| Chicago Basin - Worst Trip Ever
Thursday, March 13
Trail to Cascade
Animas River & Needle Creek Trails to New York Creek Camp (9,170')
7.5 miles, 1750'
Friday, March 14
Needle Creek Trail to Upper Chicago Basin Camp (11,200')
Recon Hike to Open Area Below Eolus
Break Trail to Treeline on Jupiter
6 miles, 3000'
Saturday, March 15
Jupiter Mountain, Windom Peak, Sunlight Peak and Peak 18
5.5 miles, 4700'
Sunday, March 16
North Eolus, Mt. Eolus
Needle Creek Trail to Train Tracks to Cascade
16 miles, 3000'
I hate to start a trip report off like this, but I feel like I need to address the topic of poaching. There was another group coming out of Chicago Basin as we were going in. It was suggested that we were poaching their efforts. Here's what I have to say about that accusation..
Hell yeah I did that. I love poaching trenches. I want to make things as easy as possible for myself. I do not embrace the effort and challenge it takes to climb peaks in winter. I actually hate climbing peaks in winter. There is absolutely nothing I enjoy about it. Breaking my own trail is not a beautiful thing and not one of the things that keeps me coming back for more. I troll 14ers.com to find routes that have recently been broken so that I can take advantage of those efforts. Of course I knew Jeff and Jim were climbing peaks in Chicago Basin. I had a tracking device placed on Jim last time I saw him. I was actually the one that called the helicopter. I needed to know which routes he climbed so I could follow his every foot step.
My two partners for this trip were Joe "Smokey" Winters and Dwight "The Legend" Sunwall. I had been out with Joe before, but had never met Dwight. I was not excited to hike with either of these two. They clearly have limited experience in the mountains and have really bad reputations. I should have listened to my gut and went somewhere else. I did not enjoy the company and it made my experience in Chicago Basin one that I would want to forget...THE WORST TRIP EVER.
I'll keep this short and sweet. Here are my least favorite pictures...
I hate this stupid train. The big black engine, the steam spraying over the bridge, the history...who needs it?
The 3 of us didn't get along from the start. Here they are leaving me behind.
We decided to take the Animas River Trail because we didn't think a snow bridge would be available. Snowshoes were not needed and the ice on the trail was really fun.
Over the river and through the woods...to the Needle Creek Trail. Boring snow pillows on the rocks. I really didn't appreciate this beautiful scenery at all.
Shortly after turning on to the Needle Creek Trail, we ran into Jim (Yikes) and Jeff (Mickeys Grenade). They bored us with their stories of the peaks they had climbed and the SAR helicopter visit. (little did they know it was really the Mike Silvestro Spy Helicopter) I didn't admire their efforts or the fact that they spent 6 nights out here. It was not great to run into people you know in the middle of the wilderness. I did not enjoy our little visit.
The 3 of us moved on and reluctantly set up a camp together above the New York Creek Bridge.
We headed out around 9am into cloudy and snowy conditions. Once we got into the basin, we were greeted with this shitty view.
We briefly considered camping closer to treeline, but liked the idea of having some protection from the wind and access to running water. We camped here. I hated it.
My bedroom and adjoining kitchen.
That night we discussed strategies and peak goals for the next day. Dwight and Joe wanted to start with Eolus. I couldn't stand to be around these 2 anymore so I decided I would go in the opposite direction and start with Jupiter. Here is the end of the trail I broke on Friday afternoon. The route goes to the right before climbing a large snow slope that gains the East Ridge.
A look across the valley at Joe and Dwight (you can see their headlamps). It wasn't cool to be able to see them and watch their progress. I wasn't rooting for them.
Nearing the summit of Jupiter
Summit of Jupiter
Route to Windom
Short couloir used to gain Windom's East Ridge
Windom's East Ridge in a brief clearing. The weather would tease us all day...not annoying at all.
Looking back at my best guess at the moons (couloirs) of Jupiter and my descent route
Not having any fun on the summit of Windom
I descended to the Windom, Sunlight saddle and did some remote recon work on the south side of Jagged. Just as I was trying to figure out if there was a reasonable route, I looked down and noticed my right crampon was broken. The bar that holds the 2 pieces had broken in half and the front section of the crampon was gone. So much for my plan to climb Jagged. I didn't want to climb that peak anyway.
Route over to Sunlight in red...descent route in yellow
Descent off of Windom
Sunlight's SE Ridge
Snowy summit block
Doing the Sunlight summit straddle in winter was very unrewarding. I did a big yawn and headed back towards camp.
On my way back towards Sunlight Lakes, the sun came out and Peak 18 looked not awesome at all. I really didn't want to climb it, but I did anyway. From this view, the route looked pretty straight forward.
The weather moved back in on my way up and the mountain took on a much more friendly appearance. This short climb was a joke. It was the easiest climbing of the day and not scary at all....especially the short corniced traverse across 60+ degree snow. Looking down from just below the summit.
I got back to camp around 2:15pm and ran into Smokey and the Legend. Still here huh? I was hoping they had packed up and gone home. No such luck.
On Sunday morning the 3 of us started out together. Fortunately it wasn't long before I headed west for Eolus and they headed east for Windom. Hate those guys. Here's a shot of their headlamps. They were probably making out.
Route up Eolus' southeast face
Sunrise to the east. Ho hum.
Sun hitting the east ridge...banshees getting ready to greet me. I went up to the left of the large rock and came down the right side.
Black and white view to the east. Where would I rather be? Anywhere but here.
Next up...Mt. Eolus' NE Ridge
The climbing on the ridge was not fun at all and very confusing, but the wind made it much easier.
Close up. My Mom loves seeing these pictures. They are her favorite.
Levitating on the summit of Mt. Eolus
The descent off of Eolus took was so boring. I did not entertain myself by listening to Pit Bull and dancing my way back to camp.
I got back to camp at 10:45am and decided to pack up and head home. I didn't want to think about spending another night at camp with my two partners. Unfortunately they made it back to camp before I could dry out all my stuff and I was forced to hang out with them one more time.
We did have a few inches of snow since we arrived in camp, but not enough to completely cover the trail. I made quick work of the Needle Creek Trail and decided to try to find a snow bridge across the Animas. Worst case I would have to cross the Needleton Bridge and walk a few extra miles. I found a sturdy snow bridge about a half mile north of the Animas Trail intersection. I was not excited at all. I was really hoping for some more mileage with this huge pack and my plastic boots.
Stand by me, stand by me
Made it back to the station around 5pm...retrieved my stash of hot dogs and beer, built a small fire and had myself a little "glad this trip is over" party.
When the train pulled in the next day at 12pm, I knew it was finally over. My prayers were answered.
I hope no one reads this. I didn't enjoy writing it.
One more thing...For those of you that don't know me very well or who aren't picking up what I'm throwing down...I was kidding about everything I wrote. This was an amazing experience and it was great being out there with Joe and Dwight. I just wish our plans lined up so we could have climbed together. Thanks to Jim and Jeff for making the hike up the Needle Creek Trail a little easier. It was never our plan to follow you up there and I really do prefer to walk on virgin snow, but it was fun running into you and hearing
the helicopter story.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):