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Elk Park/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Colorado 14er peak questions and conditions should be posted here. 14er Trip Reports
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Elk Park/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby The Kid » Fri Mar 12, 2010 11:58 am

I'll be attempting this in late June and will attempt to do Windom Peak. I'm thinking of starting on June 24th and spending 4 nights and 5 days on the trail. What kind of equipment will I need? Snowshoes? Crampons? Or will Microspikes to the job at this time of the year? I'm pretty sure I'll need to bring my ice axe, right?

My main concern is snow around hunchback pass.

Here is my tentative itenrary

Day 1- Dropped off at EP and hike to or around El Dorado Lake
Day 2 - From El Dorado Lake to Rock Creek
Day 3 - Rock Creek to somewhere halfway between Vallecito Bridge and Columbine Pass (Lake Hazel area maybe?)
Day 4 - Into Chicago Basin as close to twin lakes as possible and camp
Day 5 - Early start up to Windom and then down to Needleton

Is this a bit too ambitious? And can anyone suggest an alternative route?

Thank you in advance.
Last edited by The Kid on Fri Mar 12, 2010 2:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Elk Pass/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby Presto » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:05 pm

I'm assuming you don't want to take the train in to Needleton from either Silverton or Durango? That would certainly be less time consuming. Going in late June will definitely offer you more challenges (i.e., snow, high water, etc.) than you would have later on. The route up to Chicago Basin from Needleton will have had more traffic, that time of year, than the one you are currently entertaining. The answer to the question of needing an ice ax is YES.
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: Elk Pass/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby Doctor No » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:27 pm

Seems like a lot of work just to get Windom. Might as well go for all four (heck, if you took the train, you could get Jupiter, too).

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Re: Elk Pass/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby The Kid » Fri Mar 12, 2010 12:30 pm

Thanks guys.

I'm more interested in the hiking portion of the trip. I will take the train to EP and hike to Needleton. Scooting up to Windom is kind of a bonus.

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Re: Elk Pass/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby turbocat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:14 pm

Do you mean Elk Park, the stop on the D&S where Elk Creek dumps into the Animas?

If so, I went in from here during the same timeframe in June 2006 (stood on Vestal on Father's Day that year) to climb Vestal, Arrow, Trinities then over and through Ten Mile and into No Name for Jagged and then over and into Ruby for Pigeon\Turrett. Our plan was for a Chicago Basin exit to Needleton via Twin Thumbs pass but it was socked in from the No Name side. Note that it was an extremely light snow year in 2006 and we had a rapid melt because of high temps in early June. Typically, that area would hold a lot of snow above treeline and on the passes through July. I have a trip report & photos if you PM me.

Unless there has been significant trail maintenance since 2006, Elk Park and up Elk Creek are some tough miles. Tough trailfinding after the river crossing (tightrope balancing act) and lots of blowdowns.
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Re: Elk Pass/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby Presto » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:25 pm

by turbocat » Fri Mar 12, 2010 1:14 pm
Unless there has been significant trail maintenance since 2006, Elk Park and up Elk Creek are some tough miles. Tough trailfinding after the river crossing (tightrope balancing act) and lots of blowdowns.


I don't think there has been. In fact, there was a rockslide along the trail up Elk Creek in 2008. I concur on the snow levels for that part of the Grenadiers for June. I mean, the Silverton downhill area is showing over 100 inches right now ... and, that's before any big spring dumps. Travel will be interesting that time of year. We've done many trips in that region ... too bad you can't do the trip later on as it is a good one (and I speak from previous enjoyable experiences :wink: ). Happy trails! :D
As if none of us have ever come back with a cool, quasi-epic story instead of being victim to tragic rockfall, a fatal stumble, a heart attack, an embolism, a lightning strike, a bear attack, collapsing cornice, some psycho with an axe, a falling tree, carbon monoxide, even falling asleep at the wheel getting to a mountain. If you can't accept the fact that sometimes "s**t happens", then you live with the illusion that your epic genius and profound wilderness intelligence has put you in total and complete control of yourself, your partners, and the mountain. How mystified you'll be when "s**t happens" to you! - FM

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Re: Elk Park/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby Jim Davies » Fri Mar 12, 2010 3:43 pm

I did this loop with a group in late July 2003 (camping in the same places you're thinking), and it was great. However, climbing Windom and still getting out in time to catch the train might be a stretch; better start early. If you want to have more time for climbing and avoid the train hassles, hiking in from Purgatory is an alternative. You could hike into the basin in one long or two medium days, go over Columbine Pass (and climb Jupiter) as a day-trip, and climb all of the 14ers in five days that way. Riding the train wastes a lot of your potential backcountry time, IMO.
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Re: Elk Park/Needeleton / Chicago Basin Loop in Late June

Postby gdthomas » Fri Mar 12, 2010 7:52 pm

In the summer of 2008, the trail from Elk Park to the Colorado Trail was fine. The aforementioned rock slide was present but easily navigated. The Colorado Trail to well past the Vestal Creek turn off is a super highway. I haven't been beyond that point so my observations of the trail end there. As for climbing Windom in the morning then hoofing it back to the train, its very doable. I climbed Eolus, got back to camp about 10am, packed up and made it to the Needleton stop with an hour to spare. I would guess a 4am start for Windom should give you enough time.

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