September 9, 2010

San Juan Shuffle (Part 2): Chicago Basin Quartet

Andrea on the summit of Mt Eolus

September 3-5, 2010
Distance: ~20 miles (~8 on summit day)
Vertical: ~8500 feet (~5500 on summit day)
Time: 10.5 hours on summit day from camp to all 4 peaks and back to camp
Peaks: Mt Eolus (14,083 feet), North Eolus (14,039 feet), Sunlight Peak (14,059 feet), Windom Peak (14,082 feet)
Route: Standard Chicago Basin approach from Needleton (Silverton train). Standard routes on all 4 peaks from Twin Lakes.

This is Part 2 of our Labor Day weekend 14er blitz in the San Juans. The rest of the reports are found here: Part 1 - Part 3.

After climbing Mt Sneffels in the morning, we drove down the "million dollar highway" to Silverton. As soon as we arrived in town, Andrea got a call/job offer from an awesome medical device company in SLC. The day went from good to great and was only about to get better.

We got some ice cream (a common theme of all our trips) and boarded our train on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railway. The train ride along the Animas River took an hour to reach Needleton, where all the tourists watched us depart and begin our 6 mile, 3000 foot hike up towards Chicago Basin. The hike took a leisurely 2.5 hours, and we setup camp in the first meadow (~11,000 feet), ate dinner, and got to bed early.

Since the forecast called for 0% chance of rain, we didn't feel the need to get a typical Colorado alpine start on Saturday. We didn't hit the trail until around 7am! In an hour we were at the Twin Lakes upper basin, and ready to start bagging some peaks. First up on the list was Eolus, which was easier than we anticipated. We ticked North Eolus off the list shortly after, with a short, fun scramble up to that summit.

After descending back to Twin Lakes, we took a nice break for lunch, and got rolling again around noon, with Sunlight Peak as our next goal. Despite all the goats on the trail, we made our way up to the ridge between Sunlight Peak and the spire, and thats where the fun scrambling began. A few class 3 (maybe one or two class 4) moves put us at the summit register (where Andrea would stop), and I made the final move up to the summit block. Getting UP was easy, dropping down was a bit nerve-wracking with all the exposure and consequences of slipping!

Three peaks down, only Windom to go! We stayed as high as possible on the traverse and hit the Windom/Peak 18 saddle about 800' below the summit. The climbing was on big solid rock blocks, and a lot of fun. It felt great to stand on that 4th peak of the day and know that we wouldn't have to gain any more vertical! We dropped back down to Twin Lakes again, took a nice long break, and got back to our camp at 5:30pm. It was a 10.5 hour day, with over 80% of that time above 12,500 feet. That's a lot of time to be above 12,500 regardless of how fit you are, so once again we were able to fall asleep very early after eating dinner.

The next morning was a breeze... wake up, hot breakfast, and a 6 mile hike down to Needleton to catch the 11:30am train back to Silverton. We got there way too early, so a game of rock toss was the entertainment. After we got back to Silverton and evaluated the weather forecast, it was decided that we'd head towards Owl Creek Pass and take at Wetterhorn Peak on the last day of the trip (Part 3).

The only paved road in Silverton, CO

The train pulling into town

Our ride to Needleton

Scenery from the train - Animas River

The Animas

Weminuche Wilderness

Waterfall along the trail up to Chicago Basin

Our camp for the next two nights

Eolus reflecting in the morning light

About to start the ridge portion of the climb to Eolus

Andrea moving along "the catwalk" to Eolus

Eolus summit

North Eolus in the foreground; the Grenadiers in the background

Looking southwest from Eolus

Scrambling up North Eolus

Heading up North Eolus

Vestal and Arrow. I was captivated every time I saw these two peaks, and now I really want to head back to the San Juans to climb these and the Trinitys.

Summit of North Eolus. Sunlight and Windom, our next two targets, are in the background.

Looking towards Sunlight and Windom

Twin Lakes

We saw lots of goats

Hmmmm... I wonder if we are headed the right way?

Billy Goat

Andrea working up Sunlight Peak

Contemplating the final move to the Sunlight summit

Sunlight summit block

Andrea took this video of my descent off the block. It doesn't look bad from this angle, but you have to clear a couple foot gap over a 25 foot hole, and if you screw up, you are going a few thousand feet off the side of the mountain!

Looking over towards Sunlight Spire

Downclimbing Sunlight

Sunlight summit panorama

Windom Peak and the connecting ridge to Peak 18

The final 800' up to Windom

Windom Peak, #4 for the day!

Our last summit of the day

Looking towards the western half of Twin Lakes basin

Andrea relaxing on Windom's summit

The eastern portion of Twin Lakes basin

Looking back up the Twin Lakes trail

Looking back up Chicago Basin

Our ride back to Silverton coming in

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