Peak(s):  "Sunlight Spire" - 14,000 feet
Date Posted:  09/06/2009
Modified:  09/13/2009
Date Climbed:   09/04/2009
Author:  PKelley
 Sunlight Spire  

It is late, but I wanted to extend a brief trip report of my ascent of Sunlight Spire on Friday, September 4, 2009. I will expand this report with photographs and a fuller description of my itinerary in the next few days.

As of right now, simply put, the last trip report by mtsuji indicated that the Spire goes free at .10a, with no move harder than .9+. I have to disagree. I believe that the Spire goes free at .10+, with the grade possibly being even harder due to elevation. I summited the Spire, but not without hanging at about 15 feet into the crack, and frequently thereafter. I did combine the two pitches into one, but don't think that made any difference on the outcome of my climb. I pulled on a lot of gear in getting to the top after that point. I wouldn't even call it French-Free. Very poor style in my opinion.

My lungs and forearms were burning as I thrashed my way to the top. If you go to Chicago Basin with the intent to climb the Spire, and you don't flash .10+ regularly (particularly at high altitude), I would plan on aiding it to ensure success. Additionally, I would like to mention that it is not a pure hand crack, but rather a crack that undulates considerably between wide hands (cups) and finger locks, with several moves of difficult thin hands in between. The sinker hand jams are sometimes 4-5 feet apart, with crappy feet for the upper 75% of the route. The severe left-angling nature of the route makes footwork difficult, and your right foot jams very unsupportive for upward progress while free-climbing.

Additionally, be prepared to leave a nice #3 or #3.5 Camalot at the top to make the summit anchor truly safe. As of right now, there is a 1960's vintage 1/4 inch hex-cap screw bolt with junk hanger, a rusted large angle pin that you can lift out of its placement with your hand, and a green (#5 or #6?) Lowe Tricam. The Tricam is in a bomber placement, but the tip of the Tricam sling that you clip is severely sun-bleached and deteriorated.

I would have done more to the top to the anchor, but it was snowing by the time I made the summit, and it looked like lightning was eminent. The weather this week has been strange in the San Juans, with the Mexican hurricane playing games late in the mornings, by 11:00 a.m.

More to follow in the next few days.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2

 Comments or Questions

09/08/2009 06:45
My hat‘s certainly off to you. I can‘t even pretend to understand most of the terminology in your post, but you‘ve nailed one of the greatest climbs in Colorado. And in less-than-good weather, to boot! Please post pictures!


09/09/2009 17:51
Superb beta.


11/30/2010 17:28
Hey Pat, I have a few pictures of you climbing the crack and of you on the summit that I took while traversing from Sunlight to Windom. If you would like them for your report, you're more than welcome to use them, just pm me your email address. I heard you whooping on the summit, so I whooped back to help you celebrate... very well done! Weather was pretty sketchy, that is sure! This is Mark btw, I think I met you on the way up Sunlight.


So it was an easy walk-up...?
02/05/2011 00:22
Yeow! Great accomplishment PKelley! I‘ve done a lot of research on SL Spire and most of the info I‘ve read/seen suggests that it was indeed as you rate it, a tough ass climb. Great job and useful report.

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