Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
North Eolus  -  14,039 feet
Date Posted:  07/26/2009
Modified:  07/27/2009
Date Climbed:   07/22/2009
Author:  doggler

 Chicago Basin Foursome - baggin‘ like a grocer  

JA_son27 did such a good job of capturing the Eolus group in his TR - - I almost didn't write one. Instead, I'll try to focus on some of the other nuances of the experience.

As a teacher, I have the luxury of time off over the summer. This time around, I have made full use of said time, and decided a while back to plan a big 14er-centric trip in late July:

Day 1: Wetterhorn -
Day 2: Sneffels and Chicago Basin approach -
Day 3: Eolus Group
Day 4: Pack out and hike in to Horn Fork Basin
Day 5: Harvard and Columbia
Day 6: Ride Monarch Crest

My hope was to kill a bunch of birds with one stone: bag some peaks, enjoy some of the scenery, and put in some solid altitude training in preparation for the Pikes Peak Ascent in August.

By the time I pulled into Silverton early Tuesday afternoon, I had gained 10,000' in the previous 48 hours. Upcoming was the most challenging part of the trip - hiking in to the Chicago Basin on tired legs, getting good weather, hitting all four peaks in one day, and getting out ready to climb some more.

Loading the train. While I'm adamant against ponying up $100 to climb a peak like Culebra, the novelty of the riding to a trailhead was IMO well worth the $89 fare.

Barely anyone gets to the trailhead from Silverton. On this day, I was the only one getting off at the Needleton TH. Conversely, I was told by the conductor that 40 had been dropped off earlier in the day from the Durango side, and over 70 the day before that!

The six mile approach was kind of creepy. Once the train left me at 3:45, I felt the enormity of my isolation...three hours of slogging through drizzle before I would see civilization of any sort again. The approach was a little easier than say the approach to Willow Lake, but six miles with a heavy pack was still a grunt.

I hit the lower part of the basin by 5:45, but it wasn't until well after 7:00 that I finally found a suitable camping site. Two large groups of eagle scouts were among the small town camping out in the basin.

...and THIS made it all worth it. The view from my tent.

I only had one day to climb, so I knew I'd have to get an early start and hope for some good weather to sneak in all the mountains. I again packed light and hit the trail quickly, heading out by 5:45.

They don't call 'em the Needles for nothing.

I decided to tackle Sunlight first, thinking this peak would be the most enjoyable done alone. Here is a look down the gully that gets you to the Sunlight Peak-Spire saddle. Not too bad.

Looking east over the saddle into the next valley.

What a view! Sunlight spire and Windom Peak from the Sunlight Peak ridge.

First one on the Sunlight summit - 7:45 AM. As I tried to crawl off the summit, I made the mistake of thinking a little bit too much and froze momentarily with a case of the willies. Figuring if I could shed my pack, I'd feel better about making the jump from summit block down. Unfortunately, when I tossed my pack, the nozzle on the water intake slipped off, and I witnessed my water gushing out of my bag. That's what I needed to actually get off the summit, though, and I rescued most of my water!

I ran into a great guy - JA_son27, as I was coming off the summit. I accompanied him back up top so we could exchange the standard Sunlight summit shots.


Instead of dropping down to do Windom's west ridge, I instead decided the direct scramble up it's north slope sounded fun.

Indeed, it was a blast. With no cairns to follow, I simply looked for stable rock to scurry up, and found no problems or pucker moments at all.

Looking back at the Sunlights. I stayed high of the leftmost snowfield.

A very savage-looking high lake on Windom‘s south side.

On top of Windom, 9:00 AM.

I descended via Windom‘s west ridge and ran into Jason again. The west ridge seemed like a fine route itself. Windom is now up there among my very favorites.

I got down to Twin Lakes a little before 10:00 and had lunch. The weather was cooperating and my legs were feeling strong, so I decided to head west and see what things looked like atop the Eoluses.

The lower route up Eolus was nothing exciting, and my camera stopped working for a while anyway. Once I got to the Eolus-North Eolus saddle, I went right. North Eolus‘s rock was fun - one large, undulating slickrock type deal.

Once at the "catwalk", I got a good look at the remaining route up Eolus. Ledgy, a bit loose, and somewhat confusing, I am surprised it doesn‘t get a little more press.

One of the many ledges.

A look at the exposure offered on the ledges.

I summited just before noon. As it was my last mountain of the day, I was able to lounge for a good half hour before beginning my descent. The weather had cooperated fully and there was hardly even a breeze on the summit.

This‘ll wake you up!

Most 14ers are marmot-infested...the Chicago Basin is mountain goat-infested. These guys were pretty cool.

I got back to my tent early in the afternoon and just enjoyed my place in the a book...had a fine dehydrated meal...and just plain ol‘ relaxed.

Got up on my own by 6:00 on Thursday. Packed out and began down the trail at 8:30 or so.

A distinct landmark on the approach is the bridge at New York‘s not quite halfway up.

I joined a boy scout troop and another half-dozen hikers in waiting for the 11:32 train. Most of us spent some time soaking in the Animas River and exchanging war stories.

Here‘s my ride!

Once in Silverton, I devoured an enchilada plate at a Mexican restaraunt and hit the road. Next, it was off to the Sawatch Range to meet a few friends and climb Harvard and Columbia.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/27/2009 14:10
Man you worked your butt off last week, what‘s next on your agenda?


07/27/2009 16:10
Hey Jason,

The Pikes peak Ascent is on August 15th...although climbing a bunch of mountains keeps one in shape, it isn‘t the best specific training for the race. Therefore I‘ll probably lay off from doing another 8-peaks-in-5-days type trip.

I might try to squeeze in something on the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th...thinking one of LB, Capitol, or a Bell. If you‘re up for one of ‘em I‘m game.

emcee smith

Great work
07/27/2009 21:31
I‘m impressed by your work this year. A good advertisement for being a teacher!


08/12/2011 04:08
Wow, you are a beast! I can't believe from start to 4th summit was 6 hours... with breaks! I'm half tempted to try the Windom N ridge myself now...


Paper or Plastic?
09/28/2011 19:30
I appreciate the details and the times posted in your report. The variety of posted RT times for CB are ridiculous and it's tough to tell where people started from, summit time, breaks, pack weight, etc.. I set my pace at the ”baggin' like a grocer” times + a TB3 time handicap for all of the segments of the trip and it worked perfectly. Hopefully I will soon earn a promotion to check-out. Thanks!

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