Luckily, I had five days off work over the 4th of July for a trip with my four year old Kessler. My 62 year old father wanted to come along too, which made this a three generation trip and the spread between the oldest and youngest climbers was a difference of 58 years!
Chicago Basin was chosen since my father had climbed mountains in most western states, but not Colorado. Chicago Basin is said to have some of the best scenery in Colorado, so it seemed like a logical choice. Also, the mountains are more in tune with the other mountains my family was used to in other states, meaning that you would have to backpack to reach the higher summit, rather than the drive up and walk a few hours theme of some of the other 14ers. Mount Windom, along with Sunlight, is the most isolated of the 14,000 foot peaks in the entire state of Colorado. The train ride to Needleton would be an added bonus as well.
After picking up my father at the Grand Junction train station, we were off to the mountains!
Needle Ridge in Chicago Basin.
June 30, 2006
Since the train didn’t leave until almost three in the afternoon, we hiked up Anvil Mountain near Silverton. We had to stop before the summit, but had some nice inspiring views.
Kessler was so excited to ride the train that it was all he talked about the whole hike. Finally, it was time to go.
The Silverton Narrow Gage Railway is a nice way to start a climb. Being dropped off in the mountains by an 1880’s steam engine is a thrilling experience for people of all ages, and there is some nice scenery along the way.
We didn’t reach the trailhead until 4 pm, so we just hiked three miles before camping at 9400 feet. There was a nice and hidden section of waterfalls just below and out of sight of the trail.
July 1, 2006
Today was spent hiking to Chicago Basin.
On the trail to Chicago Basin.
There were marmots and goats all over the place and none were shy.
After reaching Chicago Basin, a thunderstorm hit, so after setting up the tents, we had to wait it out. After the storm cleared, it was too late to climb Jupiter Mountain, so we headed up the trail towards Columbine Pass. Since we waited out the thunderstorm and since it was late in the day, we ran out of time at 12,000 feet, and had to head back to camp.
Hiking towards Columbine Pass.
July 2, 2006
Today was the big day. We would try and climb Mount Windom, so we got a fairly early start. The weather looked threatening, but then cleared, and clouded up again. We didn’t know what to expect. The trail to Twin Lakes was pretty steep, but Kessler and my father had no trouble on it.
The steep trail to Twin Lakes.
Twin Lakes has a nice iceberg floating on it, so I couldn’t let Kessler swim, though he wanted to! There were some nice wildflowers around as well.
It was now time to start the climb. We had to cross a few snowfields and Kessler said this was the “funnest ever” at least at first.
We somehow got off the standard route, and my father took a different route than Kessler and I. After some rough scrambling off the standard route, we found the correct way just below the Peak 18 saddle.
At the saddle.
The ridge above the saddle wasn’t bad, but it did have quite a bit of rough scrambling, and a few short rock pitches, which made it slow going for a four year old. Just below the summit, some climbers flattered Kessler by telling him he was the toughest four year old ever!
Scrambling near the summit.
The weather held and we found ourselves on the summit of 14,087 foot/4392 meter Mount Windom! The views were fantastic! Kessler said he wanted to climb Sunlight Spire when he is seven, but we will see.
At the summit!
The trip down was uneventful, but still exciting. A marmot followed us for a good half hour or so. When our back was turned, it would follow us down the mountain, but when we turned around, it would stop and look at us.
The Twin Lakes route is tougher going down than going up, and very slippery. Unfortunately, it hailed which made everything more slippery. We made it down to camp for a well deserved relaxing evening, though it stormed again.
July 3, 2006
The next morning, the skies still looked too threatening to climb Jupiter Mountain, so we decided to climb up to Columbine Pass (since we didn’t make it two days before).
We made it to the pass without any trouble, but we passed up a woman whom was terrified. We also met her at the pass. Apparently, this was her first trip to the mountains, and she was with her fiancé and future father in law. She was very afraid of heights, but the route didn’t seem exposed at all to us. After a few words of comfort, we enjoyed the views from the pass. The only thing you could see for miles around was mountains, followed by more mountains. It was a very scenic place.
After scaling the pass, we climbed back down to our camp, packed up and hit the trail. We hiked back towards Needleton. Kessler would tell everyone we saw along the way that we had climbed Mount Windom and that he was the toughest four year old. We set up camp the same place we did the first night. It was a fairly long ten mile day.
July 4, 2006
The hike in the morning was a short three miles. We arrived at Needleton fairly early, and had nothing to do but throw rocks in the creek. Of course, Kessler didn’t complain. The train ride back ended a great trip.