Windom Peak is the 34th highest peak in Colorado and is part of a group of three fourteeners- Sunlight, Windom, and Eolus. It is usually climbed the same day as Sunlight. The group is quite remote by Colorado standards and quite removed from civilization. Crowds of backpackers can appear on busy weekends... so please do not feed the backpackers. The hardest route is an easy Class 3, maybe even Class 2+. The easiest route is mostly class 1 and a bit of class 2. Although remote this peak is popular- a testimony that we need wilderness now more than ever.
Windom Peak is about 15 miles southeast of Silverton and is far from any roads. The best way to get to the main Needlecreek trailhead is by the Silverton/Durango train from Silverton to Needleton. Catch the train at 479 Main Street in Durango. You can make reservations by calling 970-247-2733. Backpackers without a reservation can board the train on a space available basis with the exact change. The roundtrip cost is currently $60. The train has 3 morning departures from Durango during the summer and runs from May 9 to October 31. Durango Train
When you get to Needleton get off the train, grab your backpack out of the cargo car, and start the hike by crossing the bridge over Animas River. Turn right (south) and hike 8/10 mile to the Neddleton Creek Trail. Hike 6 miles on the Needle Creek trailhead. You will find a series of meadows- camp in the last meadow that you find near treeline, just before the trail gets steep. There is plenty of water, and beautiful views, so camp anywhere you want. From the camp site at Chicago Basin you still have about 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 miles and 1600 to 2900 feet of elevation to go- depending on where you camp. From your camp sight at Chicago Basin climb North for about 1 mile to Twin Lakes at 12,500'. From there climb east .4 mile to the lower end of the basin between Sunlight and Windom. Stay south of a waterfall on the ascent. Turn right (south) to climb to the saddle. From the saddle turn left (east) and up the west ridge of Windom to the summit. This route is the recommended route due to thte fragile environment in the area. Will Rietveld adds: To obtain detailed information for planning a trip to Chicago Basin to climb the 14-ers there, go to the San Juan Mountains Association Website and click on "Chicago Basin Trip Planning". Click here: San Juan Mountains Association
USGS Quads Columbine Pass, Storm King Peak and Mountain View Crest.
As with most 14ers, late June to September is the best time for climbing. Try to climb early in the day as afternoon thunderstorms are common in the Colorado summer climbing season. In the winter with snow/ice, the peak might be pretty sketchy, as the final ridge is exposed with some nice boulder-climbing...this may be much harder in the winter.
Camping is allowed anywhere in the basin, other than sites that are closer than 100 feet from any water source. Camping is not permitted around Twin Lakes. Camping is free. Fires are not allowed in the Needle Creek Drainage, which includes Chicago Basin and the trail to Columbine Pass. So bring a camp stove. Campsites are limited and on a busy weekend you may need to backtrack to find an appropriate site.
Generally, the route is a beautiful approach over rugged isolated terrain in the San Juan Mountains. For latest weather conditions contact: Weather Forecasts
US Forest Service Columbine Ranger District can be reached at 970-884-2512.
Conditions on this mountain, like all Colorado 14ers, are subject to change rapidly- especially during the prime climbing summer season. The mountains are their own weather system, and weather forecasts from nearby towns often have little to do with actual mountain conditions. You can generally count on clear to partly cloudy in the morning, and heavy clouds and thunderstorms in the afternoon during the summer climbing season.
There is no substitute for getting an early start, and getting as much of the mountain "behind you" as early in the day as possible. Keep a good eye on the sky as weather conditions can deteriorate rapidly. The greatest weather danger is from lightning strikes, and climbers are killed almost every summer in Colorado by lightning strikes. July seems to be the most deadly month for lightning.
Two climbers were killed by lightning in Colorado within a couple days of each other in the summer of 2003. I think the following important information from Gerry Roach's book "Colorado's Fourteeners From Hikes to Climbs" bears repeating. Added here with permission from Gerry Roach:
Colorado is famous for apocalyptic lightning storms that threaten not just your life, but your soul as well. This section will have special meaning if you have ever been trapped by a storm that endures for more than an hour and leaves no gap between one peal of thunder and the next. The term simultaneous flash-boom has a very personal meaning for many Colorado Climbers
1. Lightning is dangerous!
2. Lightning is the greatest external hazard to summer mountaineering in Colorado.
3. Lightning kills people every year in Colorado's mountains.
4. Direct hits are usually fatal.
1. Start early! Be off summits by noon and back in the valley by early afternoon.
2. Observe thunderhead buildup carefully, noting speed and direction; towering thunderheads with black bottoms are bad.
3. When lightning begins nearby, count the seconds between flash and thunder, then divide by 5 to calculate the distance to the flash in miles. Repeat to determine if lightning is approaching.
4. Try to determine if the lightning activity is cloud-to-cloud or ground strikes.
5. Get off summits and ridges.
1. You cannot outrun a storm; physics wins.
2. When caught, seek a safe zone in the 45-degree cone around an object 5 to 10 times your height.
3. Be aware of ground currents; the current from a ground strike disperses along the ground or cliff, especially in wet cracks.
4. Wet ropes are good conductors.
5. Snow is not a good conductor.
6. Separate yourself from metal objects.
7. Avoid sheltering in spark gaps under boulders and trees.
8. Disperse the group. Survivors can revive one who is hit.
9. Crouch on boot soles, ideally on dry, insulating material such as moss or grass. Dirt is better than rock. Avoid water.
The following link is also helpful: Lightning Safety and Crouch
Also see this personal account of a lightning strike by nchenkin- It will make you really think about lightning safety Struck By Lightning!
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COLORADO 14ERS INITIATIVE LEARN MORE ABOUT COLORADO 14ERS AND VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
Leave No Trace
Check out the web site of LNT and learn some important minimum impact hiking tips.
Colorado Mountain Club
CMC’s web site will tell you all you need to know about Colorado’s largest and oldest hiking club.