| Sunlight/Windom/Eolus July 2008
We caught the train from Silverton at 11:30 AM on Monday, July 9. The ride was nice, only about one hour. One note of caution. The train employee who unloaded our bags at Needleton threw our stuff out and broke one of my Nalgene's and my buddy's sunglasses. There were about 40 people waiting to get picked up at Needleton so I guess they were in a hurry, but still it was pretty rude.
We started up towards Chicago Basin and I quickly realized that it was going to be a LONG hike with my heavy pack. I have hiked a lot, but am a novice to backpacking and quickly realized I had overpacked. Other than that, the hike up to Chicago Basin was relatively easy. It took us about 4 hours, again because of the weight we were carrying. One side note, our GPS measured our hike to our campsite at 11,000 feet as being 8.5 miles. The route description on this site says it is six miles. Kind of weird.
We found a relatively flat campsite next to the river. It was pretty crowded, and I could imagine having a very difficult time finding a good spot on a weekend. NOTE: no fires are allowed in Chicago Basin. We filtered water, ate dinner and went to bed. NOTE: We did see a bear on our way up and were grateful we had brought a rope to hang our fodd and trash from a tree.
The next day we arose later than planned. We had a herd of mountain goats move into our camp that were with us the whole trip. They are not very afraid of humans, and love to eat urine (I guess for the salt). We set out to hike Sunlight and Windom at 10 AM. NOTE: Do not always believe what you are told. Some yahoos camped below us told us they had been up on the peaks and we had no chance of summiting them without crampons and ice axes. New rule: always ask someone where they are from before heeding their advice. If they say anything besides Colorado, ignore what they tell you.
We hiked to Twin Lakes. A beautiful climb. Nothing technical, but very steep. The lake had a lot of snow around it, but we could very clearly see Sunlight and determine our route. We walked on top of some snow and started up the gully. The hike up sunlight is basically just straight up. it reminded me a lot of the last hundred yards to hike Redcloud. Nothing technical, however, until the last 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Then, it gets into very interesting climbing. It was not terrifying however, and we gained the summit pretty easily. We did get fooled and verred to far right. Near the very top, you have to go left. The USGS marker is easily located and is below the famed "sunlight block". I am afraid of heights, and it was terrifying to climb up on the bock, but I did it. One of my buddies said that getting to the USGS marker was enough and didn't attempt the block. The other did.
We worked our way down and began crossing over to Windom.We had to lose more elevation than we wanted, but the cliffs higher up are pretty sketchy. We then went straight up a snow field until we reached dry boulders. Even at 1 PM, the snow was still fine to walk on without crampons or snowshoes. We went straight up until we met the trail and then climbed boulders to the top. This is a pretty easy hike. We did a little sledding on the way back to our camp. All together, I guess it was about 5 hours to hike both peaks.
The next day was Eolus. Again we started out Much to late in the day, but the weather held. You have to hike all the way back to Twin lakes again which is kind of painful. Then, it is pretty much straight up to the Eolus Saddle. We encountered more snow, but again we were able to just walk through it without slipping or post-holing. The route took us the to Eolus Saddle between Eolus and North Eolus. These two peaks are very interesting as they are pretty close to each other, but are entirely different animals. We climbed North Eolus first, which requires you to monkey climb up very grippy rock. This only takes about 10 minutes from the saddle.
The saddle over to Eolus scared me (again becasue I am afraid of heights). We dropped low on the saddle and had to do some tricky climbing to get across. NOTE: Stay high on the saddle! It looks scarier from afar, but we walked across the top of the saddle coming back and it was much easier than going low.
Eolus is VERY tricky to climb. There is no real clear route, and it requires some tricky hand over hand manuevers. It may be just bacause I was very fatigued, but I found this to be a very difficult climb. The exposure is pretty severe, and a fall would possibly be fatal. We saw a lot of people wearing helmets, and while never a bad idea, they weren't really necessary. We finally gained the summit and started the slow descent. NOTE: I would not hike this peak if the rocks were wet. We made our way back across the saddle (again - STAY HIGH). I was able to sled a good way down the mountain. The weather finally caught up to us and we went as fast as possible back to camp.
The next day we left camp at 8:15 and made it to the train pickup spot at 10:15 (the train comes by at 11:30). This is a really cool trip for experienced hikers, but it it not to be taken lightly if going for all the peaks in one trip. We logged around 35 miles and 10,000 feet of elevation GAIN in 4 days. I have hiked 15 14'ers and have about 30 total 14'er summits, and these were challenging.