Peak(s):  Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Post Date:  07/16/2010
Modified:  07/20/2010
Date Climbed:   07/08/2010
Posted By:  globreal

 Windom & Sunlight & an Adrenaline Rush!  

Chicago Basin Climbs: Day #2
Windom Peak: 14,082 Route: Chicago Basin (Standard)
Sunlight Peak: 14, 059 Route: Chicago Basin (Standard)

Crew: From the Michigan Flatlanders: John, Brad,
and Robert from St. Louis…and me, Britt (globreal)
Climb date: Thursday, July 08, 2010
Start Time: 3:29am
End Time: 2:18pm
Total Time: 11 hours (total hiking/climbing/summit/lounge time)
Trip Length: 6 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,500 feet (both peaks)

This was our second day of climbing. The first day we climbed Mt. Eolus & N. Eolus. To see that report, go here:

After getting constant rains the day before that started coming down at 11:30am, I didn't get any argument from the guys about starting our climb at 3:30am today.
photo by Brad

Again, it took us about an hour and a half to get from camp in the Chicago Basin up to the Twin Lakes. This is about 1,400 feet of elevation gain going from 11,100 to 12,500. Hiking across the twin lakes is pretty flat walking. Then you climb up to the higher bowl/basin between Windom and Sunlight and again you get some relatively flat hiking across the talus.

But that all changes soon enough…and once you reach the north facing ridge, you get great views down into the Chicago Basin below.

And this route is rated as Difficult Class 2….and I would say it's quite a rock scramble. This climb turned out to be tougher than I thought.

Maybe part of it had to do with the fact that we got rained on the day before. And higher up here, the rock was icy and slippery.

This is Robert just below the summit.

We made it to the top in about 4 hours at 7:25am. What surprised me are these big, giant rock blocks on the summit that are so square. This peak has character!

Here is John on the summit next to one of those big blocks.

Four of us were successful today. From l to r
Brad, Britt, John, Robert (up high)

I really enjoyed this climb. It's a great scramble along the ridge up to the summit. And then the views above the Chicago Basin are awesome.

After about a half hour on Windom, we headed for Sunlight Peak at 7:50am.

And for those of you who want to climb the Sunlight Spire with a 140 feet of technical Class 5 climbing….there it is. Go for it!

The downclimb off of Windom wasn't to bad, but looking back up at it, man it looked steep!

We went to the basin floor which caused us to loose 500 feet of elevation but it looked like the safest route to go.

The climb up the wide gulley toward Sunlight was uneventful. And it's got a lot of dirt in there and so, it's pretty easy climbing this time of year. (Photo taken on downclimb.)
photo by John

Once you get up to the saddle…the views are awesome. The lakes northeast of Sunlight and Windom are beautiful.

But, once you reach the saddle, the fun has only just begun. You turn left, or more northwards and route finding needs to kick into high gear. There are cairns a-plenty, but you can expect to do some back tracking to find the correct way. And, as you can see here…it's time to put on your "big boy pants." The Class 2 hiking is over!
photo by Robert

Just before you reach the final summit block, you get to climb through the rocks.
photo by John

And here it is….what Sunlight is famous for. The Class 4 move! Sitting on top of this rock is a true experience. Do you see the left edge of that big vertical rock? That's right….it's pretty much straight down! And it goes waaaay down below what you can see here!

There's plenty of pictures from other trip reports that show the "leap of faith" move. !" I didn't feel I could comfortably step and reach over. I'll just say….my legs were shaking and it took me 4 tries before my body followed my brain after saying "jump." But I made finally made it. And then it was up the last few feet to the true summit. Here is Robert sitting up there.

Now, I had read all the trip reports to date on this pointy little peak top experience. And no where did I ever find a photo of what it looks down that north side. People talked about it being exposed, but I hadn't seen a picture of it. So, that's what I wanted to bring to A picture that shows what it looks like, looking down that north face. Well, here it is. This is a true, narrow knife edge….and see my right leg….it's going straight down!

Unfortunately, pictures flatten things out and remove the depth and height of things. But I can tell you, I felt like I was sitting 1000 feet above that valley floor and I had the jitters! The adrenaline was flowing! And Brad was funny….he said he felt like he needed to hold on right where he was just watching me.

Robert filmed me doing the "leap of faith" back down. And what you can't see it that I overshot it! I immediately went to the scramble position and grabbed the rock with my hands, but I almost kept going which would have NOT been pretty!
Image #24 (not yet uploaded)

We took a group shot back at the summit marker and summit register. "The thrill of victory."
L to R Britt, Robert, Brad, John

The downclimb was again un-eventful and it happened pretty fast. However, this water gully cut out of the rock was quite interesting. At the top is was filled with about 20 feet of snow. John and Robert cross the creek below.

Once we got back down to the Twin Lakes Basin, we were surprised that it hadn't started raining on us yet.

We decided a good long rest was in order. So, we hung out here and enjoyed the peaceful enclave for about an hour. It was so nice!

Then the time had to come where it was back down to camp in the Chicago Basin. And since it still wasn't raining, we took our time, unlike the day before.

There's something to be found in the saying, "stop and smell the roses."

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions
emcee smith

Nice Trifecta of Reports
07/16/2010 12:06
We did them the other way around, Windom was after Sunlight. I thought it was surprisingly challenging as I expected a walk up after Eolus and Sunlight. Thanks for taking the photos that we are all too scared to.


Pucker moments
07/16/2010 13:07
Gotta love what Sunlight‘s summit can do to a man (or woman).

So did you guys retrace the west ridge of Windom down, or did you take the north face? I took the north face up(did Sunlight first) and found it to be nothing more than class 3 scrambling.


Sigh ...
07/16/2010 16:15
There‘s a reason we love the San Juans so much ... these vivid photos are a perfect example (really like #17 ... you need to get that framed and put in your office) . Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


Pucker Moment
04/18/2014 19:27
Britt is there anyway to upload that Youtube video of you jumping?


YouTube video is up...
07/16/2010 18:37


07/17/2010 04:37
Love that solo shot of you overlooking the Chicago Basin Britt!


Oh the memories!
07/17/2010 13:33
I love your TR, I can‘t wait to go back!


07/18/2010 00:18
Chicago Basin is just so beautiful! Thanks for sharing another successful trip. Getting close!!


Great trip report
07/18/2010 03:55
wow the pictures and report were great. I‘m going to Chicago Basin next month and your trip report was very helpful to me thanks.....


Excellent Trip Report and Photos!
07/19/2010 02:47
Amazing! As usual another fine adventure. Great job Britt.

Alan Arnette

08/12/2010 16:03
Heading there this weekend. Thanks for an excellent TR and great job!


A fine adventure in the Needles
09/06/2010 06:06
Wonderful trip report of two classic San Juan climbs! Well done and nicely photographed. Gotta love the gutsy leap of faith off Sunlight's summit block--Pegasus would be proud. Keep the faith, and keep on climbing!

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