| Windy City Basin - Part 2
(I screwed up with the peaks listed. Even though it says Sunlight and Windom, Part 2 is about Eolus and N. Eolus.)
Even though we gave ourselves an extra day, in case of bad weather, we really wanted to climb Eolus and N. Eolus the day after Sunlight and Windom. So to increase our odds, we got up really early, boogied through breakfast (with a mouse hanging out by our side), and we got on the trail by 5 a.m. After passing some other hikers (good on them for getting an early start!), we noticed a lone climber above us. I thought he was off route, as the exposure looked grand. Little did I know, I'd be on that route soon enough.
Eager to climb, we ended up going too high, before gaining the tight saddle between Eolus and N. Eolus. The "Catwalk" before us was pretty interesting, and the route up Eolus was undefined and curious. Much steeper than photos depict, too.
As it turned out, the Catwalk was not as extreme as I expected, but it still demanded some attention at times.
Beyond the Catwalk, there seemed to be two starting points -- one high and one low. We took the low way. Random cairns marked the way; but they also marked other ways. So we still had to find our own route. At times, exposure was pretty healthy -- much more than I expected. In my opinion, it was much more severe than Sunlight or Windom. Some sections were loose/muddy/grassy, adding to the challenge.
Somewhere along the way we hooked up with another couple of climbers -- Hoagie (14ers.com member) and Sherri. Very nice people.
Occasionally, I looked up and saw that solo climber, who was still up on the summit.
Jen gained the summit first and chatted with that solo climber. I heard some chatter and she yelled back down to me, "Hey! Bill Middlebrook is up here!" I couldn't believe it. As I've said in forum threads, it was a super exciting experience. I've been on 14ers.com for years, and I've always wanted to meet Bill. But to meet him unexpectedly on a 14er is like beer-flavored icing on a beer cake! I was totally taken aback.
Jen, Aubrey, Bill:
And, to add, it happened to be Bill's last "official" 14er climb. What a special moment in time, and I didn't even realize it at the time. But my memories are very rich.
We ended up climbing down a different way than we came up. Bill, like an agile mountain goat, zipped down and vanished from our sights in no time. He took his sweet time photographing, but when he climbed he really moved.
Climbing back over the Catwalk was exhilarating.
Here's a shot of Bill atop N. Eolus, viewed from the small saddle:
Climbing up N. Eolus was a ton of fun. The rock was very solid and grippy, and it only took us about 6 minutes. Once on the summit, I chatted with Bill again. Here's a sum up of one exchange:
Bill: I hear you're working through a fear of heights.
Me: Yeah ...
Bill: Have you done Capitol yet?
Me: Yeah, we climbed it last weekend.
Bill: I think you've conquered your fear of heights.
The exchange was light, but it hit me in a profound way. Bill's words were right on, though.
But now I just need to get over my fear of falling!
Me and Jen on N. Eolus:
More awesome views:
Back at camp, we caught Jeff and Debby packing up, and we were able to join them on the hike back to the train stop.
To stop the train, you're supposed to wave your arms across your knees in a horizontal fashion. Just to be safe, and to make sure the train stopped, we tied up the ladies and threw them on the tracks. I wasn't going to let that train -- with the beer on it -- pass us by.
On the train, we slammed beers (Durango Amber and Dark Lager) and chatted with other climbers and 14er lovers. It was actually kind of fun. I called Jeff and Bill out as 14er finishers and what not, which drew a lot of attention their way. I couldn't tell if the other tourists around us were intrigued by our stories or repulsed by our stench.
That night, Jen and I stumbled across the train station lot and booked into the General Palmer Hotel, which was a pretty nice, historic hotel. Then we met up with Jim, Jeff and Deb at Gazpacho for some tasty New Mexican food and beers ... and expensive Tequila.
The next day, we took our time getting home. We took the 11-hour route ... north through Silverton, Ouray ... then Colorado National Monument ...
The "Million Dollar Highway":
Some red rock in the CNM:
Looking back, it was an incredible weekend. I love Colorado so much.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):