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Peak(s):  Mt. Eolus  -  14,087 feet
North Eolus  -  14,042 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,089 feet
Sunlight Peak  -  14,061 feet
Date Posted:  09/29/2022
Date Climbed:   09/26/2022
Author:  clkent
 Chicago Basin Peaks   

Chicago Basin 14ers From Needleton

Day 1: Took the train in on 9/26 and was dropped off at 10:45am at the Needleton stop. On the trail by 10:50am. Shortly after starting I ran into another hiker, Scott, and we kept a solid pace up the Chicago Basin approach. Pretty standard trail up and into the basin. A couple somewhat steep sections if you have a heavy pack on. We got to the Twin Lakes/Columbine trail split just before 2pm. I set up camp roughly 100/150 yards below the trail split. It rained for most of the second half of the approach, so it was nice to change and get into dry clothes for the afternoon.

At 2:35pm, after setting up camp, I set out for Eolus and North Eolus from just below the trail split. Fairly slow moving from the split to twin lakes, but nothing too bad. A couple stream crossings, but no real route finding yet. At 3:36pm, roughly 1hr from the basin, I made it to twin lakes. Following the obvious and well marked trail, I headed west towards Eolus/N Eolus. The trail is super smooth and easy as you head away from twin lakes. As you work up towards Eolus you will transition from a smooth trail into a boulder/scree field. For the most part, the trail, or steps, is straight forward and easy to follow. I was blown away with how nice the trail was. I'm assuming it was CFI, but wow, someone has put in some major hours for this trail... well done! From there, stay high on the ramp and make sure you look behind you as you ascend to familiarize yourself for the descent. I found it easy to end up below where you want to be coming back down. Take your time as you wrap around to see the notch. No real reason to go up the steep-ish section on the left. I found it easiest to ascent straight up to the notch. I was at the notch by 4:50pm. Honestly, the catwalk wasn't anything too alarming. If you can walk on a sidewalk, you can make it past this section.

Eolus from just before the Catwalk

From here, the fun begins. I worked over to the left and kept drifting left as I ascended. Fairly straight forward, but take your time deciding and planning your route. Made it to the summit at 5:15pm. I had clear skies and the weather report didn't call for anything, but at this time I could tell a storm from the east was beginning to back up and head west toward me. Off the summit by 5:18pm and headed for North Eolus. Descending Eolus was fairly straight forward. I was back to the catwalk at roughly 5:32pm.

North Eolus from the Catwalk

Ascending North Eolus was quick as you have coarse "hero rock" to work with. Made it to the North Eolus summit by 5:44pm.

Eolus from North Eolus

By this time, weather was rolling in and it was time to get out of there quickly. I descended from the ridge just before I got back to the notch and worked my way back over to the ramp. I ended up lower than I wanted to be on the ramp, but adjusted course and it was smooth sailing from there. I was back to twin lakes by 6:30pm and camp by 7pm, but not before getting soaked by the snow and rain that came in from the east.

Day 2: Most of my climbing gear was wet from the day before, but I was able to put together enough dry clothes for the day and was on trail by 4:40am. From there I was able to make it back to twin lakes by 5:42am. I was originally concerned with the recent precipitation, but most of the rock seemed to be dry at this point. Not sure how the rock would be higher up, I elected to hit Windom first. Coming out of the twin lakes basin, you will hit a flat rock outcropping where it is time to head towards the Windom-Peak 18 saddle. This seems like a "pick your poison" section, where there are many routes you can take. I thought I stayed right enough, but once I got up higher, I noticed there was a more distinguished trail to my right. It also appeared that there is another route that stays lower and then gains the ridge further on. I made it to the saddle at roughly 6:50am.

Eolus/North Eolus from just above the saddle on Windom

From the saddle, route finding to the notch is straight-forward. Moving up from the notch, the previous days moisture was starting to be a factor. Noticeable amounts of snow and slick rock were present, but I never felt like I needed more traction. I would say, in my opinion, from this point on it felt more like class 3 climbing than class 2. This section required some thought as to route finding and the best way forward. I found myself scrambling and using my hands most of the time. Ascend up the north side of the ridge and near the top you will come thru an opening where you will find the summit block. I made it to the summit of Windom by 7:32am.

Looking toward Sunlight from Windom

From the summit of Windom, I back tracked down to the saddle and then started my traverse towards Sunlight. With the recent weather, this was one of the trickier parts of the day as all of the loose rock was frozen and slippery. I made my way down and across carefully, eventually gaining a position where I could go up and then left to the gully or left and around to the gully. I elected the second option and this put me onto the standard route for Sunlight. The gully towards the saddle was steep, loose dirt and not super fun. Once you gain the saddle, the climb becomes a lot more enjoyable again. If referring to the photos on the 14ers.com description, photo #16 is very helpful for navigating thru the sections shown in photos #18 and #19. I didn't stay high enough as I went thru the opening above the climber in photo #18. Stay right when you get to this section to stay on route. After some confusion as to why the pictures didn't line up with what I was looking at, I made my way up to where photo #21 was taken. I went left and had no issues. From there, it was pretty easy to find the hole in the ridge to access the summit. I reached the summit by 9:07am.

Looking at Windom from Sunlight

The summit block of Sunlight is pretty legit. Being solo and somewhat tired, I didn't climb up to the top of it. Looks like a rad time tho!

From there, I worked my way back down. Route finding was pretty easy on the way back. Made it down to twin lakes by 10:15am and back to camp by 10:50am. After some food and hydration, I packed up camp and was heading back towards Needleton by 11:30am. I made it back to the cement pad east of the train tracks by 1:55pm. In all, according to my garmin, it was 24.6 miles and 9,416ft of elevation gain.

Helpful recap for timing (Note: I wouldn't say I'm fast or slow, but I don't take very many breaks): Needleton to Chicago Basin (Far end) 3hrs. Chicago Basin to twin lakes 1hr. Twin lakes to Eolus to North Eolus and back to twin lakes 3hrs. Twin Lakes to Windom 1hr 50min. Windom to Sunlight 1hr 30min. Sunlight to Twin Lakes 1hr. Twin Lakes to Windom to Sunlight and back to twin lakes 4hrs 35min. Chicago Basin to Needleton 2hrs 25min.

If you've read this far, kuddos to you, I wouldn't have! Hope this is helpful for someone heading out to Chicago Basin! Thanks

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Great detail
8/11/2023 4:00pm
Thanks for so much detail. I really appreciate the insight as I plan the same trek!

8/11/2023 4:57pm
Hope it helps. Wish I had time for a longer trip, such an amazing place to climb! Enjoy

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