OverviewThis mountain is grouped with Sunlight and Windom Peaks (usually attempted on the same trip) as the three most remote 14ers in Colorado. Eolus lies in what many people believe is the finest range in Colorado, the San Juans. The northern wall of beautiful Chicago Basin, where most climbers set up high camp before summiting, is formed by Mt. Eolus. Mount Eolus has two summits, the southern one being the higher one, and also the highest point in La Plata County (the lower one is at 14,039 ft). Depending on the weekend, there can be plenty of people in this 'remote' wilderness. The easiest route is Class 3 with stimulating exposure. The name 'Eolus' is derived from the Greek god of winds, Aeolus.
Getting ThereThe most common way to reach the trailhead is by the Durango-Silverton narrow gauge railroad. One can take the train from Durango to Silverton, or the other way around. Make sure to take plenty of time to enjoy the wonderful views along the way. If approaching from the north, the drive from Montrose to Silverton should take a good two hours, as the two-lane road can be slow due to the many hairpin turns (the stretch from Ouray to Silverton is called 'the Million Dollar Highway,' and is a scenic byway). Take the train to the Needleton stop. Please call the railroad company, as not all trains stop here. More information on the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad can be found at:
Address: 479 Main Ave.
Durango, CO 81301
From the Needleton trailhead (elevation = 8,200 ft), walk up the Needle Creek trail to Chicago Basin (~11,200 ft) and enjoy the wonderful views at treeline. Camp is most often established here. The trail is pretty clear from this point up to Twin Lakes, and on up to the summit.
For ideas on planning your trip, more info about the area, and 411 on a worthy organization, check out the San Juan Mountains Association web site, & go to Chicago Basin Trip Planning .
Red TapeNo fees are required (unless you get fined- see below)- just remember to camp at least 100 ft. from the numerous water sources. There are no fires allowed in the Needle Creek drainage, so remember your stove!!
When To ClimbAs with most Colorado 14ers, late-June through September offers the easiest climbing.
CampingCamping is allowed the entire length of the Needle Creek trail (with many good potential spots along the way), originally a mining trail, which stretches 6 miles from near the train drop-off up to upper Chicago Basin. Be aware of the 100 ft. distance required between your tent and any water source, however. Most parties prefer to set up camp in Chicago Basin itself, as it is the most scenic here, and the approach for the actual climb is the shortest from this point.
Also, camping is not permitted at Twin Lakes or within the closure area. Check for the few sites right out of the closure area that are also at least 100' from water. Rangers patrol the area frequently, and may cite you if you disobey.
Mountain ConditionsFor current conditions, try the US Forest Service or Colorado Climber's Club. Also, beware the all-too frequent afternoon thunderstorms of the Colorado Rockies (be at the summit by noon, as a general guideline) in the summer. This is a bad mountain to be stranded on with threatening weather; descent from the summit is time-consuming and given poor weather conditions, potentially dangerous (the most popular route goes across a knife-edge with considerable exposure)
- Steve Hoffmeyer's Chicago Basin Hike Descriptions
Steve's feature photo journey into Chicago Basin. Great pictures here, especially panoramic, with climb descriptions included.
- Chicago Basin 14ers, July 2003
- Chicago Basin Trip Planning Guide
Helpful information for planning your Chicago Basin excursion.
- Climbing Eolus in sep-2005
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