This route starts in Chicago Basin. Chicago Basin is usually approached via the Needle Creek Trail. The Needle Creek trailhead is arrived at via two ways, either riding the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Needleton stop, or by hiking 8.75 miles from the Purgatory trailhead on Highway 550. For info about the D & SNG, go to Durangotrain.com.
From the Needleton stop, Cross the Animas River on a well-built bridge and hike south along a trail for about .73 mile to reach the Needle Creek trailhead. From the trailhead follow the trail for about 5.5 miles as it travels alongside Needle Creek up into Chicago Basin.
Exit the Needle Creek Trail in Chicago Basin and take the trail that climbs up to Twin Lakes. This trail breaks off before the Needle Creek Trail curves to the southeast, crosses Needle Creek, and passes an old mine. Continue on this trail as it climbs its way up to Twin Lakes crossing streams two or three times. Once at Twin Lakes, continue east up into the smaller basin between Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak. Shoot for a small lake in the bottom of the basin and from here climb up the south slopes of Sunlight to the Sunlight Peak-Sunlight Spire saddle, picking your way so that you dodge some small cliffs and other difficulties. Once at the saddle, Sunlight’s southeast ridge rears up before you. Do an ascending traverse around the south side of the ridge thus avoiding the pinnacles blocking easy passage over the ridge crest. Once around the pinnacles, pick your route carefully as there appear to be many options and cairns. As a general rule, stay to the south side, but follow your own judgment and route-finding sense. You should not have to make any horribly exposed 5th class moves! If you find yourself face with such a move, backtrack and look for something else. Eventually you will find yourself at a niche below the summit block with the USGS benchmark and summit register. The climb to the very small summit requires you to climb up across some sloping rock and then to step across an airy gap before pulling yourself up onto the summit block. Getting back down across the gap can be a bit tricky. It can help to have someone there to assist you. You can also very carefully jump back across.
If the route is dry, no special equipment is needed. An ice axe and crampons would be needed if the route is snow or ice covered. Some may want to be roped up for the final moves to the summit. Be sure to come well prepared with the basic mountain gear.
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