Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Date Posted:  08/05/2006
Date Climbed:   08/03/2006
Author:  greg
 Chicago Basin  

Chicago Basin Trip

Aug 1-2-3 2006

I had slated 5 days for this trip, day one to drive to Durango, Day 2to ride the train and backpack in as high as the forest service will allow, 11,200 feet and day 3, and 4 to climb, day 5 hike out and drive home. There are 4 trains a day that make the round trip from Durango to Silverton but only 1 allows the drop off at the Needleton TH. That train is the 9 AM train and droop off at 11:30; the 30 mile train ride takes about 2.5 hrs.
The forest service had a ranger assigned to the train to answer questions and he spoke to the backpackers about food storage, etc. He said the marmots would eat thru your tent wall and even thru your sleeping bag so he recommended breaking camp every day and hanging your pack.
The train was fun; the gondola car with open air sides was awesome, much better to me than being confined and in a regular train car. The backpack into the Chicago basin was an easy steady grade to camp on a great trail. It was raining (Monsoon Season) when I got to the basin, there were plenty of low camping spots but the higher I go the worse the spots and more crowded. I finally found a spot and felt like I was in a KOA camp ground, tents all over, goats wandering thru camp and marmots looking for handouts.
I had an early dinner and my plan was 4:30 start. I got up at 2 AM looked at the sky, stars, and slept for 2 more hours. I got up at 4 Am and the trail at 4:30 I packed everything and hung it in a tree except my tent I left up. I am glad I had a small summit pack with me, as my backpack was storing all my gear in the trees.
I met a guy on 8/2 who said he did all 3 peaks in a day, Sunlight first, Windom and the Eolus and recommended the same to me. He said Eolus was the easier and was a walk off or run in any direction in bad WX. I took his advice which was wrong, in the end. I was in the dark till twin lakes and then I could start to make out Sunlight on thick cloud cover, the summit obscurved by the weather.
As the sun came up and I followed a good carined route to the top of Sunlight, Eolus was fully clouded over. I summited at 6:59 AM and made quick work over to Windom, some scrambling but another easy to follow route. Summit at 8:26 AM, then back to twin lakes. The cloud cover kind of was bothering me, it looked as if thunderstorms were already building at 9AM. The Eolus trail was easy to follow and near the saddle between Eolus and N Eolus I saw two other climbers on a traverse below the catwalk on a good ledge. I yelled over to them about the route, they said it was a good short cut. I looked at the climb and the ledge was wide but you had to up climb to the catwalk about 100 feet on the very steep South face. They said they had not up climbed it only come down that way. I decided I was OK but marginal, one slip and ouch 1000 feet tumble. It was high class 4 low 5 climbing, and stupid.
That was the 2nd time I did not follow my gut and stick to my plan. When I climb solo I try to stay on only standard routes. Well I made it, roped I would have been fine but unroped was big risk.
The rest of the Eolus climb was on the last part of the catwalk and to the top at 10:50 AM. I decided I would try to make it down to base camp and break camp and try to get the 3:45 train to Durango. I made it to base camp at 12:10 and was at Needleton at 2:40 PM.
I really rushed the trip, I was gone from home the 5 preceding days and came home for 8 hours to pack and go. I also thought I could try to get Culebra done on the weekend, but after a call to Sol Vista ranch, they said all the 06 climbing slots were issued. So I guess nest year will have to do to finish.

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