Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Date Posted:  07/19/2013
Date Climbed:   07/15/2013
Author:  ajpete
 Sunlight - The long way  

Sunlight Peak, with its famous exposed summit block and "leap of faith" is a great hike with some scrambling and exposure that will keep many conservative hikers away. We decided to try all 4 of Chicago Basin's 14ers as the culmination to our 7 day backpacking trip starting at Molas Pass, hiking through the pass between Peak 2/3 and Peak 1 past Trinity Lake and Storm King and down Vallecito Creek Trail then up and over Columbine Pass to the Chicago Basin. Trek to the Basin aside our goal was to do Sunlight and Windom on Monday and North Eolus and Eolus on Tuesday and hike out to Purgatory making a trip total of around 55-60 miles. The weather had other plans.

Waking up at 0530 Monday morning was the plan, that didn't happen. We got our tired, waterlogged bodies out of the tent around 0630 and started hiking from our campsite right across a stream from the trailhead after coffee and breakfast at 0815 with the clouds clearing away for the most part revealing some much needed sun. We made it up to the picturesque Twin Lakes at 1000 with little trouble from a few gangs of mountain goats roaming the switchbacks, finished off our water and filtered some more for the two mountains we were about to climb. Of note, we saw two single hikers coming down from Eolus and 2 more singles going up and two groups going up Windom. The clouds were present but not threatening upon starting our climb up from the lake to the saddle which was well marked and aside from some steep sandy portions was an incredibly well maintained trail, great job CFI. From the saddle we headed left following cairns that were relatively easy to find. Besides for an incredibly impressive man wearing nothing but short shorts and carrying about 8 oz of water that literally ran past us spraying pebbles down upon us we didn't see anyone else on the mountain. From the chimney we started to notice more cloud cover and contemplated the decision to make this our only peak of the day. Past the scramble up the chimney it's just a hop skip and a jump to the summit. We didn't do the leap of faith, satisfied with our hike I snapped a few pics at the base of the summit block and of the USGS marker around 1200 and headed down feeling unsure if we would be able to make it up Windom. At this time I could see two groups headed down Windom, one of which had just started, the clouds were getting darker and after the past 4 days with later afternoon rain we knew what was coming. by 1300 we were almost to the lakes were the trail meets up with Windom's trail and the hail began. Apparently we started our trip with the start of a slightly early monsoon season. We put on our rain gear and started scampering down in the pouring rain. We made it down to camp before 1400 and sat in the tent for the next 17 hours of rain. The next day we were socked in until 10 and decided that we would pack up our gear and finish a day early hiking the final 17 or so miles to the car crossing swollen streams and encountering only a handful of souls headed up to the basin from the train hoping that their luck with the weather would be better than our own.

I will be back to the basin to hike the other mountains there because this is a really beautiful area. Next time I might go in June to miss some of the rain however.

Words of advice:
Take the train, its a long hike up and you don't want to add to it by starting in Purgatory unless you want to do a multi day trip.
Camp in the area across the stream from the trailhead if you want to get close but know that with rain that stream gets a bit tricky to cross.
Filter water up at Twin lakes, its the halfway point and is a great place to snap some pictures.
Don't leave your poles to climb up through the chimney, I got a handle modification from a hungry marmot and marmot drool straps are just not my style.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/19/2013 21:36
I thought maybe you were going to say that you figured out a new non-threatening way to get the summit block on Sunlight.

oh well, sounds like a very satisfying trip in some beautiful country.

Good tip about the marmots. I've never had it happen, but they did steel a gatorade-filled water bottle one time.


chicago basin
07/21/2013 18:17
We were 2 of those souls hiking in on Tuesday, July 16. Was foggy all day and into Wed afternoon! Thursday was first good day to climb, we made Windom but came off by 11am. Weather held off, until 2, when rain and hail came to the lower basin. It is beautiful, we are thankful for break in weather. We had jack rabbits, chewing on our sandals left under tent flap. ALL gear must be up from critters, not just the goats.

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