Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Windom Peak  -  14,082 feet
Mt. Eolus  -  14,083 feet
Date Posted:  08/10/2010
Date Climbed:   08/06/2010
Author:  kullpeak
 Chicago Basin - Sunshine After the Monsoon  

On Thursday, August 5th Shaun (Tahoma) and I drove from Denver to Silverton to meet our friend Brian for a quick train ride from the Silverton station to the Needleton drop off. We choose this option because we could drive from Denver (leaving after 6 am), catch the 2:45 train for a short one hour trip and still have time to hike into the basin and set-up camp before dark. All went very well as it only took us six hours to get from west Denver to Silverton, however due to a rock fall onto the track, all trains were delayed for 2 hours. As a result, our drop off was around 5:45 leaving us 2:30 minutes of good sunlight. On the trip we talked with a group of hikers from Indiana that spent six days on a loop hike only to have it rain every day and night. After a quick hike up the nice trail we found a good spot about one mile from the Twin Lake turn-off. That was a very exhausting finish to the day.

Realizing that the weather was still an issue we decided to awake early and started on the trail on Friday at 5 am. The trail up to Twin Lakes is amazing - lots of well placed stairs and an excellent trail - my kudo's to the trail crew for this great work! It was the beginning of a great day - with completely warm and sunny weather.

We reached the Twin Lakes around 6:20 where we could examine the rest of our hike to Sunlight and Windom. The hike up the scree slope was well marked and following a bit of easy route finding and scrambling we arrived at the summit around 8:15. The more difficult moves were all easy and there was never any exposure in the final approach.

We elected to get one jump from the actual top of the summit block. We enjoyed the summit all alone for about 20 minutes and started over to Windom. There was party of three before and after us, but spaced about 30 minutes apart.

The traverse over to the saddle of the west ridge was very easy and direct. We picked a line just up from the small cliff bands between the two peaks. Once on the ridge it was easy to find the well placed cairns up the ridge to the magnificent summit. However, everyone in our party and the ones that joined us agreed that this was pretty solid class 3 climbing - though there was not an ounce of exposure. We arrived at the summit around 10:30. The summit was absolutely perfect - great weather and crazy views. Two other parties joined us on the summit - where there was plenty of room for everyone. We stayed a good 30 minutes - enjoying some snacks and conversations.

The hike down was very quick and easy - though the talus was thick. If you plan to climb both peaks - I'd highly recommend that you hit Sunlight and catch the easy route over to Windom to avoid the talus up hill.

We arrived back to Twin Lakes around 12:30 and enjoyed the great weather at the lakes. Brian elected to go climb Eolus alone. Tahoma and I left for camp around 1:30. On our way back we met up with a friend Jennifer from Fort Collins. It is amazing to see people so far from home. By the time Brain returned from his climb up - what became North Eolus, Tahoma and I were very happy following a few good shots of tequila.

Brian decided to head back home that next morning so Tahoma and I left camp a bit later the next morning - about 6 am to catch the Eolus pair. Saturday was a bit cloudy - and the combination of sunrise and the clouds made for a beautiful climb up the wall to Twin Lakes.

As we continued our climb to Eolus we encountered a party near the ramp entrance. They were returning from Eolus. As is customary we asked for some advice and thoughts. The immediate response was "if I was you I'd turn around now". Evidently the scramble across the catwalk and up the face had tested their wits. Their nervousness was not the encouragement we had hoped for. If you ever are in their shoes please consider the other climbers and say something like the "route finding was challenging".

We arrived at the Catwalk at about 9 am and checked out the route up Eolus. We looked at a photo from the route description on this website. Following a nice scramble across the catwalk we worked our way over to the center of Eolus's northwest face. The initial launch was a challenge, as the party before had explained. The exposure was rather intense and there did not appear to be a well defined route. Before we knew it we had moved to far north to the actual ridge. After a bit of talk, Tahoma and I moved back towards the center - where presto, the route opened up. We arrived at the summit a bit before 9:30. The clouds were moving in and there were a few sprinkles so we spent just a few minutes and started down.

About half way down large rocks (basketball size) started tumbling down from above but just beyond where we were. Glancing up the cliffs we could see a goat. After patently waiting the goat out - he and what ended up to be his clan of 4 left - dropping a few more rocks - just to remind us who is really king of the hill.

Just before we arrived at the bottom - we ran into a party just ascending. We showed them our route which starts much farther to the right (facing the final climb) than that shown in the route description. It avoided the exposure of the initial launch and quickly traversed up and towards the center for an easy ascent. (Note we talked to these guys the next day and they said it was perfect and thanked us). Just as you get off the catwalk - go about 20-30 feet and look up - you will see a nice line of cairns sloping up and to your left.

We quickly hustled across the catwalk as the sprinkles increased. We decided to skip North Eolus because of the weather. This ended up being a mistake as the rain died down in about an hour and the skies cleared for the day. But in the name of safety - no regrets. When we arrived at Twin Lakes we enjoyed a break and a large family of mountain goats.

We eventually headed back down to camp and enjoyed some good Crown Royal and some war stories. Saturday night did bring a few light showers that created a foggy Sunday morning - but some fantastic scenery.

The hike down was very quick and when the train finally arrived for our trip back to Silverton there were about 15 people waiting.

When we arrived into Silverton we enjoyed some good - though mild burritos at Romero's. The service was great. We hit the road and arrived back in Denver around 7:30.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Great Weather, Great Place, Great Trip!!!
08/11/2010 04:43
Thanks for putting together the trip report! It was interesting that Sunlight ended up being easier than expected and Windom more challenging, and Eolus clearly the most difficult! (although it would have been easier without getting off route, but that is part of the trip).


Romero's ....
08/11/2010 20:39
Their margaritas are excellent! Really like photos #6 (sunrise) and #16 (foggy). Sounds like you had a great time and pretty good weather. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!

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