La Plata County High Point Trip Report

Dates: September 4-6, 2003
Author: Layne Bracy

We took the 2 PM train from Silverton to Needleton. We were on the trail at 3:15 PM hiking up beautiful Chicago Basin. At 6:30 PM we were still perhaps a mile from the main campsite area when a nice couple showed us a great campsite below tree line right of the trail. It was a little lower than I'd planned, but provided seclusion among trees with nary a marmot to pester us.

Friday morning we started hiking at 5:45 AM, planning to get four 14ers, going for Eolus and North Eolus first. I missed the turnoff to the high saddle, however, taking a trail that traversed under North Eolus to its north ridge. In retrospect, once we could see the small lake below Glacier Point, we should have turned left and we would have hit the saddle directly. Another clue is that the rock of Eolus is darker, that of North Eolus lighter. We ascended up North Eolus' north ridge a little, then traversed south along its east face, some challenging scrambling/climbing, where it would have been better to just down-climb to the saddle. Anyway, we summitted North Eolus and then took the easy way back to the saddle. The catwalk over to Eolus is a great-looking structure and fun to walk along but not very scary. We then meandered up rocky steps to Eolus summit at 9:30 AM. Clouds were gathering in the area at this point.

We returned down to Twin Lakes and started up Sunlight, getting a little above 13,000 feet when some thunderheads made us reconsider. We returned to the lakes at 12,500 feet. Amy decided to return to camp, while I thought I'd try to wait out the storms. At 12:15 PM the sky over Sunlight looked fairly clear and I decided to go for it.

Passing some goats who were descending, I reached the red saddle between Sunlight and the Spire and then started a fun scramble up to the left. This was some interesting class 3 up huge rocks. Thanks to other trip reports, I recognized the window/alcove when I saw it and it led me up to the famous blocks I had seen so many photos of. Got to the benchmark and register. Unfortunately, the register cap was missing and no pen remained, although the paper was still in place.

Now for the excitement I'd waited several months for. The summit blocks were well described by Bob Linfield in his early summer trip report on After sizing up the gap I stepped/leaped across, the friction was adequate and I was across! I quickly stepped up onto the summit block, one foot standing on each side, then sat down and shot a photo of my boot down the more exposed right side. It was 1:20 PM. After a minute I returned to the gap.

I was a little surprised that a fall in the gap at the section of crossing would result in a fall that could be little more than 10 feet, with no danger of an immediate roll lower down. That said, I still sat on the block for several minutes trying to figure out how to get back, as 10 feet was more than I wanted to fall. I explored the option of lying down and stretching a foot across, but even at 6 feet, 4 inches that method didn't inspire confidence. I would like to see how others did it that way! I then stood up to size up a jump across or down onto the block in the gap, but didn't like these options either. Eventually I crouched down, got as far to the edge of the down-sloping surface as I dared, then did a little spring move, pushing off with hands and feet simultaneously and hopped onto the block several feet down in the gap. It really was not difficult, but my concern was that I might just slide into the gap. Fortunately, there was enough friction to pull it off.

Descending quickly, I missed the alcove and soon realized I was in an incorrect gully too far right(descending), so I traversed left over a couple ribs and reached the proper face of the mountain. I had not returned to the same gully I ascended, but down-climbed without difficulty back into the upper basin between Sunlight and Windom. Weather was holding with some docile cloud-cover.

I headed across the basin and up a boulder slope, catching the west ridge of Windom a few hundred feet above its saddle with Peak 18. The walk up Windom was straightforward, and I summitted at 2:32 PM. It really is a good-looking collection of large blocks. A slight mishap occurred when I dropped the summit log eight feet down between two large blocks and worried that the space between might be too narrow for me to recover it. Good thing I'd skipped breakfast, as I just managed to squeeze in and retrieve it.

I returned to camp at 4:35 PM through some light rain. The next day we broke camp and hiked out at 7 AM, catching the 10:47 train back to Silverton for a hearty lunch at Handlebars!

It was an amazing trip for the train, the hike into the basin, and the peaks!