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Windom Peak

 West Ridge
Difficulty Difficult Class 2 
Risk FactorsExposure: Considerable
Rockfall Potential: Considerable  
Route-Finding: Moderate  
Commitment: Moderate  
Start11,100 feet
Summit14,089 feet
Total Gain3,000 feet starting at Chicago Basin
6,000 feet starting at Needleton
RT Length6 miles starting at Chicago Basin
18 miles starting at Needleton
Last UpdatedOct 2022
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Drive to Durango and follow signs to the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. It's near McDonald's and has a large parking area nearby. Buy a ticket for the train that stops at Needleton and ride the train 2.5 hours (~30 miles) to the Needleton stop. From here, it's a 6 mile hike to reach Chicago Basin.


To reach Chicago Basin, use the Approach Page. From your camp in Chicago Basin, hike northeast toward the end of the basin on the great trail - 1. Near 11,200', turn left toward Twin Lakes at a signed junction - 2. This trail is used to reach Windom, Sunlight, and Eolus. Continue up through the forest ( 3) to an area where the trail is a bit difficult to follow over and around some rock slabs - 4. Near 11,400', leave the trees where you have a great view of two streams on the slope below Twin Lakes - 5. Walk to 11,700' and cross the first stream before swinging right and switchbacking up steeper terrain - 6. Continue to the second stream crossing, near 12,300' - 7. Haul a bit higher to reach Twin Lakes, near 12,500' - 8.

Stay right and follow the trail east around the first lake - 9. After a short distance, turn right and switchback up a slope - 10. After the trail swings back toward the center of the basin and reaches flatter ground, continue up to a large cairn, above 13,000' - 11. Continue a bit further east to another cairn - 12. This is where cairns start to go off to the left for Sunlight Peak. For Windom, take some time here to study your route carefully because there are a couple of options, none of them with a continuous trail - 13. Your next task is to reach the saddle between Windom and 13er Peak 18. The most stable route is to descend a bit before following some angled slabs just right of the center of the basin. This avoids the loose rock on the steep slope to the right (shown in 13 with yellow) which is used by some hikers as a more-direct line to/from Windom. Continue east a bit further and follow the slabs to approx. 13,300'. Turn right and climb toward the saddle - 14.

From the 13,450-foot saddle , 650 feet of climbing remains up Windom's west ridge - 15, 16 and 17. While staying mostly along the left side of the ridge, follow cairns to a small notch at 13,800' - 18. From here you cannot see the summit and the remaining rocks get larger and a bit more difficult to negotiate. Near 13,900', the route is well on the left side of the ridge as you approach the top - 19. Just before the summit locate one of two breaks in the ridge which provide easy access to the south side and final pitch - 20. Walk over to the final pitch and climb left to the summit - 21.

To climb Sunlight after Windom: From the saddle at the base of Windom's west ridge, drop to approximately 13,200' in the center of the basin and climb to the gully which ascends to the saddle between Sunlight and "Sunlight Spire." Then follow the Sunlight route description. Combining Windom and Sunlight via a crossover in the basin makes your round-trip mileage from Chicago Basin nearly 7 miles and your elevation gain nearly 4,000 feet.


There are many dispersed camp sites between 10,800' and 11,100' in Chicago Basin and the creek is nearby. IMPORTANT: This route enters the Weminuche Wilderness area. Wilderness areas have special regulations and restrictions for party size, dispersed camping, campfires, etc. Also, dog owners should read the wilderness information carefully because some wilderness areas prohibit dogs to be off-leash and/or limit how close dogs can be to lakes and streams. If you have questions about the wilderness area, please contact a U.S. Forest Service office for the National Forest(s) listed above.
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