| Rails, trails, and summits: Part 2 - The Eolus Pair, Columbine Lake
If you haven't read it, see Part 1 of this trip report here.
After a good night's sleep, we set off at 5:45 am once again to climb the Eolus pair. The sky was perfectly clear, and we made it up to Twin Lakes at 6:50.
Twin Lakes - Columbine Pass trail junction, taken on the descent
Alpenglow on Mt. Eolus from Twin Lakes
The trail junction for Sunlight/Windom and Eolus is located right at the south end of the lakes, and is very well marked by cairns. We stayed left and started hiking up the excellent and relatively new Mt. Eolus trail. Behind us, the sun rose over Windom and Sunlight:
We kept steadily climbing up the slope toward Eolus, and reached the beginning of the "ramp" that angles upward across the steep face below the Eolus-North Eolus connecting ridge (catwalk).
Climbing up the gentle slope below Eolus
A mountain goat stands sentry at the base of the ramp
Looking up at Eolus' steep East Face
There is a broken trail and cairns up the "ramp" that climbs up across the face, and then the trail gets stronger again as it continues to climb the slope above a high basin, located directly below North Eolus. We kept hiking up the trail until we got to a (very) short, Class 3 green gully that leads directly to the saddle (more of a notch) between the Eoluses.
Climbing up the "ramp"
Approaching the ridge crest
Climbing the green gully
Eolus from the notch/saddle
We decided to climb North Eolus first, because it was so close and so we could get a good look at Eolus. It wasn't really much of a warmup, staying Class 2 almost the whole way, but it was a fun climb.
Climbing up North Eolus' South Ridge
In a few minutes, we were sitting on the summit, enjoying snacks and gazing at the impressive catwalk and East Face of Eolus.
On the summit, looking at Eolus
The weather was perfectly clear and calm, so we scrambled back down to the notch and took off up the catwalk, which turned out to be easier (mentally and physically) than we expected.
Crossing the catwalk
Another climber caught up to us on the catwalk, but was kind enough to stick with us and take our pace, so together, we reached the end of the catwalk and started following cairns up the complex but highly enjoyable ledge system that weaves back and forth up Eolus' East Face.
Climbing ledges on Eolus' East Face
As a general rule, we stuck to the right side of the face, near the crest of the Northeast Ridge, which connects to the catwalk. We never actually went as far as the ridge crest though, but we kept following the most cairned route up. Before we knew it, we were right below the summit!
Right below Eolus' summit
Below the summit, looking back at the catwalk and North Eolus
After a short, difficult Class 3 scramble, we suddenly found ourselves on the summit of Mt. Eolus! We had seen a small donkey figurine on the summit of Sunlight Peak, and there was another one on this summit:
Me on the summit with Sunlight and Windom behind
We had summited at 10:10 am, but the afternoon clouds decided to visit a bit earlier this time, so before long we left the summit, scrambled back down the face and across the catwalk without much difficulty, and got back to the notch, followed by the quickly developing clouds:
Back on the catwalk
Almost back to the notch
We scrambled back down the short green gully, and from there, it was pretty much all trail hiking back down to the Twin Lakes.
We rested for a bit at the Twin Lakes, knowing that this would be our last visit to this beautiful spot for a while, but the rain motivated us to keep going. Soon, we were back down at our campsite. Once again, we enjoyed a delicious meal and played even more cards until dark. We had accomplished our goal!
On Thursday, we slept in and prepared a hot bacon, egg, potato breakfast! Since the weather was absolutely perfect as it had been the last three mornings, we decided to go for another, albeit easier hike. We thought about one of the 13ers in the area, but eventually settled on Columbine Pass. The 2-mile trail leading up to the pass is in great condition:
A beautiful morning in Chicago Basin!
Approaching Columbine Pass
As we crested the pass, we got a breathtaking view of Columbine Lake and the surrounding basin:
On the pass, looking down at Columbine Lake
We thoroughly enjoyed over an hour of snacking, skipping stones, and relaxing at the lake. If you're in Chicago Basin and have an extra day, I would recommend this hike, which for us was a pleasant change from the more intense 14er climbing we had done over the last few days. However, the afternoon clouds again came for an early visit, and we got moving.
Storm clouds obscure the sun
We climbed back over the pass and down the trail to treeline. The last few minutes of our hike back to camp was in a hailstorm, but soon we were under shelter. The storm lasted only a few minutes, and the rest of our day was spent exploring in our area of the basin, eating another delicious dinner, and playing even more card games!
We slept in again on Friday, enjoyed another hot breakfast and packed up our camp. It was hard to believe that our fun week in Chicago Basin was over, but we were looking forward to getting back to civilization!
One last look at Chicago Basin
Falls near the trail
The hike down the 6-mile trail to Needleton went by surprisingly fast, and we spent a few hours waiting for the train. The ride back to Durango was fun, and we enjoyed relaxing for a few hours on the train. Soon, we were back at our car. This was a very fun trip, and I look forward to doing it again someday!
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