Peak(s):  Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
"Sunlight Spire" - 14,000 feet
Date Posted:  08/19/2013
Modified:  08/27/2013
Date Climbed:   08/12/2013
Author:  jesse
 Sunlight Peak's West Ridge to The Sunlight Spire!!  

After climbing Sneffles on 8/10/13 we rode the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Needleton Trailhead in the start to all afternoon/evening rain.

Obligatory D & S N G Railroad shot

We got across the bridge at the start of the Needleton approach and just got pounded with relentless pouring rain. After 2 hours of struggling with full packs we were drenched through our rain gear and decided to stop and set up camp. A long evening and night of rain left us drying out everything until about 10am then we made our way to high camp, Using 8/11/13 as an approach/rest day.

Marc at the first meadow most of the way into Chicago Basin

An hour and a half later we made it to upper Chicago Basin and were afforded the great wilderness views the Weiminuche provides.

Me at the first meadow

We were lucky enough to get the highest camp at the edge of treeline. It rained again for a short time in the afternoon and we were treated with a clear beautiful evening.
Jupiter Mountain at Sunset

First of our high camp friends

At 3:15 the alarm went off, as agreed we both sat up and started moving immediately. We made quick work of the first hill to twin lakes.

Starry Sky above twin lakes

Just as twilight broke we neared Sunlight Peak's west ridge route. Being at this elevation this early is always worth getting up for.

Sunlight and the Spire at Twilight

We crossed a short boulder field and paid our dues on the scree to gain the West ridge on the right of Needle ridge. We opted for the right branch of the gully which ended in a Class 5.0 move, the left branch leading directly to the saddle would have been class 2+.

Twin Thumbs Pass from the start of the gully

Immediately from the saddle you can climb a short class 4 headwall or contour on the North side of the ridge using class 3 & 4 ledges.

Alpine starts are the best, 3:15 almost seemed late with such amazing scenery!

Vestal group before sunrise

About 1/3 of the way up the perfect solid ridge the views of Sunlight and the Sunlight Spire are incredible.

Sunlight's West ridge with the Sunlight Spire Massif

Vestal group at Sunrise

Looking back towards Twin Thumbs pass you can see the West Ridge, Needle Ridge, Twin Thumbs, Glacial point to the Left of shadow, North Eolus & Eolus. Doing this entire ridge would be an astounding undertaking, has anyone done this or know of the Needle Ridge Traverse?

Looking West to Eolus and N Eolus

Again another experience worth getting up at 3am for....
Sunrise Rainbow!

Marc gained the Summit with ease at around 7:45

Marc on Sunlight

Marc on Sunlight

Although I'd already climbed Sunlight peak a few years ago this summit always stirs a mountaineer's soul!

Me on Sunlight Peak again

Next on to the main objective of the trip.... Sunlight Spire!!! We carried the 70m rope and a more than adequate trad rack 10 miles up 5800ft to climb the beautiful overhaning 5.10 crack.

View of Sunlight Spire and Windom from Sunlight Peak

After a short scramble we found a good spot to build a protected belay below the Spire. Marc was able to successfully fight exhaustion and power through the burn.

Marc lead the 5.10 overhanging Sunlight Spire!!

I lowered Marc, got to climbing and quickly got burned out. It took some resting, encouragement and bloody hands but I pulled myself onto the Spire's summit.

I stayed long enough to take some pictures check the anchor and slap the rock in victory.
View of Sunlight Peak from the Spire

A few years ago with my other climbing friend Tom we almost got the spire.

My last trip to Sunlight

Years ago Tom & I were detered from the Spire due to high winds we climbed the next highest block and took this picture

It was a great victory to come back with better skills, knowledge and willingness to endure pain and adversity for a short time on a rock tower!

Me on the Sunlight Spire

We found a good ramp that only had 1 or 2 5.0 moves leading to the base of the Spire.

View up the ramp leading to the Belay

A look down the ramp we used to reach the base of the Spire

I had climbed Windom Peak previously but Marc had not. He Gave me the rope and all the climbing gear and took off running for the summit trying to beat the 10:30am rain that was just starting to form. I took my time with the very heavy pack and made my way down towards Twin Lakes.


Our approach line can be seen in yellow here.
The route to the belay we used, class 4 maybe one 5.0 move

Still above Twin Lakes in the upper basin I waited for Marc to finish his circuit of Windom Peak, and was visited by a Marrmot.

Annother Mountain friend

From this place I had great views of these reclusive peaks, the gully and route we used to climb Sunlight Peak and could watch for Marc on Windom. It rained lightly and thundered distantly for a short time but Marc took less than 1 hour from Sunlight Spire up over Windom and back to where I was waiting. He said that he just climbed whatever was in front of him to make it so quickly.

On the left you can see the Gully we used to reach Sunlight's west ridge and the entirety of my day

We crested over the waterfall path leading back to camp and saw a bunch of goats all around our tent. When we were closer they kept us from the tent and bear bag for 45min- an hour and wouldn't leave till we started yelling and taunting them.

On our way down we could see 9 goats around our camp

We finally got inside the tent with our food and after eating it started raining and hailing around 1pm. I awoke multiple times throughout the afternoon just to peek outside and see all the goats again in our campsite. Baby, Mother, Father and big Boss goats...

Spying from the illusion of tent safety

Look at the cute little horns!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

 Comments or Questions

08/19/2013 21:06
on climbing 2 really fine peaks. We met you as we were heading up the basin and you were coming down to meet the train. You showed me your bandaged fingers resulting from the Spire climb. I think we ended up in that same campsite complete with all those stinking goats. It was my 3rd time to the basin, and that was the worst goat problem I've seen.


Photos 6 & 7
08/20/2013 02:56
You must use a good camera--I instantly recognized Auriga in #6, and your morning twilight shot shows a planet(Jupiter?). Thanks for posting. And, of course, that's on top of nailing the Spire in bad weather.

Exiled Michigander

Appreciate the Vids
08/20/2013 15:26
Thanks for posting the videos of scrambling up Sunlight. We'll be heading up there soon and it is nice to see what we'll be getting into.

The Spire summit is very impressive . . . crazy, but very impressive. I could barely watch your video without my legs quivering. Nice work!


Very Impressed!
08/20/2013 17:14
Fast, and with all the trad gear, too! Nice photos!

rob runkle

08/21/2013 18:23
So jealous. I starred up at it when I went. So felt like I wanted to free climb it... Haha..

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