| Mt Eolius
Last May I did a spring ascent of the Mountaineers Route on Mt Whitney in the Sierras, and I felt like quite the savvy mountaineer, that is until I climbed Mt Eolius last week. Not that the Mt Whitney MR isn't a respectable challenge, but seriously, it has nothing on Mt Eolius with patchy spring snow. We hiked into Chicago Basin on Sat, the 24th to spend five days hiking Eolius-North Eolius on Sunday, Sunlight and Windom on Tuesday. (The Sunlight Windom combo is a separate trip report.) We had expected lots of snow in Chicago Basin on the basis of what we had heard from other hikers, but we were relieved to see that the snow is completely melted,
Chicago Basin - no snow to be found., and we had a welcoming committee!
Our welcoming committee. On Sunday morning we left camp at 7am hiked up to Twin Lakes, which was still frozen and snowy,
Twin Lakes - still frozen. and there was considerable snow above Twin Lakes in both the Sunlight and Eolius basins. Note - beware that the stream crossings are very high due to all the snow melt – and the upper river crossing is directly above a series of waterfalls. We walked across several patches of snow on the traverse around the rock face leading to the basin beneath Eolius.
Pathy snow leading into Eolius Basin There are still large snow fields leading up to the bench beneath North Eolius, so we donned crampons and ice axes to work our way up the 25-45 degree snow to the bench,
We put on crampons to climb this snow field to the saddle. and then continued on soft snow up to the ridge between North Eolius and Eolius and 13,200. We left our crampons and ice axes on the rocky ridge at the saddle, since the route up the face is nearly free of snow.
The lower snow patch blocked the trail during our ascent, it has since melted. Nearly meaning that there was still one large patch of snow, and this one patch of snow was blocking the path leading onto the scramble up the face of Eolius. Since traversing over or around the snow field would have been substantially risky without crampons, we were forced to do a series of class 5 moves for 25-30 feet to gain the trail leading up to the summit. We had roped up on the snow fields, and we stayed roped together the entire rest of the route (whew!). Route- finding is really tedious and critical, the cairns are not always easy to spot, we went off route a couple of times, especially since many of the ledges are very narrow (tiny, in fact), and easy to miss. We had to use extra care since the melting snow left the route wet and muddy most of the way up. This proved to be a very difficult climb, but we made it to the summit at 1pm and were met by a big marmot sitting right on top. Visibility was excellent and we could see into New Mexico as far as Ship Rock.
Clear day from the summit. The way down was no less tedious than the way up. I couldn’t stop thinking that a third of all accidents happen on the way down, and the slippery ledges made me especially thankful that we were roped up. I was a little (okay, a lot) gripped down climbing the class 5 section at the base, partly because that section is right above the exposed cliff face that drops off down to the basin. We spoke with another climber on Wed who told us that the snow field has since melted to the point that one can safely traverse around the outer edge. Once we were down, the rest of the climb out was easy – the Catwalk seemed like a super-wide highway compared to the ledges on the face, and we scrambled up to North Eolius for a view back on the route
View from North Eolius. before heading back down and putting our crampons back on for the hike down. The snow was so soft by then that we plunge-stepped and glissaded our way down to the lower basin. The rest of the hike out was uneventful, although the snow melt increased the level of the streams, and I chose to walk through knee-deep water in order to cross the upper stream. It was a great day, and by the time we left more of the snow had melted, although the upper snow fields looked like they would still be around for a few weeks.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):