Basin - Eolus, North Eolus, Sunlight, & Windom
July 4th-6th - Sunlight, Windom, & Home
morning did not come easily. I mean it really did not come
easily. I think Jen slept well enough but for me it was an
unending night of tossing and turning. I was too hot or too
cold, I was sore from a rock under me, I was bitten all to hell by the
legions of mosquitoes that proffered me to any of my camp mates, I was
sweaty and smelly and wanted nothing more than to pack out and take a
shower. I'm not sure how I used to be a backpacker because I
find more than a day or two away from the shower and my own bed to be
pretty unpleasant. I guess it wasn't so bad in Peru when I
slept out for seven days straight because I never got quite as as
sweaty, the bugs weren't bad, and the water in town sucked enough that
even a shower there wouldn't help too much. I spent a lot of
the night trying to decide if I wanted to leave in the morning.
I knew Jen was tired and was happy with our peaks from the
prior day and figured I could talk her into going quite easily.
Brian was self sufficient and could always meet us in
Silverton in a day or two if he wanted to stay, Jen doesn't much care
which 14ers she gets, why not go? In the end all of this
rationalization was going to be ignored because I planed on finishing
all the 14ers in this basin and once I plan on something I am so
stubborn that it would take an act of God to change my mind. I figured
that the weather was supposed to be pretty good and that the best
chance Jen would have of finishing all of the peaks would be a slow
leisurely wake up so, even though we planned to leave around 5:00, I
woke her up at 3:45. It was a relief to be out of that
miserable half awake state I'd lingered in since 7:00 the night before.
I got Jen up and she made a half hearted attempt to go back to bed but
I convinced her to get moving. We spent a leisurely hour and
a half having a breakfast of Mountain House macaroni and cheese and
both drank down a liter or two of water. I checked to see if
Brian was going to be coming with us but he was not interested.
He was however kind enough to lend us his magic UV
water filter wand. This was good because my camel
back had sprung a leak and could not be filled past the half point
without leaking into my bag. I could have brought my own pump
filter but his was much smaller and more convenient.
After a very mellow wake up we headed up the trail. Jen made
a quick check on Tom and Rebecca and, as promised, they were asleep.
Rebecca had been pretty badly sunburned and I think had not
eaten enough which resulted in a nasty build up of lactic acid during
her descent the previous day. I think the number one mistake
newer hiker/climbers make is not getting the proper nutrition in the
morning before moving. I'm a firm believer in taking in at
least a liter of water and 500 calories before setting off.
It generally means a slower (and therefore earlier) start
time but it has kept me from repeats of AMS, fatigue, and lactic acid
build up. I also half think that she may have fatigued
herself following us in which case I am pretty sorry, we were trying to
move moderately but I don't think she took in enough nutrition to
maintain the pace. On the way up to Twin Lakes I broached the
topic of hiking out this evening. I reasoned that it would be
better to go back to camp, relax an couple of hours, have a meal, then
hike out in the evening. This way we could get down and not
have to wake up early again the next morning and rush back to the
train. Jen thought it was a good idea.
We made it up to Twin Lakes in about an hour on the very clearly marked
CFI trail and met up with another pair of people named Brian and Honor.
They were moving pretty quickly and after Jen loaned them a
bit of sun screen they set off. Jen said she was feeling
pretty weak but she was maintaining more than 1200 feet vertical an
hour so I told her to keep on going and take all the time she
needed. We stopped briefly to filter some water and each
drank a liter before going on. The trail up to the basin
between Windom and Sunlight was well cairned and eventually gave way to
a snowfield. This snow field was a bit steep but was well
trodden and we plodded across it with just poles. I'm not
sure why but I always hate crossing snowfield more than I do ascending
them. On the far side of the field we met back up with Brian
and Honor and I noticed they were in shorts so I offered to go ahead
and posthole for them so they wouldn't get a ton of snow in their
shoes. They were happy with this suggestion and we traveled
as a foursome over to the base of the snowfield we would use to ascend
More Beautiful Waterfalls
Sunlight, Sunlight Spire Saddle
At the base
of the snowfield Jen and I stopped to get out our axes and helmets.
Brian and Honor went right on up with only poles. I
figured this was a bit hard/steep for that but to each their own.
Since this field was a similar aspect to the one I had been
on the day before, I expected it to be quite hard and difficult to kick
steps into but not so steep as to require crampons. In
hindsight I should have made Jen put hers on. We began up the
snow which was very hard and I could only manage to kick the barest of
ledges for Jen to use. It became clear that Jen was
uncomfortable so I showed her how to ascend by holding the shaft up
near the pick and plunging the pick into the snow much like one would
if they were ice climbing. With this technique Jen seemed to
become much more confident and we made it to a rock outcropping in good
time. Now I am super comfortable on snow and Jen is gaining
and it was clear that Brian knew what he was doing but Honor looked
unhappy. Brian also seemed a bit surprised at how hard the
snow was and worked his way over to us with his poles and asked if he
could borrow an axe for Honor. Jen said sure and gave it to
I wanted to scout out ahead and cut some steps into the snow above the
rocks using my axe and then headed up until I could kick good steps to
another rock band. Using my solid boots and the axe I made a
stairway for Jen to ascend then wandered to the right and back to the
left on rocky ledges until I found myself back on snow directly under
the Sunlight / Sunlight Spire Saddle. I realized that there
were effectively four people with two axes and wandered around until I
found the best slope to cross. I started kicking in traverse
steps until I met up with previous footprints whereupon I started
kicking in huge new steps whenever the previous ones were insufficient.
I worked my way up about 100 vertical feet and noticed Jen
had come to the start of the traverse. She asked if she
should go up but Honor and Brian hadn't come up yet and I wanted Jen to
have her axe back so we waited. It took awhile before they
moved on and I'm guessing Brian was convincing Honor to keep going.
Eventually they returned and Jen got her axe back and we all
headed up. I loved my new boots and kicked good steps
wherever any were missing. We all worked up to the saddle and
hung out to chat a bit. It turned out that it was Honor's
first time on snow and Brian was showing her the ropes.
Here is where I segue into one of those comments that invariably gets
an irritated person emailing me. If you are teaching a
novice, no matter how great you are, you must cover all your bases
insofar as protecting that person goes. Brian had brought
rope gear for rock but no snow gear. A lightweight axe is an
easy thing to pack in. I packed in 4 pounds of rope gear and
slings in case Jen or Brian needed them and never used them.
I've seen enough people freeze up in the mountains and doing
it on an icy snow slope with no way to glissade down and no option
other than to stand around for hours is not the responsible thing to
do. I'm glad it turned out great and she kept her head.
All in all, she was pretty impressive as it was one heck of a
snow intro with no gear. Segue finished.
Once we were on the saddle, we still had several hundred feet of third
class scrambling to get to the summit block. There are many
ways to do this but make sure not to take the low fifth class chimney,
it doesn't go anywhere useful. The scrambling was much easier
than on Eolus but we were all a bit tired. After a time we
reached the summit block. This is one super easy thing to
surmount. I ran up it, looked over the edge, decided I didn't
need to hang out and ran back down it. We all hung out for a
time and Brian also ran up to the top. Honor wasn't
interested and Jen was unfortunately feeling pretty sick so she skipped
it as well. I would not let this thing's reputation scare you.
It is a very easy thing to get on top of. Just get on all
fours and monkey up the slab then take a couple high steps and you are
Coming Up The South Slopes, Jen In The Front, Brian & Honor
Scrambling Up The Ridge
The Summit Block
Sunlight Spire & Windom
An Alcove We Scrambled Through
or so minutes we headed back to the saddle. I figured it
would be best if I went first and scouted an easy route down with Jen
following. I headed down the now melting snow and plunged a
new set of steps because the old ones were icy. I worked my
way down to a rock outcropping, scrambled down it, and regained the
snow. This section was glissadable but I really didn't feel
like having a wet ass for the rest of the day so stayed on my feet.
Jen had been getting nauseous and a bit stumbly but got
better as she dropped elevation. Once she joined me below the last bit
of rocks we boot skied and plunge stepped back to the basin.
Brian and Honor followed right behind. Now I was
going up Windom but Jen was pretty unsure. I told her to
give it a shot and if she felt badly when we got up the remaining snow to
the base of Windom's West Ridge that she could go back. Honor
and Brian offered to take her down if she felt bad but she agreed to
give it a try.
I started up the snow and kicked in monster steps for Jen to use up the
30-45 degree slopes. She informed me that she was getting
scared which immediately made me know she was sick and would be turning
around. Jen simply doesn't get scared on snow of that angle
when she has monster steps and an axe unless she is getting a bit sick.
I told her to finish the ascent so she could go down an
easier way. We got to the base of the ridge and she kindly
took my crampons and some other gear to lighten the load off of my
back. Yes, we carried crampons both days but never used them.
I gave her my gear then headed up. I stopped
occasionally to make sure she was OK and watched her safely glissade
back to the snowfield we had crossed in the morning.
At this point the clouds were starting to build in the west and I
figured I had a couple hours before anything serious arrived.
To be safe though I just motored up the ridge and ignore
every cairn and path. I took the most direct way which turned
out to be a lot of fun 2nd and 3rd class boulder hopping. I
gained the summit in about 25 minutes but spent another five minutes
locating the actual USGS marker. The summit was pretty cool
and consisted of a bunch of mini towers that I mantled on and hopped
about, from one to the other. The back side of Windom had
some serious air and. although the climbing was the easiest, it might
have been my favorite peak from a fun factor and a view factor.
Sunlight & Sunlight Spire
Windom's West Ridge
A Marmot Just Below The Summit
Arrow, Vestal, & Two Of The Trinities on Trinity Peak
A Cool Lake Of The Back Of Windom
Windom's Entire Ridge And Twin Lakes
the clouds were still building I hauled back down to the low point of
the saddle in under fifteen minutes then post hoed down the snow until
I came to a good glissade track. I sat down and proceeded to
right into a buried rock. Fortunately I had been slowing my
speed as I
hit the rock or I would have broken something. As it was I
for five or ten minutes and waited for the pain to subside before
heading on. The traverse out was irritating because of the
and repeated post-holes. On my way out I met Brian who had
late start. He asked me how the weather was and I said pretty
shrugged and decide to turn around. One thing I like
Brian is that he is super laid back, he got out and done some
wasn't bothered by turning back. He also mentioned that Jen had told
him we were planning on heading back down to Needleton and liked the
idea. I wandered back to Twin
Jen was waiting and hanging out with a couple guys who were backpacking
through the area. We all hung out until Brian came back then
around a bit more. One of the guys had the unfortunate luck
to have a
marmot destroy much of his gear. I think those suckers are
forces of nature.
After a bit
more time eating, drinking water, and relaxing we continued down.
The weather was really building but didn't seem to
be immediately ominous. To be honest, the presence of clouds was keeping
the temperature low enough that it wasn't anywhere near as miserable as the
descent and camp had been the day before and there was even a slight breeze. The weather was really
building over Columbine Pass and we were treated to a bit of a
lightning show. It was across the basin and not coming our
way so we enjoyed the pyrotechnics and slight drizzel and continued
down. So much for a zero
percent chance of storms. We
continued back to camp and on the way back to camp I made a point to really soak
up the surroundings, the goats, mountains, streams,
waterfalls, trees, and flowers were absolutely a beautiful blend and I
knew I wouldn't be coming back anytime soon. There were goats everywhere which was pretty cool because
they usually run from you but here you could see what cool animals they
really are. Brian even mentioned seeing one vault a 10 foot
stream crossing like it was a couple inches.
This Is What You Get When There Is a Zero Percent Chance Of Storms
Chicago Basin From Above
When we got
back at camp we took our time packing up and eating dinner. I
was still getting bitten but nowhere near as badly as the day before and
the clouds were keeping the temperature down. Our only
concern was whether it might start pouring on us or not.
After an hour or so we deemed it safe and completed our
packing. During this time Tom came down a couple times and
mentioned he wanted to pack out but Rebecca didn't want to leave.
I gave him a few Aleve to give to her and gave him some
points he might use on her to get her moving. The second to
last time he came by he had a huge smile on his face so I assumed he
was successful in convincing her to leave. The next time he
came by it was with her to say goodbye, apparently the Aleve had done
it's thing and they said they'd see us down below. It's been
my experience that Naproxin (Aleve) is the best medicine for altitude
related illness/headaches just like Ibuprofren (Advil) is the best for
muscle pain. I aways carry both of medicines along
with Tylenol. Right before we left we were treated
to a visit from the most handsome goat I have seen. This guy
wandered around a bit then left. He was completely devoid of
his winter coat and it's pretty clear they shed their fur by rubbing
against things as every branch in the basin was covered in goat hair.
A Muscular Goat
That's One Damn Big Goat
Goat Hair Everywhere
Brian, and myself packed up and headed down. At first Jen and I made
great time but my feet were starting to kill me and I needed more
frequent breaks. We eventually made it down in about three
I'm guessing Jen could have cut that time considerably on her own.
were quickly joined by Tom and Rebecca and then by Brian shortly
thereafter. One of the Needleton homeowners came by and
that a special train was coming by at 11:00 to pick up an injured kid.
This train was heading to Durango so of no use to us but was
useful to Tom and Rebecca who were headed that way.
We set up a
quick camp on the grass east of the tracks and then the five of us sat
around talking and having dinner. At one point a bunch of
wandered by in the dark and informed us they were recovering caches of
whiskey. I found this a bit odd but it turned out (the next
they were river guides and bringing alcohol for their clients.
10:00 we were all very tired and said goodbye to Tom and Rebecca who
then headed over to the bridge to await the train. Jen, Brian
went to sleep. We passed out immediately only to be rudely
the train. I jumped up at the sound of the whistle until Jen
to go back to sleep which I did quickly.
I awoke with the sun and, as tired as I was, could not go back to sleep
so I got up and went for a walk down the train tracks. It was
a beautiful morning and I enjoyed the solitude. I'd be lying if I
didn't mention that I got a little depressed on this walk when I
realized how close I was to finishing the 14ers. It was also
on this walk that I noticed a couple of rafting camps and realized who
the guys from the night before were. I wandered around a bit
more and headed back to camp. I spent a bit of time hanging out on the
bridge and met a fellow from North Carolina who had his kid at camp in
Colorado and came out just to do a raft trip with him. I
thought that was also pretty cool. There's nothing I get more
of a kick out of than seeing good parents, there are too many shitty
ones out there.
After awhile Jen and Brian woke up and we packed up our stuff and went
to wait for the train.. We met an interesting German lady who lived in
Telluride and had been out for a twelve day llama tour.
Apparently she had gotten infected blisters and needed to
come out early. She didn't have the money for the train but
was very lucky to find another backpacker who had a spare ticket due to a no-show
friend. The German lady easily convinced me that I in fact
have been missing the use of llamas for too long. I will make
a point to rent those things for any other long treks.
The Animas River At Needleton
Our Last Camp On The East Side Of The Tracks
The Bridge Over The Animas
Views On My Thursday Morning Walk
Thank God The Train Is Coming
train finally came and we boarded it where I promptly proceeded to
double fist some wheat beer. When we got back to Silverton I
extremely happy to see the truck was still where I left it.
We did a
very quick bit of shopping then headed home. Jen drove all the way to
the Copper Mountain exit. The ride home was too much of an
for any of us. It stormed a great deal of the way, we passed
with a fire crew where a lightning bolt had struck not ten feet from
the road and set everything ablaze. We also somehow managed to be
stupid about gas and our low fuel light came on at the bottom of the Vail side (west) of Vail
Pass. We stayed in the left lane the whole time so as not to have to
break and accelerate and use more gas and once we were at the top we
coasted, in neutral, down to a gas station at the bottom of the road.
All in all it was pretty tense but it turned out we had a
three gallon reserve and hadn't needed to worry. We
got home, unpacked, and went to sleep. The next day I drove
to Loveland to get the birds. I was exhausted from poor sleep
the four nights before and managed to have the 600 dollar bird cage
slide out of the truck bed and get run over. Fortunately it was fixable but it
is banged up. On the way home I realized I had left the
screws to reassemble the cage in Loveland and had to go to a hardware
store with both macaws to get replacements. The final straw
was when the cage door fell open on me as I was carrying it up the
stairs and gave me a heck of a hit.
I'd say it was really Saturday when the trip ended and I felt
refreshed. It was a beautiful trip and leaves me with only
two 14ers to go. I probably won't go back to the area any
time soon because my next trip in the area will be to hit Vestal,
Trinity a basin or two over. It's feels odd coming so close
to finishing a goal I set for myself years ago but it also feels good
to be back on track with it. The 14ers are fantastic peaks
and, while they are generally technically easy, they are still very
worthwhile. Anyone who finishes them almost has to go through
some personal evolution in the process. I may have remembered
why I hate backpacking so much but I also think I remembered the guy
who used to hike in jeans and think fourth class was the toughest thing
out there. This trip definetly reminded me of the joy I used to take in
just hiking through the woods by a pretty stream. I'd gotten
too intense with the need to do continuously tougher routes and I think
this trip reminded me of my roots. I feel silly I ever went
through the stage where I was dismissive of hiking and climbing these
Only one mystery remained at the end of the trip and that was, "What
happened to the coyote urine?" It wasn't in our packs or the
trash so I can only guess something ran away with it.
MMMMM, Jared Like Beer
1st - July 3rd