Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Date Posted:  10/08/2013
Date Climbed:   09/25/2013
Author:  sanjuanmtnguide
 Early Winter on Sunlight  

September is known as one of the best months to climb in the San Juan's and while their is always threat of some snow, it is rarely very cold. We had this trip planned all summer with a fun group of guys from the great state of Texas.

Rockstar Casual

What made this trip interesting:

January-like temperatures. Perfect blue skies. Verglass (ice) in the chimney. Snow all the way up and down (in the alpine) and on the sky sidewalk. Wet/slippery summit block. No-one else in the basin.
The train ride in was uneventful as was the hike - although the temps were perfect at about 65 degrees and the streams were ripping like it was springtime. When we got into the lower basin we could see that the big storms from the weekend had left their mark.

Low down in Chicago Basin

Although I have been in here a lot of times I always stop to admire this coulior on Kennedy - it seems like an awesome alpine climbing objective - I have never heard of anyone doing it - if you have, I would love to hear about it. Maybe next spring.....

Awesome Coulior on Mt. Kennedy

Looking back on the North faces - Aztec is pretty coated.


We set up camp near the columbine pass trail junction. Ground was super wet with water flowing in every direction.


The following morning we were on our way to the upper basin between Sunlight and Windom with the intention of doing Windom first. Everything seemed normal. When we got to Twin lakes though, we realized that it was wicked cold up high. I mean, wear all of your layers plus a puffy while walking uphill, cold. I almost never wear my puffy while going uphill, even in January! Still, the sun was shining so we opted to stay in the sun and climb the appropriately named Sunlight peak first. It didn't help.

Alpine Glow

There was snow and wind all the way up, but everyone was in great spirits and excited to summit. The conditions made for a very "alpine" outing.

Climbing Above Twin Lakes

Typical Conditions on the Climb

Sunlight Spire in the background

At the top of the Red Coulior with Windom Behind

Climbing out from the first Crux

Did someone touch my butt? A little crowded in the Chimney

Nobody ever talks about the "catwalk" on Sunlight, but I think it is pretty cool - big exposure, sloping rock and with the snow and ice, kept your attention...

When we got to the top, the slabs were slightly wet making everything a bit more interesting.

Up the summit slab

Harry on Top

Dolph making a move

There is just so much to do up in Chicago Basin -here are some more shots of things that catch my eye. The Io coulior is a great climb/ski, I have never gotten around to the Twin Thumbs, and there are some interesting looking slabs on Peak 18!

Io Coulior on Jupiter Peak - Classic

Tom and Twin Thumbs in the Background

There is some Climbing to be done here Peak 18

In any event, we had a successful summit and had fun doing it. Like every time that I ramble into the San Juan's I leave with ideas for the next visit and the next. This place never gets old and the surface has barely been scratched.

Out of the Wilderness and into Temps above -10

Andrew K
San Juan Mountain Guides

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

10/09/2013 01:02
I remember seeing that couloir in May 2010 and thought the same thing. And I agree about Io -- it sure makes for a fun ascent of Jupiter!


So fun
04/02/2015 19:45
to see Chicago Basin in snow. Not sure about Io, but I have my eyes on Europa as a potential ski descent at some point. Good job on the ”leap of faith”. That move is scary, especially with slippery, icy rock.


10/09/2013 11:05
We were there just 3 weeks earlier, what a difference 3 weeks in September makes. Great report


Thanks for pic
10/09/2013 14:57
Thanks for that great pic of Kennedy, looks like it is in condition in that photo. A lot of rock could funnel into that thing. The Europa ski descent is A++ - the skiing is pretty reasonable but a lot of it is above cliffs.

Lady McClimbsalot

10/09/2013 15:00
Going there last July was the trip of a lifetime for me. I have so many awesome memories from those mountains and am dying to go back! Thanks for sharing your report. Your photos are awesome. It really is amazing to see it with snow!

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