Peak(s):  Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
North Eolus  -  14,039 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Date Posted:  06/29/2013
Date Climbed:   06/27/2013
Author:  gonzalj
 Chicago Basin - Mountains, smoke, goats & mosquitos  

The time had come for my friends Beth, Sarah & I to head down to the san juans for our chicago basin trip we'd planned 6 months ago, so on Sunday we drove down to Durango to pick up our train tickets and then we headed back up to the Molas Pass campground to camp for the night before driving to Silverton the next day to catch the afternoon train ride. I was incredibly saddened to find out the news about Steve Gladbach on the way down to Durango and thought that based on the fact that I was heading to a remote basin with remote tough peaks to exercise the utmost caution on this trip and also dedicate this to Steve Gladbach. I had only met Steve once last year at Shavano when he lead a few of us through thousand of downed trees to the Angel with his daughter Alise, but just remember how incredibly genuine & nice of a person he was. RIP Steve and I want to send my condolences to all family & friends involved, as we lost an amazing person & mountaineer. Camping that night at molas pass campground was awesome due to the incredible views in the area and also being blessed with one of the most amazing supermoon & sunrise photo opportunities I've ever seen. The next afternoon we departed Silverton at 3 after a slight delay and arrived at needleton at 4. The hike up to the basin was beautiful with amazing waterfalls, columbines and on a great trail, but when you're hauling a 40+ lb. pack 6 miles, it definitely wears on you and I was really glad when we found our campsite at just over 10,900' 4 hours later and that was over. The following morning we took our time and didn't depart our camp until about 7:30 due to absolutely perfect weather (no haze, hardly any clouds, just blue skies, sun, gorgeous mountains and some pesky goats & mosquitos). After about an hour & a half ascending up to the twin lakes we made it and then relaxed for a bit, filtered some water and started making our way up the "lovely" talus slope to the upper basin between sunlight & windom and then to the windom/peak 18 saddle. After a tedious/slow ascent up to windom that involved some class 3 scrambling (probably due to my feet/ankles not feeling all that great), we made it up to the summit around 11:30 and relaxed for a bit and then we descended down to the saddle by 1 pm. At that point my friends made their way over to sunlight, but I decided to head back down to camp since my feet weren't feeling all that great. There were some snowfields to cross in the upper basin between sunlight & windom, but I had no problems without microspikes and based on the warm temps I don't expect those to last all that long. After arriving back at camp and based on how my legs & ankles felt, I decided to make Wednesday a rest day and just recover a bit, before I attempted eolus & north eolus Thursday. I was really glad I made that decision and the only annoying thing about that was the fact that the mosquitos absolutely sucked. I saw them everywhere ranging from the summit of Eolus, to camp, to waiting for the train at needleton down at 8200' (bring your bug spray as these bad boys are worse than the goats). The next morning at 6:30 I started making my way up to the twin lakes for an attempt at the eolus peaks. Shortly after the 1st creek crossing at the twin lakes trail, 4 goats started following me up. I left camp earlier than my friends as their hiking pace was a little faster than mine and eventually made it up to the twin lakes by 8. However, those goats kept following me all the way to the lake sending their "brain waves over to me desperately begging for me to go to the bathroom so they can get their salt". Once at the lake, there were 3 more goats that joined them and soon enough I found myself solo being followed by 7 goats. After trying to avoid them a create some distance using tactics like yelling to holding my trekking poles up high to make myself look scary, eventually a few other people made it up including my friends and things got a little better at that point in time. After filtering a little more water we made our way up the great trail from the twin lakes to Eolus. Even though the goats were annoying, I must say that this place is absolutely amazing with the rugged peaks & gorgeous alpine lakes and every once in a while we saw some adorable baby goats. After leaving the twin lakes at approximately 9:30, we made it up to the summit of north eolus right around 11 after being joined mid way by a guy named Evan who summited sunlight & windom earlier that morning and was going for the last 2 peaks, which were his 50th & 51st 14ers (best of luck on your last few peaks Evan if you read this). By this point in time there was more haze in the sky from the fires that had developed and I heard on the train ridge back to Silverton that the winds had shifted mid week creating the haze that we didn't see early in the week on Monday & Tuesday. The views were still great and I absolutely loved the view of Eolus & the catwalk & sunlight & windom and all the other great san juan peaks like jagged, vestal, arrow, pigeon & turret. We descended right around 11:15 and were at the base of the catwalk by 11:30. Once we crossed the catwalk which was fun, we decided to take the ridge directly up to the summit instead of the standard route, based on a conversation that we had with 2 people at the twin lakes that we saw earlier that week climbing the sunlight spire and they told us they ascended the ridge the day before and it was pretty solid class 4. As we started making our way up the ridge directly, the toughest climbing was at the bottom of the ridge and there were class 4 moves, it it was fairly solid and as we made our way up it got a little easier and was a nice mix of class 3/4 climbing. There were a few rocks that wobbled a bit, but overall I was really glad we ascended it and by just taking a cautious approach and testing ever hand & foot hold before committing to anything, were up at the summit of eolus 35 minutes after reaching the base of the catwalk. After spending a glorious hour on the summit we descended down the standard route which did have more loose rock, but overall wasn't bad. The next morning after leaving camp at 6:30 and taking my time on the descent enjoying photo opportunities, I made it back to the train stop right at 9:30 and just waited around. I went down to the river and wanted to jump in, but after putting in my feet & legs a bit changed my mind as that water was absolutely freezing. It's kind of crazy, because it felt colder than the water by our campground in the creek right around 10,900'. Anyway, I'll definitely go back to this amazing place for sunlight and some of the 13ers around there.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
Cara Benson

06/29/2013 16:27
Thanks for the report and photos. Pic 4 looks super smokey. Was that how bad it was as you left? Yeesh. And yes, condolences, even though I didn't know Steve.
That sunrise, amazing!


Your welcome
06/29/2013 16:34
Yes, I took photo 4 yesterday morning as I started descending from the basin to the train and thanks for your kind words on the sunrise photo.


I'm glad...
07/01/2013 01:41
to hear that you enjoyed the ridge. Mt. Eolus was my favorite of the group when we did them in 2010 and that was mostly due to the nice rock of the ridge. It was nice meeting you near Twin Lakes. Good luck with your future endeavors!



07/01/2013 02:02

I totally agree with you that eolus was my favorite as well because that ridge climb was so fun. Best to you as well in your future endeavors.

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