| Beauty and Seclusion in Chicago! *More Pictures!!*
Mt Eolus (14083) , North Mt Eolus (14039), Sunlight Peak (14059) and Windom Peak (14082)
August 9-11, 2008
Round Trip: 21 miles total for all 4 peaks
Elevation Gain: 9550 ft. total for all 4 peaks
Hikers: KirkT ,CLDeck(Chris), Avs88fan(Adam) & Reynald
Continuing my goal to finish the 14er's by this summer, I put together a trip to the famed Chicago Basin to finish up the San Juans. The weather had been rainy every day for the last 14 days but we went ahead and planned on the trip anyhow. Rumors of the bridge being torn down also expediated the trip. Frequent partner Chris, Reynald whom I met during the Wilson traverse and Adam, whom we have been trying to hike together all summer made up the group. Consequently Reynald has the same peaks left to finish as myself and is joining me for the party on Snowmass in 2 weeks. Because this whole trip evolves around the train trip to the trailhead, it only made sense to leave early Saturday morning. We left the city around 1:45am for Durango. We arrived at the train depot at 8 am for a 9 am train departure. We loaded on the train and started our adventure. The train ride is a great experience. The views are incredible, especially while traveling through the canyon. There is a complete snack bar that serves food and drinks...yes the good kind of drinks if you like! 8) The one down side of the train ride is the coal soot that covers everything. If you were in an open car, you were constantly wiping it off. The train ride from Durango to the Needleton trailhead is about 2 1/2 hours. We arrived at the trailhead around 11:40 and unloaded our gear and began preparing for our ascent up to the Basin. About 20 hikers unloaded and about the same boarded back on the train.
We had been anticipating rain sometime during the day. The forecast was calling for 60% rain on Saturday, 70% on Sunday and 50% on Monday. We geared up with rain gear handy and started our ascent up to the basin. The hike up to the basin is straight forward. The trail is easy class 1 and very well marked all the way to the basin. It is somewhat steep for a hike in and seemed to never really let up on elevation gain. The elevation gain was 3000ft to the basin where we set up camp. There are many waterfalls along the trail up to the basin. It is a very unique and beautiful place. We arrived up to the basin at 3:30. Reynald spotted a nice flat spot to set up our camp under some pine trees right next to Needle Creek. The views to the upper basin were also incredible from our campsite. The initial plan was to set up camp, and make an attempt to hike North and South Eolus afterwards. After setting up camp, the clouds started to move in and the weather did not look to promising. We made a group decision to go to bed and start early on Sunday and attempt summiting all 4 peaks in one day. We would have Monday morning available if the weather thwarted our plans to finish any of the peaks we were not successful on. With a 4 am alarm set, we hit the sack around 8pm. It did rain a little during the night, with a harder shower around 10 pm.
The alarm went off at 4am and we ate breakfast and geared up for the anticipated long day. We hit the trail at 5am towards our first destination, Eolus. The sun had yet to rise to we donned headlamps for the first 1 1/2 hours. The trail was again very easy to follow up to the basin under Eolus. Sunlight and Windown were hidden in an ever changing low cloud bank. The view of them with sun shining on them was incredible. The scramble up Eolus' face was pretty straight forward. We arrived on the saddle closer to N Eolus. We decided to summit North first and then traverse the catwalk over for Eolus. We summited North Eolus at 7:20. After 10 minutes on the summit, we headed down and over towards Eolus. The catwalk looked pretty intense from North Eolus, but upon arrival it was really not bad at all. Its pretty straight forward and easily manuvered. We quickly traversed and followed the well cairned route to the summit of Eolus and summited at 8:05. Traverse time of 35 minutes. The weather still looked great with some low hanging humid style clouds. Sunlight and Windom were still shrouded in early morning clouds. We spent 20 minutes on the summit and started down back into the basin.
We hiked a fairly quick pace down and up to the Twin Lakes area. We were still anticipating weather to be moving in so we did not spend to much time at the lakes. That is truly one incredible place. It definitley rivals the most scenic place I have visitied during my 14er quest. The route up Sunlight was again well cairned and easy to follow. Easy class 2 scrambling most of the way till about 13700ft. It then becomes more difficult and is class 3 to class 4 the rest of the way to the summit. Adam's long hike with a heavy pack the day before was beginning to take its toll on him. We began to spread out a little as we hiked at our own comfort levels towards the summit of Sunlight. Reynald arrived first with Chris and I quickly thereafter. We arrived at the most famous of 14er summits at 11am. Traverse time from Eolus of 2 hours 35 minutes. As it has been discussed, the summit block of Sunlight is not for the faint of heart. It requires strong nerves and concentration. It's not overly technical, but very exposed. I was able to perfom my headstand right below the summit block. Pictures truly do not do this block justice. Adam arrived about 15 minutes later with another couple. We spent 30 minutes on the summit taking pictures and just admiring the views of this special place. The weather was still holding even though the clouds were beginning to build a little. We started down towards the saddle of Windom around 11:30.
The traverse to Window was again straight forward. We hiked back down into the lower basin and up onto Windom's saddle. Adam was really feeling the climb now, and beginnig to get fatigued. We all greatly encouraged him to continue. He mustered up the strength and followed us up to the summit to Windom. We arrived at the summit at 12:50. The weather was again holding and looking very cooperative. Adam reached the summit as well about 20 minutes later. It was like a huge weight was lifted off his shoulders... all that could be seen was the glow of his teeth. He was extremely excited and fulfilled. We lounged on the summit for about an hour before heading back down into the basin. Because of the great weather, we ended up hanging out at Twin Lakes for almost an hour. We were treated to a great show of the local residents. There were about 25 goats hanging out at the lake. They would get very close...but kept their personal distance. We took some great pictures, enjoyed some fantastic scenery and enjoyed each others comapny. We were all feeling pretty great at our accomplishment and even more thankful that the weather was still holding out for us. We took over 2 1/2 hours to return to camp. We were followed back to camp by a family of five goats. Later on in camp, we were again treated to a party of around 20 goats hanging out and enjoying our company.
Chris and Reynald decided to hike Jupiter on Monday morning while Adam and I held down the campsite. Good thing we did, because the goat party was still in full force. After they returned we packed up and hiked back down to the Neddleton trailhead. It took us a little over 2 hours to reach the trailhead. The long train ride back to Durango was a good rest and the cold beverages hit the spot. We arrived back at Durango at 6:15. The long drive back to the city was not overly fun however, we arrived back at my house at 1:00am.
Final thoughts.....Chicago Basin is one of the most beautiful, scenic adventures I have personally encountered in my 14er quest. The wildlife is incredible and very abundant. These mountains are truly secluded. The train ride is an added adventure, albeit somewhat expensive at $75.
Our hike times were 5am start from camp, 7:20am Summit N Eolus, 8:05am Eolus summit, 11am summit Sunlight, and 12:50pm summit of Windom, back to camp at 4:20. It was a great hike with good friends. I am extremely excited about finishing on Snowmass in 2 weeks with Reynald and others.
Thanks for reading.
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