| Third time‘s the charm for Eolus
Participants: cftbq, trishapajean
Day 2: Mt. Eolus, Glacier Point
RT: approx. 8.5 mi.
Vertical: approx. 3,370 ft.
Well, there's no need to recount Day 1. It's just the same as last time, except for two things: 1) The weather was sunnier! 2) We made better time up the Needle Creek trail, arriving at our camping area in 3 hours, 15 minues.
Knowing that we had all day to climb this time, we set the alarm for 5:30 am MDT, actually snoozed until 6, and hit the trail at the leisurely hour of 7:15! The sky was partly cloudy, and worried us a bit, but we pressed on. All the way up to Twin Lakes and well beyond, we saw no other hikers. (We knew there were a few other parties in the basin, but not many.)
Fairly dense clouds wrapped the summit of Eolus as we climbed, but the cloud ceiling seemed to keep lifting just ahead of us. When we reached the large level area just short of the start of the Catwalk, we fortuitously did encounter our first other climbers. Matt and Chad had gotten a more traditional start, and were already coming down off Eolus. They reported that this time, they had crawled through dense fog on their way to the top! They had made it, though, despite waiting for half an hour before crossing the Catwalk, which they said had looked rather creepy with no visibility.
Still, they were able to resolve our last uncertainties about how to proceed. We climbed to the right of the ridge point above us and, upon topping out in the saddle, we could see the Catwalk, and the classic view of the summit, in front of us. We had to climb the aforementioned point and descend a slabby section on the other side, before reaching the iconic flat-topped stones that make up the aerial causeway over to Eolus.
By this time, the low-lying clouds had all lifted and, although the sky remained mottled with clouds, we basically had clear sunshine for the rest of the trip. What a relief!
The climb up the ledges to the summit went more easily than I had expected, given all that I had read about how confusing the cairns are. You do have to go largely on dead reckoning a lot of the time, since you really can't see the summit. Still, we found that the cairns provided some net help in locating a good route linking fairly easy ledges. There are probably several equally good routes through the maze of rock, but we were happy with the one we put together.
We finally climbed a steep gully to a saddle between two high points. We had to get all the way up it to determine that the point to our right (north) was the true summit. A few more feet of boulder hopping, and we found the benchmark and register.
Unfortunately, all our efforts failed to get the cap off the register canister. Either someone screwed it on waaay too tight, of the threads had become jammed or stripped. Could the next party going up please take either a large pair of vice grips, or a whole new canister?
Looking south, the next ridge point is obviously a bit lower.
I really liked the view of Pigeon and Turret Peaks.
For reasons still unknown to us, as we were standing on the summit, two planes that looked like military transports flew very low right up the Needle Creek drainage and disappeared over the ridge to the east. Their noise was annoying, but we waved at them all the same; I don't know if they saw us or not. Matt and Chad later said that, from below, they did see us on the summit.
Re-crossing the Catwalk was easier than the first time. A video is at:
After coming back down to the open area below the Catwalk, we stopped for a rest, and I took off for Glacier Point. (Couldn't pass it up after being that close.)
Unlike Eolus, Glacier had a register with many fewer entries, which I was able to determine because I could actually get the canister open.
After the traditional sandwich lunch, we headed down, still at an unhurried pace. The skies stayed clear, although some wind came up, keeping us in jackets until we got back down to timberline.
We made it back to camp just about 5 pm, for a total time of just under ten hours. Then, we had the luxury of a completely unhurried supper, a beautiful evening, and an unheard-of thirteen hours to sleep!
Thursday, we got up good and late, broke camp and hit the trail downward at 11 am. We surprised ourselves again: We got to Needleton in less than three hours, although we made no attempt at all to push ourselves. We had plenty of time to rest and chat with the half-dozen or so other hikers waiting there before climbing back on the train. Fourteener #40 for me, #38 for trishapajean. Pictures are at:
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):