Intro/StatsNorth Eolus (14039')-unranked
Mt Eolus (14083')- CO Rank 32 (La Plata county hp)
Glacier Point (13704')- unranked
Sunlight Pk (14059')- CO Rank 39
Windom Pk (14082')- CO Rank 33
Jupiter Mtn (13830')- CO Rank 92
July 13-16, 2006
~25 miles RT, 11600' gain
Participants: Joy Pearson, Sue Personett, Cindy Fletcher, Jon Frohlich, and Kevin Baker
Jon Frohlich posted an invite looking for people to join him on the Chicago Basin 14ers in mid-July. I was planning on making the trip around this time frame, so I was in. Joy Pearson, Sue Personett, and Cindy Fletcher also responded to the invite, so the group was set. All of us except Sue drove out Thursday morning to catch the 2:45pm train from Silverton. This was the first time I have made the drive on US 550 from Ouray to Silverton, and I must say it is a classic Colorado drive! I feel sorry for the snowplow drivers on that shelf!
This was the first time to ride a steam train for me, and it was quite the treat. The ride is much shorter from the Silverton side and we were at the Needleton stop in an hour. Say goodbye to civilization for a few days! We were off at 4pm as it was pretty warm and the skeeters were out, but they could be held at bay by keeping the breaks short. The Animas River was noticeably low as the San Juans had far less snow than the rest of the state.
We made slow but steady progress up the well graded Needle Creek trail as it gradually climbs to Chicago Basin. My pack felt pretty light compared to my Rainier pack, but I still don't have this backpacking thing down. The goal was to get camp setup as high as possible before dark. It took us around four hours to reach the Columbine Pass trail at 11200', which is as high as the rangers will allow you to camp. Joy and I found a nice spot just a couple hundred feet below the trail junction. The evening was dry and the weather was looking promising. Sue brought some coyote urine that she sprinkled around our camp. This kept all of the marmots, goats, deer, and other critters at bay and our stuff didn't get touched!
N. Eolus/Eolus climbWe awoke at 4:30am in preparation for day 1 of peak bagging. The forecast was calling for mostly sunny skies, a rarity for this area in the midst of monsoon season. With a little luck, we would have a good shot at all 4 on Friday. We headed up the trail at 5:35am. Most of us were a little out of it from the backpack in the night before and most of us didn't sleep too well. The trail to Twin Lakes wastes no time testing your lungs. We lost it briefly at one point, but it is well cairned most of the way.
We made good time to Twin Lakes and took a break, preparing for the grunt up to the Eolus/N. Eolus saddle. Temps were already in the low 50's as the sun peaked over the eastern ridges. The climb to the flat area below N. Eolus was straightforward, and the routefinding began here. N. Eolus was now very close and instead of wrapping left away from it to the saddle, I thought we could traverse under the slabs below the summit to the north ridge. Joy and I climbed a class 3 gully to gain the ridge. We walked across a snow bank on the ridge and came to an unexpected 5th class tower just below the summit. Great, just what we needed early in the day! Jon, Cindy, and Sue were a little behind Joy and I and decided to head to the saddle, which was the right decision. They topped out 10 or 15 minutes before us as we ended up backtracking across exposed 4th class slabs to get to the other side of the summit. Joy and I finally topped out at 8:50am.
The views over to the Catwalk and Eolus were exciting, and I was looking forward to this part.
The weather was stellar at this point, so things were looking good. After a 12 minute stay on the summit, we headed down to the Catwalk, which turned out to be a blast. A couple guys were making there way over to N. Eolus as we descended. I saw only 1 other climber all day. There are only a couple spots where it narrows to a couple feet, but most of it is just a wide sidewalk in the sky.
We were quickly across and the climb of Eolus broken east face loomed. The face looks much more difficult from afar as there are many ledges that minimize the exposure. We didn't have much of a problem staying on route going up as there were many cairns to choose from.
We did an ascending traverse across the face to a distinct rock on the south ridge, just below the summit. The rock was loose, but not as bad as the Elks. We topped out at 9:45am and were rewarded with spectacular views of Pigeon, Turret, Jagged, Arrow, Vestal, et al. The true summit is a spectacular perch right over the n.e. face. We took a long break here as the weather continued to hold and the day was still young! Nobody else seemed to be interested in going for Sunlight and Windom, so we decided to head down to the saddle together and part ways from there. We left at 10:52am as the routefinding was as expected more difficult on the way down. It was easy to miss the correct route as there were multiple options, but we worked together and made it back down to round 2 of the Catwalk. A few class 3 moves here and there and a scree surf and we were back down to the flat area below the saddle.
Glacier Pt/Sunlight/Windom climbFrom here we parted ways and I headed over to nearby unranked 13er Glacier Point. I had heard the views from here were stunning, so I thought the extra vertical was worth it. The hike across the hanging basin to Glacier was straightforward as I tried to stay as high as possible. I dropped to about 13400' near an unnamed lake, then climbed the steep but short s.w. slopes to the summit, topping out at 11:38. The views of Jagged, Sunlight, and Windom were even more spectacular from here. It was well worth the effort.
I couple see Twin Lakes from the back side of the ridge and it looked like there may be a safe gully to descend. I headed down to the south ridge to a saddle to check out the gully options. I dropped down about 40' and didn't like the looks of it as I couldn't see the bottom. I decided to head back up to the trail as I could have cliffed out in the gully. The descent back down to Twin Lakes went quick and everyone was waiting for me there. It was now 1pm, but there were still no threatening clouds!
We parted ways here and I headed for Sunlight. I never thought I would be attempting this peak alone, but I was pretty familiar with what needed to be done. I found the lower trail leading to the high basin between Sunlight and Windom. The trail was nondescript in spots, but the general direction was obvious. The climb to the Sunlight/Sunlight Spire saddle was well cairned, getting looser as you climbed. I was starting to feel the effects of the long day, but I knew the summit was close.
From the saddle, the route is pretty obvious and is not too exposed. There was one 4th class move I did just before reaching the alcove area.
I could here some voices on the summit and hoped I could catch them before they left, but they were on their way down just below the summit. The route zigged and zagged up blocks and cracks to the flat area where the register and benchmark is. The familiar jumbled mess of boulders popped into view and I was finally here at 2:45.
Instead of thinking about the looming mental challenges of the block, I just dropped my pack and didn't think about it. The 5th class friction climb didn't look appealling to me alone, so I walked across the angled slabs to the famous block where the gap is. The gap is maybe 8' down with another block about 3' down.
A fall here would hurt, but it wouldn't be fatal. I basically stepped across and grabbed the block. I then clammored up to the summit block by bear hugging it, thankful to make it to such a spectacular place. I topped out at 2:55. To get down, I just scooted down to the key jumpoff block and considered what to do. If your momentum on a hope carries you past the block, it would be a long slide down the other side. I basically kept one hand on the block I was on, spun off, and hopped over.
It felt like hopping over a big gap in a stream crossing. The worst was over! I signed the register and no sooner than I started heading down and here came a fast moving climber. He had nothing but a fanny pack and proceded to hop across all of the boulders, jumped across the gap, tagged the summit, and hopped back down in a matter of 20 seconds. I kid you not! I told him to do it again so I could get some pics. He was so fast I couldn't catch him in mid-air! No that is how it is done. Don't even think about it!
I asked him to stay with me for awhile to take some stress off the routefinding, then he bolted down to the bottom. He told me the "kitty litter" (scree) was more stable to climber's left of what I had come up. He was down to the bottom before I was halfway down!
The last peak of the day was Windom. I had now ran out of water, so I found a stream in the rocks to refuel. I did an ascending traverse to Windom's west ridge at 13400'. I was now running out of gas, but the weather was still holding. The west ridge was a little trickier than I anticipated as there was a little more routefinding amidst the huge boulders below the summit. The two guys I had seen on the other peaks were just leaving again as I arrived at 4:55pm. I had hoped to lounge there for awhile, but dark clouds were looming to the n.w. I left at 5, not looking forward to the loose downclimb. The downclimb to Twin Lakes was loose and annoying, but I didn't feel too bad. The weather held the rest of the way down to camp and I staggered in at 6:45, happy to hit the sack early.
Jupiter/Pack OutThe main reason for doing all the 14ers in one day was to make room for nearby centennial Jupiter. I could avoid taking a third day off of work this way. Jupiter looms some 2700' above the upper reaches of Chicago Basin and is a fun, short climb. I slept in an hour later than the others as they had a lot more to climb on this day. I knew I could probably be off the summit of Jupiter before noon even with a 7:35 start.
I hooked up with the nice Columbine Pass trail, which gently climbed about a mile or so past a couple mines to a stream crossing at 11680' just past some nice campsites. A group was eating breakfast there as I passed by. From here, you follow the stream on the north side and bushwack through tall grass to the steep s.w. slopes of Jupiter. I followed the stream all the way up a gully to 12600', then headed for Pt 12928 on the s.w. ridge. Upon topping out, one is rewarded with spectacular views of Sunlight and Windom. As I climbed the ridge, my group was on the summit block of Sunlight! I couldn't see them, but we kept in radio contact. Jon told me they all were about to head down, and I let out a summit yell for them that echoed across the basin. Some people on Windom also responded, so we had a high altitude celebration going on!
There are a few cairns here and there on the ridge to the summit, but the route is obvious. I topped out on the false summit, traversed below the ridge to the left, found the key corner block below the summit, and topped out at 10:04am.
Jon and the group could see me on Jupiter as they descended and I could here them call out my name. Cool! Jupiter is indeed a special summit as there is eye candy to behold in every direction. It was a warm 63 degrees on the summit and there were a few clouds developing. I had thought about doing the ridge over to top 200 Grizzly less than one mile away, but it looked to possibly be 5th class.
After a long stay, I headed down at 11am. The hike down was very pleasant as it was not near as loose as yesterday, and I was back to camp at 12:30.
I heard a few rumbles of thunder on the way down and wondered if the group had made it to Windom, but they did! The hike out on Sunday was uneventful as we allowed for plenty of time to catch the train, allowing for 4 hrs. It took us 3, so we just relaxed and soaked our feeting in the numbing Animas River. We cheered the train as it arrived right on time, our ticket back to civilization and real food! We felt sorry for the tourists who had to sit next to us as we were smelling pretty ripe! What a trip!