Peak(s):  Jupiter Mtn  -  13,830 feet
Turret Pk A  -  13,835 feet
Pigeon Pk  -  13,972 feet
Sunlight Peak  -  14,059 feet
Date Posted:  08/22/2013
Modified:  08/23/2013
Date Climbed:   06/02/2013
Author:  rescuemonkey
 Chicago, Ruby, North Pigeon Creek Loop  

Jupiter, Sunlight, Turret and Pigeon Loop
3 Day Death March
Tyler and Nick

After missing out on Jupiter (weather) during an earlier visit to Chicago Basin, it was time to head back. We would be attempting a counter-clockwise loop through Chicago, Ruby and Pigeon basins. Train ride: long and boring after a while. Finally get dropped off and start the death march.

Day 1 - Jupiter.
We couldn't believe how many down trees were across the Chicago Basin trail. So many we lost count. I would take the extra time and evaluate your camp spot! The trail into Chicago Basin is obviously very easy to follow. We found the cut off to Columbine Pass relatively easy. Look for confluence after the trail eases, lots of red rock. Cross the stream after the confluence and head up the hill. The trail is faint at the beginning, however improves. We made it to the 4-way junction and evaluated the weather. We were pretty hesitant to proceed, however decided to drop our packs and see how far we could make it. There is a faint trail heading up the standard route the first couple hundred yards. After that, just continue heading up the grassy slope toward the western ridge. Don't top out at the ridge, turn right and head to the false summit. From the false summit pick your was down to the low spot between the two. From here we headed up the west face of Jupiter and then crossed over to the east side for the final bit. I was expecting a lot more exposure/difficulty based on other reports - its not bad. The weather was holding out but we didn't stay long.
Jupiter Summit

We took the same route back down to 4-way and headed down to the camping spots in Chicago Basin the back way (past the mine). The trail was covered with large snow drifts and post-holing was horrendous.
We never saw a single goat in Chicago Basin - lucky us.

Day 2 - Sunlight
We had the second day to do the 14ers and make our way into Ruby Basin. We had originally hoped to reach all 3, however weather didn't cooperate and only Sunlight was climbed. That's alright thought, this was the second trip to the basin and the 14ers were already done.
There was more snow on the south face of Sunlight than expected, however that was a good thing - We brought crampons. The snow was perfect to climb on. We headed across the southern face, but instead of heading to the low spot between Sunlight and the Spire, we turned and climbed directly towards the summit on the south face. We had perfect snow up to the cross over hole.
Sunlight Route

The top was windy. I had hopes of doing a handstand on top, but the wind changed my mind. Maybe the third time will be the charm. Below is the video of the last portion. I submitted a trip report just on sunlight earlier about using the ramp on the left side. I used it again, so here it is:


We headed back down to twin lakes to start the climb up Twin Thumbs Pass. We crossed directly between the two lakes then veered right towards the pass. Once we topped out, we traversed back to the right (east) about 50 feet to right side of the pass. This made descending the north side of the pass easier.
Twin Thumbs Route

I wish I had a picture of the other side. It was very disheartening. The next pass to reach in order to access Ruby Basin was farther away than expected. You aim for the obvious close pass (don't know the name). There are two passes on that ridge. The one you want is southeast of Noname-Ruby pass. Maybe it wasn't the distance, but the snow load. The entire north side was deep post-holing snow. I took forever to reach the next pass. Once at the pass, there were a few tricky places to down climb to get to the valley floor of Ruby Basin. We arrived at a large open meadow well before Ruby Lake and camped here. There is a large bend in the stream that make as good camp site. The rain and lightning rolled in to the west of us as we were setting up camp. The marmots were a little relentless that evening.

Day 3 - Turret and Pigeon
We started pretty early the next morning, climbing the entire route to the Turret/Pigeon saddle under headlamp. We climbed with crampons almost the entire way to the saddle on good firm snow. The slope was steep in a few areas.
We found a large rock to hang our packs off at the saddle and started up Turret. The sun rose approx. half way up from the saddle.
Turret Sun Rise

The route was easy to follow to the top. There was however several trails in the area just pick one and keep going up. The view of Pigeon from the top was great.
Turret Summit

We headed back down to the main saddle, picked up our packs and aimed for the small saddle south of Pigeon. There is a faint trail in the area, but was just headed in the general direction. After crossing over to the other side, drop a few hundred feet, then start traversing around Pigeons southern flanks. It starts to open up, then start heading north making a large loop to eventually access Pigeons western face. I didn't get picture of the last several hundred feet. I've seen several options here. With the amount of snow, we stayed on the left side, never quite to the ridge line though. Pick your way up through class 3/4 ledges. It eventually eases and you end up between the false and actual summit. Turn left (north) and reach the top. The view down the face into Ruby Basin is impressive. You could see camp and part of the route that morning. We could see and hear the train heading north.
Pigeon Route

Pigeon Summit

Looking down to Ruby camp


We picked our way back down Pigeons slopes to the lake. From here to the train was the low point of the trip. To put it "simply" just follow the creek down. How you get down, that's up to you. There was no trail, just bush-whacking. The vegetation and slope start out easy, than goes downhill from there - no pun intended. We thought it would be a short jog back to the train - we were wrong. Eventually, several hours later, we were beginning to make plans if we miss the train. Soon after that point, about 3/4 down we randomly came across a trail. This is the trail you follow on your way to Ruby Basin. If we didn't find it at that exact moment, I'm pretty sure we would be hiking back to Durango that night. It was a good trail all the way back to the bridge.

Not sure of the mileage of elevation gain, but it was a good amount. We only saw a few people in Chicago, just the way it should be. Nobody though after crossing Twin Thumbs.


Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

 Comments or Questions
Dave B

08/22/2013 21:59
That blister, yikes! I think I'm nauseous.

Nice pictures otherwise though.


Thanks for your TR.
08/29/2013 02:31
Heading to do that same loop soon. Your report was helpful.
Yikes...that blister was NOT helpful!


04/02/2015 19:45
I did exact same peaks a month after you. There was almost no snow left. I descended from Ruby basin where I found a good trail. I was actually eyeing the North Pigeon creek deproach, but didn't want to haul my pack to the 13k saddle. Nice work on getting it done with snow. Beautiful views.

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