Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
North Eolus  -  14,039 feet
Post Date:  08/02/2007
Date Climbed:   07/29/2007
Posted By:  moon stalker

 Chicago Basin Trio  

I took the train in on Saturday. The hike up to Chicago Basin was nice at first, and then the rain came. It started at about 1:30 and didn‘t stop until well after 5. Everything I wore was soaked in about 20 minutes. Gore-Tex, or any other type material will not keep you dry in these torrential rains. I was very surprised by the intensity of the rain. I talked to several other campers (and members of this forum) and we were all surprised by the intensity and long duration of the rain. Many of us had summited anywhere between 30 and 50 14ers, so we‘re certainly not newbies! So, warning to others, even though it means more weight in your pack, bring extra clothes. After my first set got wet, I was really worried about getting the second set wet, cause then I wouldn‘t be able to warm up! And clothes don‘t really dry in the high humidity in that basin hanging on a line or sitting in your tent, so once they are wet, they‘re pretty much going to stay that way unless you wear them. But obviously that means putting on wet clothes in the morning. And for me, starting out near 3 am both mornings, that was not an option. And also, my boots didn‘t dry completely until the day after I got out of the basin! After this trip, I have a better respect and understanding of what monsoon rains can really do in CO! If you get caught in them, plan on being trapped in your tent, it can be really bad. And one final note, with all the rain around, my ‘strike anywhere‘ matches refused to strike. Another hiker had stormproof matches my first night, they seemed to have no problems with all the wet. Also, even though goat hair looks like it would be good tinder to light up with a flint, it‘s got to be naturally flame retardent or something, it would not light! So I spent almost 30 minutes the second night trying to light my matches with a flint.

OK, now for the fun part. Although I planned this trip around the full moon on Sunday, both nights in Durango and both nights in Chicago Basin the moon was almost completely obscured by thick clouds. Oh well, still had fun hikes, and the with all the clouds, the sunrises were great. I climbed Sumlight and Windom the first day.

Eolus and North Eolus in alpenglow

Sunrise from the saddle between Sunlight and Sunlight Spire. Rio Grande Pyramid is the peak

The climb up Sunlight was great. The summit block is a doozy however. I‘ve seen reports on this site where some folks stated they didn‘t really think much of it. However, at least from the cross section of climbers I ran into on my trip, only about half actually made it to the summit block. You really have to be comfortable with jumping across the rocks, and not overshooting or undershooting the jump. So, if you get there and find it easy, great! But I dare say most people will have to think twice about making the final moves to the summit block!

After getting to the summit block, I sat there and enjoyed it for quite a while, since no one else was up there or coming up, I could be selfish and take up the little bit of space all myself! The views are great, you can see so much of the San Juans. And since I got up there so soon after sunrise, the clouds were still burning off so there were shadows all over the place that made everything so mysterious looking.

Eolus and North Eoulus from Sunlight

Windom from Sunlight

Wetterhorn, Matterhorn and Uncompahgre from Sunlight

I started the hike at 3 am from about 11,100 feet in Chicago Basin. Summited Sunlight at 7, then headed over to Windom and made it shortly after 9 am. Windom is really easy, just a walk up, especially after doing Sunlight. It‘s a nice change from the route finding and moves on Sunlight! I didn‘t want to stick around too long because I wanted to get back to my tent before the rains came again, which started at 12:36pm that day!

Sunlight from Windom

Chicago Basin from Windom

And yes, the goats in this basin are fearless. They are very used to people. I took this photo without zoom, you can see how close they are, and they kept coming up the trail. They made me get off the trail, they wanted the easy climbing! And when I got back to camp that day, there was a lot of them in my camp. I had to yell and holler and run at them to get them to leave. And then two came back which required more yelling and screaming. However, other than that, I did not have the problems with wildlife others have had. I hung my food, I think that removed a lot of the temptation of the little guys to chew through things.

Goats on the downclimb from Twin Lakes

That evening I was pretty much trapped in my tent by the rain. Although it broke at some points and the sun even came out, it was cold enough outside I didn‘t want to put on clothes just to sit out for about 15 minutes before the next wave of rain came. And it rained again around 1:30, which worried me, I didn‘t want to be on Eolus with freshly wet rocks! I got on the trail at 3:20 am. I didn‘t experience any rain on the trail, just a few drops every now and then, even though summitridge reported rain at their camp at 3:30, and it was the same day. So I guess it rained lower and not higher up? I got to the knob on the ridge between Eolus and North Eolus for sunrise. The sunrise the second morning was a lot better than the first morning. I love sunrises ....

Before sunrise from just below the saddle between Eolus and North Eolus, you can see Sunlight, Sunlight Spire, and Windom

I just love watching the sunrise from high elevation!

Sunrise from the knob on the ridge

The route up Eolus was fun. I couldn‘t find the catwalk on the way up or the way down, I still don‘t really know where it was. I did stay on the ridge, so I guess it‘s just your level of comfort by the time you do that peak. For me, Eolus was #53, so the catwalk was a non-issue. The route was easy to find, it‘s a lot of connecting and zigzagging ledges like the bells and other similar peaks but without as much rubbel that make other peaks annoying and slightly dangerous for rockfall. I also gained the ridge a little early and enjoyed some class 4 moves for the final strecth, that was a nice change.
I got up to Eolus at 6:40 am. I spent quite a while up there to enjoy the great views. After summiting Eolus, I ran into a lot of the same people on the way down that I had run into the previous day on the way down from Sunlight. Curious, we all seemed to have the same goals in mind, go figure!

Sunlight,Sunlight Spire, and Windom

After doing Eolus, North Eolus is a nice easy little scramble. And as a geologist, I am totally confused how two ‘peaks‘ so close to each other can have such different weathering of the same rock. Eolus is very fractured and jointed, giving way to the rocks, ledges, and spires making it a fun climb. But North Eolus is knobby and rounded over. It is fractured and jointed, but doesn‘t form the ledges, and spires like Eolus. It really is just a walk up, you don‘t really have to use your hands.

Eolus from North Eolus

It‘s that time of year, I have to include a shot with wildflowers. These are the spires near Twin Lakes, not any of the 14ers

Parting shot from Chicago Basin, you can just barely see Sunlight on the left, and Windom with the main approach on the right

I got down to the Needleton stop and waited for the train for almost 2 hours. Fortunately the rain held off at that lower elevation and we were spared getting soaked for the third day in a row. It was a nice wait for the train, talked to a lot of people, some on this forum. And yes, we should have exchanged screen names! Heck, I didn‘t even exchange real names with a lot of the people I ran into.

After getting out of the basin I enjoyed the hot springs just north of Durango, I think they were Trimble or Thimble, something like that. Really helped the sore joints!

Now off the Aspen to finish my quest on Maroon Peak .....

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

moon stalker     02/05/2011 00:22
those are some sick pictures and even sicker that I'll be there tomorrow @ 11:30am, almost exactly 24 hours away.


moon stalker     01/19/2011 03:38
those are some sick pictures and even sicker that I'll be there Tuesday at 11:30 a.m...
How long you staying, LH?

Old Ickabod

Great Shots - Nice to meet you     11/30/2010 17:28
You weren't kidding about getting some awesome shots! Those are spectacular. How did Maroon Peak go?


Matt     11/30/2010 17:28
I'm there till sunday, looks like we just miss one another, I would stay for longer but I've got an alcohol eval tuesday about the time you'll be getting off the train.

moonstalker - what kind of camera is that may I ask? It seems like its a really good digital or you just got lucky with the great day, but those are abnormally good quality shots.

moon stalker

two replies     11/30/2010 17:28
Old Ickabod - see trip report for Maroon Peak I just added. Made it, but was a dufus and lost my helmet, so did the climb unprotected. It's a great peak.

lordhelmet - my camera is an olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom. I am very happy with it, except for that in cold weather the batteries get zapped, they're the rechargeable lithium kind. It does take great pics. Some people don't understand why I hike/climb with a $500 (bought it ~3 years ago) camera on my hip, why not go cheap since it might get messed up? The pics show why! Good luck in Chicago Basin, I hope it doesn't rain as much on you as it did for us!


Congrats...     11/30/2010 17:28
...on sticking it out in such uncooperative weather. With a bit of luck, we'll be down there before the season is over, and I'm sure hoping for drier conditions! Very nice pics, too.

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