La Plata County High Point Trip Report
Dates: September 4-6, 2003
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 fourteenerworld.com. 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!
Author: Layne Bracy