| Another Chicago Basin TR
I realize there have been a lot of reports lately on the Needle Mtns, but I had such a good time there this past weekend, I feel obligated to post another one to the bunch and I'll try and pick out my best shots of the area, which will be tough. The text will be kept short, but to be perfectly honest, if you haven't been to this basin yet, get on it, its unreal, thats all I gotta say.
We took off from Golden @ 11pm and thats no type-o. We drove through the night and it was the crux of the trip, driving 6.5 hours from 285 to 50 to 550 into Durango. This may not have been the quickest route, on the way back we timed our route from 160 to 285 into Golden at around 6 1/4 hours so its really not all that much of a difference. The drive was made significantly tougher with a monsoon from Montrose all the way into Durango and it was at its worse it everytime I rounded all those endless amounts of 10mph corners over whatever those 2 passes are between Ouray and Durango. We arrived into town @ 5:30am and konked out in some Best Western motel parking lot for atleast 2 hours.
The alarm went off @ 7:30am and we hit up the McDonalds right next to the train station before we packed up and boarded. To be perfectly honest, the train sucks and is a ripoff, in my opinion. Everytime you round the slightest of a corner, every person on the train heads to the side and takes a picture of the curve of the train, and I mean everyone. With burning coal flying in their faces, you would've thought JC himself was rising from the Animas River, it was unreal, like a cult possesed, not to mention the first 30 minutes of the trip passes though the slums of Durango, reminiscent of a 3rd world country. Next time, I'm parking along 550 and hiking Purgatory.
When we finally reached Needleton, we were ready more than ever to get into that damn Basin and after they unloaded all the bags, we were off. Now this trail into Chicago Basin wasn't all that bad, but it was more tiring than we planned. Its pretty long and goes up the whole way, but its beautiful, goes along the river and there are a few waterfalls that really make it a memorable experience. It took us a little under 3 hours to get to our camp spot, we were located less 100 yards from the twin lake/columbine pass sign, a pretty ideal spot I may say. After filtering some water, we cooked some food and called it a night.
We woke up around 4am and was on the trail around 6am after eating some brekfast and getting out stuff ready. We made good time to the lake, and were off towards Sunlight soon after. Let me say though, we met a father Takao and his 11 year old son Anthony, from Momument, who had just got done finishing off the Elks the week before who might have been more efficient climbers than the mtn goats in the basin. For the record, they started 15 minutes after us and bagged all 3 peaks and were back to camp before us, unreal, they were absolute machines and Anthony has summited 51 of these. After marveling at Twin Lakes, we decided to take on the West Ridge of Sunlight. It was a good choice to say the least. After a quick upclimb to the saddle, we started a few exposed 4th class moves right away and eventually encountered some low 5th class moves, but nothing too difficult. Anyways, after the nice scrambling, we made quick time to the summit.
The summit block, in my opinion, was neither overrated or underrated. You make a quick 10 foot scramble to one rock, lean over and pull yourself up to another rock right below the summit and then pull yourself up again to the knife edged roof of Sunlight. After a few shots with me looking anxious, I began the short downclimb. Although short, the one move where you have to get back to the flat, inclined slab is kind of unnerving. I tried a number of different approaches and then finally said f**k it and did the short hop, a very nerve racking hop I might add (I went back up a 2nd and 3rd time, it was a lot easier these times, but the 1st time makes you think). After about 20 minutes on the summit, we made quick work of the descent to the Basin and gained the west ridge of Windom. Windom's West Ridge is a fun class 2+ scramble to the w/ a fun, mildly exposed summit. We spent even less time there, for the clouds were rolling in and we couldnt see much, so descended down to the lakes. After a cold dip in the lake, it began to pour, but we didnt care, I laid down on the floor of the lake and looked straight up and admired the surreal view of raindrops hitting the lake's surface. Then the freezing water finally hit me and we got out, dried off as best we could and made our way back to camp absolutely water logged. This was a really WET weekend, we weren't dry for 48 hours straight, but I wouldnt trade my view of Vestal and Arrow peak for all the whiskey in Ireland.
The last day we did a quick climb up to Columbine Pass, packed our stuff up and made our descent back to the train stop. To conclude, do yourself a favor the check this place out. We camped in a spot surrounded by a basin filled with about 7 or 8 amazing waterfalls, endless number of passes, twin lakes, 3 fun 14ers, etc, etc, etc. Some pics :
View along the trail
Our view from our camp looking West towards Needleton
Shot over Twin Lakes into the Basin in the early morning from just below the base of Sunlight
Our route up to the saddle and the West Ridge of Sunlight
Shot of the Grenadiers to the North
View of Sunlight from the north side of the saddle before we started the class 4 scrambling.
View to the East through a notch about 40-50 feet below the summit
Upclimbing to the summit block
Leap of Faith
My buddies leap of faith onto a snowfield. Downclimbing the standard route around this time, you'll find a lot of opportunities to make 10-15 foot jumps onto relatively soft snowfields, cheap thrills.
View of Sunlight from Windom's summit
These Mango's are the s**t (roommate with a dumbass lookin face)
This is where we took a dip in the lake
Waterfall along the trail near our camp.
We terrorized (and were terrorized by) these bastards all saturday and sunday. Just don't piss near your camp, they love it
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):