More days needed in the Chicago Basin
With 41 14ers marked off my list, the remaining peaks are getting harder while I'm geting older. This report for the Chicago basin is written with those of you with a little or a lot of gray on your head.
3 hours - Hike into Chicago Basin
10 hours to summit Sunlight and Windom and return to camp at Chicago Basin
3 ˝ hours – Chicago Basin to Needleton Train stop
I met up with “Wish I Lived in Colorado” (Pete) from the 14ers website (what my wife calls one of my man-dates) on the train from Durango to Silverton. Both our wives felt better that we each had a climbing partner on this trip. The first thing Pete said to me was, "I thought your hair was darker." Pete's first indication that he was hiking with a geezer on this trip.
On the train ride I met up with Tom and Jennifer from Denver who were planning the same peaks the same days as us. We would end up climbing with them.
The hike into the Chicago Basin is not a walk in the park—be prepared for a lot of uphill with a heavy over night pack.
About half way up to Chicago Basin, this bridge over New York Creek is a good place to take a break.
We left camp at 5:30 a.m. after waiting for a rain shower to lift. There is still a lot of uphill from Chicago Basin up to Twin Lakes. It took us about 1 ˝ hours to get to Twin Lakes.
Chicago Basin as we head towards Twin Lakes.
First look at Sunlight Peak.
As we head up the basin to Sunlight and Windom, here is a look backto Eolus hiding in the clouds.
We turn to make our way up the scree gully of Sunlight.
Toward the top of Sunlight there was quite a bit of scrambling to the summit. That's Pete, then Tom, and then Jennifer going over the top.
Coming up through the chimney close to the summit.
Tom trying his way up the wet rock to master the summit block on Sunlight.
Tom's next move. Pete on the right looking down the 1000 foot drop through the gap between the rocks.
Pete was also exploring the possibility of making it to the Summit block.
Tom working his way to the top.
Tom on top of the summit block.
For those of you reading this report who are not familiar with this summit, the gaps between these summit block boulders is exposed with maybe 1000 feet of air between your legs. Tom did a two-footed jump (leap of faith) on his way down from the second highest block to the very small landing area on the third highest block. The pucker factor of that move was a 10 for me and I was just watching. I believe it was a pucker factor of 11 for Tom.
Flying the 4-H flag on Sunlight -- in the clouds.
Working our way down Sunlight. That's Jennifer on the left and Pete on the right.
Looking back to Sunlight from the west ridge of Windom.
Borrowed this pic from another trip report so there is a little more snow in the picture than actually there.
I borrowed Pete's ice axe and put my crampons on to do the snow climb to the notch on Windom's west ridge. Pete, Tom, and Jennifer worked their way around to come up the west ridge. I thought that if I'm hauling the crampons all the way from Needleton, I'm going to use them. It was a fun snow climb to the notch. I made it to the notch 5-10 minutes ahead of the rest of the party.
Side note: On our down climb of the west ridge we stopped at the notch to look down and see a pool table sized boulder break loose from just below the notch and roll down the same path I had just come up on the snow climb. The boulder's track was about five feet to the west of my tracks up the snow climb. That got my attention from my vantage point on the notch. I imagine it would have really gotten my attention if it would have happened while I was climbing to the notch!
Standing in the notch on the west ridge looking down from where I came up.
From the notch looking up to the summit of Windom.
On the summit block of Windom flying the flag.
Pete aka "Wish I Lived in Colorado" on Windom's summit.
Looking to Sunlight from the summit of Windom
Close up of the same shot to Sunlight.
Going down Windom's west ridge. That's Pete in the shot.
Nearly back to Twin Lakes, looking back to Windom. You can see the snow field that I climbed up to the notch.
Jennifer and Tom working teir way back to Twin Lakes with Sunlight and Sunlight Spire in the background.
Looking back down to the Chicago basin from Twin Lakes.
3:00 a.m. – I wake up and tell Pete that I am unable to attempt Eolus with him on this day. This is one of the hardest things a climber has to do. But I knew there was no way I could physically make the trip—and I had to make that call. Pete was very gracious in accepting the situation that I had just put him in. We thought there was a good chance that he would run unto Tom and Jennifer on the slopes of Eolus.
Note to geezers: I really needed one day to recoup between the Sunlight Windom climb and the attempt on Eolus.
I loaned Pete my crampons in case he needed them and helped him get on the trail by 4:00 a.m. I then retired to the tent and listened to the rain on the tent for the next three hours.
I broke camp about 9:30 and started the trek back down to the Needleton train stop. Made it there about 1:00 p.m. where I had to investigate the status of the refreshments that I had dropped in the Las Animas River on Saturday.
There's what I'm looking for. The bridge across the river to the train stop.
And here is the train.
The train was a nice touch to a great three days in the mountains.
Note to Geeezers: There was no way that I could have done the Sunlight/Windom trip or the Eolus climb and made it back down to Needleton to catch the 4:00 p.m. train.
Last note to Geezers: This is a 5 day trip not a 3 day trip if you want to enjoy and be successful in bagging Sunlight, Windom, and Eolus.
What happened to Pete on his Eolus attempt??
I reached Pete a couple days later on his cell phone as he was leaving Durango on his way to climb Sneffels. He told me that he spent 12 hours in his climb of Eolus to get back to camp. He made it to the catwalk at 7:00 from his 4:00 a.m. start. With the weather conditions he was uncomfortable progressing to the summit. He started back down and about 500 vertical feet below the catwalk he encountered Tom and Jennifer. They convinced him to turn around and go back up with them. At the catwalk only Tom and Pete moved on to the summit. Sounds like with the wet conditions the climb up the face of Eolus was sketchy at best but they made it. The 4:00 p.m. return to camp left Pete pretty drained and hiked out the next day to the train.
Thanks Pete, Tom, and Jennifer for the company at high altitude.