| Eolus Group from Needleton Creek TH
Backpacked up to 11,100' at Chicago Basin - 6 miles (approx) and 3000'
Mountains: Sunlight Peak (14,059') and Windom Peak (14,082')
Route: Started at 11,100' and climbed Sunlight's South Face to summit. Traversed across using ledges and caught Windom's West Ridge at 13,300' (approx). Descended Windom's West Ridge
Elevation Gain - 3500' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 7 miles (approx)
Roundtrip Time - 9.5 hours (approx) including time spent at summits and lake
I took off work Friday morning and started driving out to the San Juans for the fourth time in five weeks, but hopefully the last 14er mission there. I boarded the 2:45PM train from Silverton out to Needleton and got to the Needleton Bridge at 4PM. I started hiking shortly afterward and was up at Chicago basin by 6:45PM, in the middle of a downpour. I managed to knock 5 pounds off my pack weight since the last trip and was carrying 60 lbs this time which included a paperback copy of "Into Thin Air" and a mashed potato/popcorn chicken bowl from KFC. I set up tent, filtered hiking water, readied my pack, chatted with another group, ate dinner and went to bed at around 9PM. I was up early and on the trail at 4:30AM. The trail up to the lake was a little tricky under headlamps but nothing too abstruse, however for some reason I was feeling kind of sick and moving like a slug. I got to the lake and followed Bill's description up the South Face. The gully was rather loose but not too troublesome (pic from later in the day during my traverse to Windom).
At the top of the gully the climbing finally becomes interesting. There are several easy Class 3 sections and some tougher ones.
I followed cairns and was easily able to locate the short chimney that Bill describes in his route description. The difficult climbing is over once past this chimney. The rest is just a walk up to the summit block. I spent a while on summit and left for Windom. The key to traversing over to Windom was staying high above some minor cliff bands and catching the West ridge up high. An attempt to go straight up the face to summit revealed loose terrain. Once you gain the West Ridge, the climbing becomes straightforward and remains at 2/2+ all the way to the summit block. I descended back down the West ridge route and regained the standard route back to Chicago basin. I hung around the lake for a while and considered finishing off the Eolus brothers the same day but clouds came in and I decided to play it safe. I had plenty of time anyway. I was back in camp at 2PM for a couple Mountain House meals of Beef Stew and Chicken/Rice and lounged around camp reading Into Thin Air until nightfall.
Part II: Mountains: North Eolus (14,039') and Mt. Eolus (14,083')
Route: Started at 11,100' in Chicago Basin and climbed the standard route to summit.
Elevation Gain - 3200' (approx)
Roundtrip Mileage - 7.5 miles (approx)
Roundtrip Time - 6:15 including 1:15 on summits and 45 minutes to traverse
I was up at 3:30AM but kept hitting the snooze button until 5:30AM. I hit the trail at 6AM. The hike went pretty fast this time around and I climbed the 1400 feet to the lake in roughly 50 minutes while it had taken me 90 the previous day. I turned around and made my way up into the grassy basin described in Bill's route description. The trail is very obvious yet people seem to have chosen to walk all over the tundra.
Bill's suggestion to watch for the entrance to the ramp is well justified. It's tempting to turn right a little early but there are occasional cairns marking the right entrance to it. Here's looking up at the connecting ridge from the ramp.
I made my way up to the saddle via the notch. There is some interesting Class 3 climbing via a crack up to the saddle. The climbing is very easy with great holds.
From the notch I headed to North Eolus. I summitted at 8:10AM and spent a while there. Here's a shot of Eolus from N. Eolus.
At 8:30AM I started heading down the ridge towards the catwalk. There is an interesting exposed ridge traverse to get to the catwalk. The ridge is rather wide though and kind of defeats the purpose of all that exposure. I followed the catwalk all the way to the base of the summit pitch. Here there are cairns all over the freaking place. Some head right, some left. I followed cairns for a while and then decided to bypass a bunch of the BS and headed for the ridge crest. I proceeded to follow it the rest of the way to the summit. The climbing was a little exposed, Class 3 and it was a far more interesting and shorter variation to the standard route.
Here's looking back down the ridge
I summitted Eolus at 9:20AM… 50 minutes to traverse. The views of Sunlight/Windom are fantastic.
Eolus was #55 and my last San Juan 14er.
Here's looking back down at the trail through the basin
I stayed for an hour on summit and turned back down, chatting with several groups. Boulder and Denver seem to account for half the people on the 14ers. Here's where I hooked a right and caught the ridge during my ascent.
I spent more time at Twin Lakes. The rest of the descent was pretty uneventful and I was back in camp at 12:15PM, when clouds started building and hammering the ridges above me. I was surprised by the number of people who continued climbing. One group climbed through the thunderstorm and descended to camp at 8:30PM. All in all everyone seemed to make it off safely. It was a great weekend. I had a great night's rest and packed back down to Needleton bridge the next morning. The decent took a little under two hours. There were at least 25 people waiting to catch the train. I was glad to have managed to sneak these 14ers in before the bridge closed for repairs. I've three Elk Range 14ers left before I can stop for a breather. Let me know if you're interested in joining me on any of them.
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