Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
North Eolus  -  14,039 feet
Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
Date Posted:  07/07/2007
Modified:  05/13/2013
Date Climbed:   07/03/2007
Author:  benners
 Eolus Group in a Day (From Chicago Basin)  

Peaks: Sunlight, Windom, Eolus, N. Eolus (San Juan Range)
Date Climbed: Tuesday July 3, 2007
Group: Stu (marmotman) and Ben (benners)
Route: Sunlight's standard, traverse to north facing couloir on Windom, standard routes up Eolus and N. Eolus

The goal for this trip was simple: to finish the San Juan Fourteeners. Stu and I had been looking forward to this one for a long time. The idea of riding a train into the wilderness and then backpacking several miles further just to reach the peaks had always made this trip sound particularly special. The two of us left Durango on the Durango-Silverton Railroad at 9:00am Monday morning and arrived in Needleton at 11:30am.

The Durango-Silverton Railroad

The ascent into Chicago Basin was very hot and the mosquitos were overbearing at times but the hike was beautimus (new word, just made it up). We arrived and set up camp high in the basin around 4:00pm and took the rest of the day off (for we had nothing to do but sit and enjoy the solitude). The sunset was nothing short of spectacular.

Chicago Basin at 9:00pm, July 2nd

The sun setting on Windom from our camp at 11,100 ft.

We awoke the next morning to Mountain Goats surrounding the camp, they were after our piss (the ranger told us the animals in the basin are salt deprived). We had no choice but to submit and give them what they wanted. We left our camp at 4:30am and headed up to Twin Lakes. The ascent to Twin Lakes covers around 1,500 ft. of elevation and it is a steep Class 2 hike.

Twin Lakes at 5:15am

Looking West at Mt. Eolus and North Eolus

Upon reaching Twin Lakes it became obvious that we would be using snow gear for Sunlight and Windom. We pumped some H2O (we decided to go lighter than usual, bringing a Nalgene and a water pump rather than packing out all of our water) and began the ascent of Sunlight. The route heads straight up to the Sunlight Peak/Sunlight Spire saddle and then cuts west (left) under a cliff band.

Stu on Sunlight's South Face

From the saddle the route curves around the Southwest side of the mountain, never seeming to exceed Class 3. The key to the route is a small hole that must be climbed through to reach the summit ridge, the hole is very easy to find (there is almost no other option).

The route seen from Windom's Summit, our descent route cuts right

The last move onto the summit was probably the most over-hyped section on any Fourteener I have been on. For any comfortable scrambler the move isn't even an afterthought (at least in our opinion). We summited at 6:40am.

Stu on Sunlight's Summit

More Summit Shots (Left: Stu)

The remoteness of these peaks coupled with the sunrise summit made for a very surreal and cool experience. I would highly recommend trying to catch a sunrise on this summit. We spent about fifteen minutes taking in the views and headed off for Windom. We ended up descending to the basin between Sunlight and Windom and then ascending a snow slope on Windom's north side, summiting at 8:00am.

Our route up Windom taken from Sunlight

We spent another fifteen minutes on Windom and headed for North Eolus. We descended Windom's west ridge route, filled up on some more H2O near Twin Lakes, and began the ascent of Eolus. We never really dropped below Twin Lakes on the way over to Eolus so our elevation lowpoint was around 12,500 ft. The ascent of Eolus was almost entirely snow free. The route is pretty straight forward and can be seen below.

The route up Mt. Eolus

We arrived at the saddle between North Eolus and Mt. Eolus (elevation unknown but I'm guessing it's around 13,800 ft.) and quickly jumped onto the summit of North Eolus at 11:00am. From the saddle to North Eolus took less than ten minutes.

North Eolus Summit, Mt. Eolus in the background

We then went for the fourth (or maybe third depending on how you count them) and last summit of the day. From this point we pretty much figured the whole thing was in the bag, only to be suprised by the difficult route finding and exposure on Eolus. The catwalk was not bad if you are comfortable with a little exposure but the ascent from the catwalk to the summit was slightly hairy in spots, I'm assuming we were off route a few times. The basic idea though is to head across the catwalk and then traverse south (left) and up, then left again and up again until reaching the summit ridge. We reached the summit at 11:45am. Overall Stu and I agreed that if you base difficulty on routefinding and exposed scrambling, Mt. Eolus is the most difficult climb of the group.

The Catwalk and Mt. Eolus from the saddle

On the summit we met Jared Workman and his wife, along with two others, all six of us being from Boulder. We spent about half an hour on the summit talking about mountains and various things, Jared gave us some great information about future climbs, he is three fourteeners away from finishing them all!

Mt. Eolus Summit

We descended, self arresting part of the way down, and arrived at our camp at 2:30pm to find that marmots had chewed into Stu's pack, presumably attracted to the salt in his sweat. A word of caution: the animals in Chicago Basin and very comfortable with humans and do not hesitate to eat gear, stick their heads in between your legs while you are urinating, or attempt to raid your tent while you are gone. You may find yourself surrounded, you may find yourself at the mercy of forest beasts, and you may find yourself devoured by mosquitos.

Back in Needleton, enjoying some coffee

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Yeah . . .
07/08/2007 09:17
And then I read about guys like Cave Dog who did what we did from Chicago Basin in half the time. Amazing. Thanks Jared good luck finishing them!


07/10/2007 00:36

are some sweet pics, and this is a phenomenal report, thanks for the write up.


I was waiting for this....
01/19/2011 03:38
and it did not disappoint. Great job.
Having a solid report from people who I know are more than capable is just awesome. It gives me dependable beta for next month.
Thanks, Benners.


05/28/2008 19:08
I am fairly new at this and am a solid 5.9 climber, but am not that familiar with what type of gear it takes to make these ascents. Did you use cramp-ons?


06/28/2013 22:42
Great report, but I'm pretty sure you didn't make up the word beautimus. Been saying that since I was little (fyi, I'm six foot, so that was a long time ago).

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