in the field that involved running (literally) up to one of the huts. She kept her work and personal life separate – it took a few years before we met her partner Will, but she was also passionate about Summit Huts.
She cared about our mission and what we offered people. It was an utter shock to lose her to the mountains, she was irreplaceable to our organization. She had become a crucial part of our team, especially during the construction of the Sisters Cabin. Her legacy will always be a part of the fabric of Summit Huts and we will never forget her.”
I close this story remembering one of Hannah’s favorite books was Terry and Renny’s Russell’s “On the Loose,” where the brothers write: “The point of it all is Out There, a little beyond the last rise you can barely see, hazy and purple on the sky. These pages are windows. And windows are to see through.”
I don’t know where Hannah is now, but I do know that her life is a window for us all to see through. And that is not enough, but sweet Jesus is her life ever something.
by Bethany Taylor
Featured Image from the High Lonesome 100
Publishes note, July 23, 2022: Today is the second day of the Hard Lonesome 100 and we felt it was a good day to remember Hannah and what she meant to so many.