From Sunlight Peak via Chicago Basin
Friday July 15, 2011
Having had reached Sunlight Peak at 10:36AM (see trip report for Sunlight Peak) and after we each climbed up on the summit block we posed for one last summit photo before leaving this unusual summit at 11:02 with our next destination being Windom Peak.
Not long upon arriving at the Sunlight summit I had seen two people turn away and head back down never having reached the summit proper. They must have seen the crowd of 8 people and didn’t want to deal with jockeying for position on this rather small summit.
Shortly after leaving we got back to the next unusual feature of this unique 14er; the oblique opening through the rocks creating the entrance/exit point which we had to clambered back through.
Once we passed-through to the other side and proceeded back across the ridge we witnessed two persons well below making their way back down to the low ground between these two 14ers that sit side-by-side. They were soon to be heading directly across the snowy basin that connects these two peaks and we made note of just where they crossed and made their way to the saddle that leads directly to the Windom summit ridge. We were making good time as the downhill route seemed much easier and the peak at hand had created a new vigor as the entire mountain sits directly before us. Up on the Windom summit ridge/approach we could now see the young couple (Eric & Whitney) we’d seen earlier coming down Sunlight as we were heading up.
Progressing further down the steeper slope and negotiating through the last of the switchbacks went a bit slower and we then had to find an exit left to the snowy basin vs heading back down the trail we’d come up earlier. Around some bouldered ledges and finally through a rather wet section were the warmth of the midday sun was melting things and causing many trickles of water. Here we paused for a bite to eat; some drink and peeling-down into shorter clothes as thing were getting quite warm. We also applied a good layer of sun lotion as we’d soon be getting some reflections from the snows to be crossed.
Following the footsteps of others we soon found the exit left and were now heading across two large snow fields as things level-out and then begin a very gradual ascent about halfway across the basin. Ahead we saw where others had kick-stepped up a steeper snow approach directly to the ridge. However, we chose to stay on the gradual incline to the right and then saw a rocky draw that took us off the snows and onto solid rock for the last steeper climb to the saddle. Upon nearing the saddle we were greeted by some marmots and mama goats with their kids.
Reaching the saddle we paused for another rest and looking above on the ridge we could see two groups of two people one group nearing the summit and the other a bit below and soon two other people leaving the summit heading back down. Heading up the ridge was much steeper and the trail became undefined in a few spots but we managed to find enough cairns to keep us on course and our advance was good. After a short while longer we again met Eric & Whitney heading down and a bit while later we met the two who had done an about-face over on the Sunlight summit also heading down. Across a wide space/notch in the ridge line and back up the final summit ridge approach where we then met two younger guys heading down who advised us that the summit was just ahead. Another 5 minutes later and we climbed up, over and around onto three large, square stone blocks and the empty summit at 1:17PM. We’d made it!
Shortly after one lone guy also arrived and we proceeded the usual ritual of greetings, congrats and photo taking. Fun.
The summit on Windom is not unlike Sunlight to some degree as you need to occupy the lone summit block individually as there isn’t enough room to do otherwise. We removed our packs and took in more food & drink and took a good rest as the day was now partly cloudy but still warm and somewhat humid. Bob had a large marmot nosing-around his pack and chased him off as we all relaxed and enjoyed our high perch with spectacular views all-around. Chicago Basin lies directly below to the southwest
Sunlight due north
Eolus & North Eolus due west with Twin Lakes below
Eolus, N. Eolus & Twin Lakes
Knowing that we still had to now get back down and back to camp we bid our adieus to the lone guy who told us to tell his friend coming up from below that he wasn’t going to wait for them much longer. We departed at 1:44 and started back down the ridge where we now met a slew of people coming up; the two guys with the guy from the summit and now also the 6 people from the Colorado Mountain Club that we’d been with earlier on Sunlight Peak. Passing through the congestion and exchanging greetings as we went down and the others all went up. Well below we could see the two guys we saw when nearing the summit and noted their path down as we would also be going back this same way.
Reaching the saddle we paused and noted the trail heading back towards Twin Lakes and soon found some cairns to following through the talus on our descent. We paused again for a rest and more sun lotion and then made our way to a gradual grade with a nice snow field where others had glissaded down to the level area below. Bob had never glissaded before so I took the lead and Bob soon followed for a nice cooling ride that saved plenty of steps and its just plain fun. Nice.
We again picked-up the trail and before long came to a cool looking, emerald melt pool with some snow on top where we paused for a quick photo
Then back down the trail without stopping until we reached Twin Lakes where a resident goat found a nice spot to observe all who passed his/her way. Silly goat.
The trek back down was now becoming a bit of a grind as fatigue was taking its toll and we paused only a couple more times all the way back down into Chicago Basin.
Chicago Basin Trail
Glad to be back at camp right at 4:00PM
My 56th 14ers and Bob’s 3rd………..Sweet!
Tomorrow; Eolus and North Eolus……….More later.
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