| Chicago Basin
We had been planning our backpacking trip to the Chicago Basin since last year. We had some encouraging words from fellow 14er members and so were very excited when the time finally came. After the 2 ˝ hour drive to Silverton, imagine our facial expressions when we read this sign.
We were so excited when we were able to secure a ride to the mudslides, even though that meant adding on about 3 miles to our trip and we didn’t know how we would get back. That was so much better than the alternatives. We definitely weren’t going to give up! Here are some pictures of our train and the mudslides.
Nothing like doing class 3 moves with a heavy pack on.
Amazingly, we arrived at Needleton only about a half hour later than we would have had the trains been running. Luckily for those going to Durango, they still had a shuttle to take all of them there. As for others like us that arrived at Silverton, I am not sure if they were as lucky as us. The 6 plus mile hike to the Basin was not easy. It was very warm and humid from recent rains and the elevation gain is significant. I thought we would be a little quicker on our time, but it did take us about 3 ˝ hours to get up to about the middle to upper Basin. A storm was coming in as we were frantically trying to find a good campsite – fighting time before it got dark as well as starting to pour rain. There were actually quite a few campers/hikers up there.
We settled in, finally getting to bed at 10pm or so and before we knew it, it was 330am and time to get going. Our agenda for the day, Sunlight and Windom. It takes a good hour to hour and a half to get to Twin Lakes. We finally saw our first goats. One followed us all the way to the summit of Sunlight. At the lakes, the trail heads way over to the right almost like it was a trail going up to Windom, but it winds back to the middle where there a big pyramidal cairns. Knowing this, I would just head straight up rather than going way over to the right. Look for the big cairns.
The gully is not bad at all, some loose rock and sand, but since it was a little wet it gripped well.
Right after the notch, it does get harder. We had some difficulty with route finding – at least finding the way that was easiest. The route description shows turning right after the notch, which we did, but we did find that following cairns that were straight ahead or just a little to the left was a better way to go. Hopefully you can see in this picture taken right from the notch the trail that goes up to the right. That is definitely a way you can go, but we thought it was harder. During our scrambling around and on our way back, we realized that it was easier following cairns that were straight ahead.
The infamous summit block jump wasn’t too bad. My husband did the leap of faith, I was able to put my feet on that lower section of the block you jump from and just push off and step over. Hard to explain, but we saw it on a you-tube video and it looked easier that way. My husband didn’t feel like his feet were stable enough there. Maybe it worked for me because I am small. After we did it, the goat showed us how it was really done! We started at about 4:30 and reached the summit of Sunlight at 8:30.
We descended and reached the ridge to go up Windom by 10:40. There were some small snowfields to cross. They were a little slippery but easy to make it across with just hiking boots. There were a lot of cairns and we didn’t have too much difficulty with route finding except in a few spots. We actually were impressed with the scrambling and exposure. We felt it was really a class 3, instead of difficult class 2, especially at the top. I remember thinking at the time that it was harder than Sunlight. At any rate, during our preparations and trip report reading, we thought Sunlight and Eolus were going to be the hard ones, and Windom was supposed to be the easy one. We didn’t ultimately feel like Windom was very easy. It was fun and the only other one on the mountain was a different goat that passed us going up as we were coming down. We summited at 11:45 and we could see storms heading toward Eolus so we hurried down.
It rained on us some and would be quite cold, but then so after would be sunny and warm. The weather and temperature really changed frequently. Good to have layers and light rain gear. We returned to camp at about 3.
I will continue our adventure on another trip report for Eolus and N. Eolus. I will talk more about the mudslide and things we learned about the train on that report. Here is a web site that I uploaded all of our photos on just because there are many of the mudslides that I can’t include here.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):