Peak(s):  Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
North Eolus  -  14,039 feet
Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Date Posted:  08/21/2011
Modified:  04/02/2012
Date Climbed:   08/18/2011
Author:  dehrlich101
Additional Members:   frobert_55, jgallo11
 Trains, mountains, and ice cold beer  

August 17 - 19, 2011
Partners: Rob "Frobert_55", Justin "jgallo11", and Tyler

August 16, 2011 - Tuesday "Driving"
We started towards Durango around 1:00 pm, from Denver. We stopped at the Pagosa Brewing Company for Dinner, very good food and beer. After arriving in Durango and checking into the Motel we went to the store to get some last minute items.

Durango/Silverton Train

August 17, 2011 - Wednesday "Train and hiking to Chicago Basin"
We woke up at 6:30 am, and packed up the car. We to the Durango Doughworks on 2653 Main Avenue for Breakfast and would recommend it for anyone that is catching the train. They have a large selection of different kinds of Breakfast Burritos, pastries, drinks, and other breakfast food. The Train Station charges for parking in there lot which is $7 a day for vehicles, and $9 for RV's and Trailers. We arrived at the station an hour before our train was set to depart, so we could get our tickets from will call and checkout the train. The train that stopped at Needleton was the second train that left that day at 9:15 am. The train employees had us put all of our gear into the box car and we loaded up the gondola for the ride out to the Needleton Stop.



Once on the train we had a few Bloody Mary's, and was all set for our hike towards the basin. We made a few stops before Needleton to drop off people that were fishing and rafting. We arrived at Needleton at 11:45 am. After stashing a large quantity of beer in the river for our return on Friday we started up the trail towards Chicago Basin.


We met Tyler at the Train stop, who tagged along with us for our whole trip and then went on his way Friday morning to hike over Columbine Pass to Vallecito Lake Area. The hike to Chicago Basin was great, there were many waterfalls and awesome views the whole way. We arrived in the basin and soon were greeted by our first goat along the trail. The basin did have quite a few people camping in it already so we set up camp about 1 mile from the No Camping Sign. After a dehydrated meal of chili mac, tuna fish, and water. We went to bed anticipating our 3:30 am alarm clock.

View from Camp, Peak 18 to the left and Windom to the left of Peak 18

August 18, 2011 Thursday

We woke up at 3:30 am, ate a light meal and started down the trail towards Twin Lakes at 4:00 am. It was decided the night before that we would climb first climb Eolus, North Eolus, then Sunlight and Windom if the weather cooperated. We had a great sunrise on our way towards the catwalk.

Sunrise from below Mount Eolus

We arrived at the catwalk, which was an awesome sight. I was not as intense as some people say it is, there is a lot of exposure at some points but wasn't to bad.

Cat Walk and Eolus

After crossing the catwalk, you follow the route up Eolus to the summit. There are some Cairns marking the route up to the summit but were hard to follow. We did some route-finding and made it to the ridge to the summit, and followed that to the top. This way was not the best due to some of the exposure at times, the best way would be to stay on the middle of the East Face and summit from that point. We came down from the summit this way.

Summit of Mount Eolus

North Eolus and Catwalk from Mount Eolus

We stayed on Eolus for awhile enjoying the views and taking pictures. Peak Twelve on the back side was very impressive, and there was great views of Sunlight and Windom as well as the rest of the mountain range.

We then came down from Eolus and made our way towards North Eolus. N. Eolus was a quick climb from the beginning of the catwalk and is worth making the hike to the top.

Eolus and Catwalk from North Eolus

We snapped a few pictures from North Eolus, and then heading down to Twin Lakes for an Early lunch and then we would be heading towards Sunlight Peak. While at Twin Lakes eating lunch and resting a herd of goats came down from the left side of the lakes. They came very close to were we were at so we got some great photos.

Goat Herd

After our early lunch, and hanging out with the Goats we started towards Sunlight at 10:43 am. There are massive Cairns marking the bottom half of the trail towards both Sunlight and Windom. The trail towards Sunlight is very good, with rock steps and retaining walls. After making it to the gully in between Sunlight and the Sunlight Spire we made our way towards the left below Sunlight. After a lot of route finding, and scrabbling we found the sunlight to climb though to make it to the summit.

Cairn and Sunlight Peak

Sunlight Gully

Sunlight Spire

I did not make the climb over to the summit block, but Rob and Justin did go over to the block. The block does have a huge amount of exposure but everyone said that the step over to the block and the leap back is not bad and was easier than the climb to the summit. Maybe next time... After summiting Sunlight we started to hear Thunder in the distance and some dark clouds were moving in. We made our way down the mountain and decided not to attempt Windom due to the storm coming in and made our way back to camp.

Rob Sunlight Summit Block

Justin's Leap of Faith

Windom Peak from Sunlight

We were satisfied with how our day went, even though we did not get to climb all four. If you are planning on climbing all four start as early as possible and hope for good weather. One person did wait out the storm and completed Sunlight and Windom that day after the storm. Myself and Tyler decided that we would head up in the morning again to climb Windom the next day. After arriving back at camp we dined on Redvines and more freeze dried food and went to bed.

August 19, 2011 Friday

Tyler and I, woke up at 3:30 am again and left camp around 4:20 am. My muscles were very sore from the hike the previous day which made the hike to Twin Lakes hard. We made great time, and were halfway up the saddle by 6:30 am.

View from the Windom/Peak 18 Saddle

The route was well marked with Cairns, and was an easy scramble towards the top. We made it to the summit at 7:00 am, and had great views in all directions. Another group that had camped by us the night before were climbing the Sunlight Spire that morning and we had a good view of them traversing towards the spire and saw two of the three people climb the spire. After drinking some water and eating we started down Windom. We made it down after going down a gully which was not a good idea, lots of loose rock. STAY ON THE STANDARD ROUTE! Another group told us that where we came down was a class 3.

View from Windom, Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window

Sunlight Cairn, someone is on the Spire but it is hard to tell

Tyler and I made our way down the trail towards Twin Lakes, then down towards camp. He left towards Columbine Pass and I arrived back at camp at 10:00 am. The goats were all around our camp licking the rocks around camp, for obvious reasons. Rob and Justin had already broke down most of the camp so we packed up and starting hiking to the Train at 10:20 with our cold river beers in mind. We made great time on the way down and was at Needleton by 12:45 pm. We found our stash of beers along the river and celebrated our successful trip into the Chicago Basin. Great way to end a amazing trip, and spend time waiting for the train with your friends.






View of Needle Ridge from Twin Lakes

Peak 12



Hope you enjoyed the report and pictures, feel free to Message me if you have any questions about the area.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
rob runkle

Chi basin
08/21/2011 21:20
Great way to do the Chi Basin... Train, peaks, beer, friends.


Great trip
08/22/2011 02:11
Looks like a great trip, gents. Way to enjoy it!

Love that shots of Justin's ”leap of faith.”

And of course the immersion and libation shots. : )


Rio Grande Pyramid and The Window
08/22/2011 20:01
in Photo #19. Nice shot of the ”leap of faith” ... I have an almost identical shot of my husband doing same said ”leap”. Nice report. By the way, the two ”floaters” look like they're freezing their *sses off. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


09/04/2011 03:07
The leap of faith is a bit out there. There is some big air under Justin feet. Congrats on a safe climb.

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