Peak(s):  Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Mt. Wilson  -  14,246 feet
Wilson Peak  -  14,017 feet
Date Posted:  07/29/2006
Modified:  11/19/2006
Date Climbed:   07/21/2006
Author:  Wes Bradshaw
 The Chicago Basin and The San Miguel's  

The Chicago Basin and The San Miguel's
July 21st - July 27th
Climbers: Wes Bradshaw, EJ and Mike.

July 21st

After a half day at work we headed down to Durango and crashed for the night. We were unable to get a hotel room so we got a camp site just outside of town.

July 22nd

After an uneventful train ride into Needleton, we headed up to the basin. We set up camp at around 11,200'. Our camp site was about 100 yards away from the Twin Lakes trail and served us well. As usual, it rained for about an hour and a half in the late afternoon but cleared up later in the evening.

July 23rd

After an early start we headed up the steep trail towards Twin Lakes. We climbed Eolus and attempted to follow the trail up the East Face. Most of the time I think we were off route but we all managed to get up safely. We had a big day planned so we only stayed on the top of Eolus for a couple of minutes. We ran down the ridge and tagged an uneventful North Eolus.
From there we headed back down to Twin Lakes and assessed the weather. It started to cloud up a bit but we all decided that it would hold so we went for Sunlight. The scree slope up to the upper saddle of Sunlight was tiring but we managed pretty good time. From the saddle between Sunlight and the Spire we worked our way up to the base of the summit block with some Class 3+ moves. We scrambled up the summit block and straddled the highest point for the pictorial proof.
On the descent from Sunlight the clouds began to look threatening and we decided that we would hideout at 13,300' below the ridge crest of Windom near some large boulders. We sat there for about an hour and finally the weather broke so we made a mad dash for the summit. By the time we were at the summit the weather had moved in again and we literally had to run to avoid the lightning. EJ and I had to ditch our trekking poles due to the lightning. Back safely at camp we ate and hydrated and prepared for the long trip back to the train.

July 24th

We all got up early and headed to the train. While we were packing for the descent we were invaded by approximately 30 Mountain Goats. They we're harmless but were obviously not afraid of humans. We started the trek back to the train at 10am and were back to Needleton quickly. We had 4 hours to kill before the train picked us up so we did what we could to kill some time.
Back in Durango Mike had to head home so EJ and I found a hotel room and took much needed showers. We packed our gear for the approach to Navajo Basin the following day.

July 25th

After sleeping in we got some breakfast at the Brickhouse Caf and headed to Pine Needle Mountaineering to replace our trekking poles. While we were there we decided that pack covers might not be a bad idea, so we picked a couple up. The drive to Navajo basin was overcast and beautiful. While driving to the trail head we notice an error in Roach's book. He states the turn off for FS353 is 9.5 miles past the Rico Post Office, we found that it was closer to 7.0 miles past the post office, but we could be wrong.
The hike into the Navajo basin was amazing. For the first 4 miles we were blessed with great weather and an occasional sprinkle but the last mile we were assaulted with a torrential downpour. We found the highest driest camp site we could at the upper end of the lake and tried to get some sleep the weather never let up the entire night. While lying in the tent we decided to go for the traverse the following day if the weather would cooperate.

July 26th

We woke up to the alarm that was set for 4.15am, it was still raining so we went back to bed and decided that a 7am start on Wilson Peak might be a better option. The Wilson Peak climb was quick and enjoyable and we were back in camp for lunch. There we ran into Rob and Brian and killed some time talking about our past climbs before we all turned in early. EJ and I had decided to climb Mt. Wilson tomorrow and go for the traverse to El Diente if the weather looked good.

July 27th

We left camp at 5am and made good time up Mt. Wilson. Rather than taking the ridge to the summit we elected to descent from Mt. Wilson's highest saddle and climb up the face. The face was less exposed but appeared to be as difficult as the ridge. Rob and Brian soon joined us on the summit and we contemplated the traverse.
Eventually EJ and I decided that we would give the traverse a shot. We found the traverse to be pretty straightforward with some pretty crazy exposure in a few place. We had great weather all the way across the ridge and the traverse took us under 2 hours. On the descent of the North Slopes of El Diente we were both frazzled. There were numerous boulders tumbling down the gully as we descended and we were both relieved to reach to bottom of the gully. We agreed that the descent of the North Slopes was the most dangerous position that we had ever put ourselves in on any of the 14ers. This is not a good descent route when you do not have crampons and an ice axe.
We packed up camp and headed back to the car under blue skies. From there we started the LONG drive back to Denver.

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