Colorado 14ers: Mount Eolus, Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak

Earmark 3-5 days for this backcountry trek to a campsite in Chicago Basin, where you’ll have a chance to climb a cluster of three 14ers in the San Juan Mountains.
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Earmark 3-5 days for this backcountry trek to a campsite in Chicago Basin, where you’ll have a chance to climb a cluster of three 14ers in the San Juan Mountains.

This mini-expedition into the San Juans begins on the historic Durango & Silverton Railroad. Jump off at Needleton and hike 6.5 miles to camp in Chicago Basin under the turrets of the Needle Mountains. Climb Sunlight first, via the scree-filled Red Couloir. Sunlight’s apex is a perched block of granite that could well serve as your headstone if you slip while attempting the exposed crux move required to reach it (picture climbing onto a fireplace mantel with a 100-foot drop to one side). There’s no dishonor in simply touching its base. Windom Peak is less than 1 mile away, but you’ll give up nearly 1,000 feet before climbing the west ridge. The next morning, head for Eolus. After a steep 3 miles, the exposure at the Catwalk may leave you knock-kneed, but careful scrambling will soon win the summit. Got another day? Soak up the softer pleasures of the Weminuche Wilderness: grassy meadows, swaying firs, and sunlight on granite spires.-Text by Dougald MacDonald-Mount Eolus and Sunlight Peak mapped by Lisa Ganz

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 44.7

Waypoints

EOL001

Location: 37.633171081543, -107.692070007324

From the Needleton trailhead, head SW along the Animas River toward Needle Creek

EOL002

Location: 37.6232872009277, -107.694778442383

Turn L @ T onto Needle Creek Trail; follow trail to the SE toward Chicago Basin

EOL003

Location: 37.6018257141113, -107.624664306641

Trail curves to the NE as it enters Chicago Basin

EOL004

Location: 37.6064147949219, -107.619277954102

Continue straight @ T; Columbine Pass Trail enters on the R

EOL005

Location: 37.6120643615723, -107.609878540039

Set up camp in Chicago Basin. To begin summit climbs, bear L, heading N on steep terrain toward Twin Lakes

EOL006

Location: 37.6165809631348, -107.61011505127

Continue following steep, climber's trail to the N on grassy slopes; a small creek cascades down small rocks on the R

EOL007

Location: 37.6217613220215, -107.607902526855

From Twin Lakes, turn L @ T to summit Mt. Eolus, then traverse W under steep, rock face

EOL008

Location: 37.6210479736328, -107.613708496094

Head WNW to ascend basin tucked below Mt. Eolus's E face

EOL009

Location: 37.624439239502, -107.620880126953

Turn L on saddle connecting Mt. Eolus and North Eolus; head SW on narrow, exposed ridge

EOL010

Location: 37.6217842102051, -107.622680664062

Mt. Eolus (14,083 ft.): Look out across remote, rugged landscapes from this wind-blown peak. Retrace steps to WPT 7, then continue straight to summit Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak

EOL011

Location: 37.6228141784668, -107.602737426758

To climb Sunlight Peak, bear L @ Y and head NE through basin. To tackle Windom Peak, bear R @ Y

EOL012

Location: 37.6249237060547, -107.595809936523

Climb open, rocky slopes below Sunlight Spire to a small gully

EOL013

Location: 37.6262321472168, -107.595031738281

Head N; scramble up E side of summit block to reach Sunlight's small, exposed summit (some Class 4 maneuvering required)

EOL014

Location: 37.6273574829102, -107.59578704834

Sunlight Peak (14,059 ft.): Savor hard-won panoramas of untamed wilderness; retrace route

EOL015

Location: 37.6213111877441, -107.591896057129

Windom Peak (14,082 ft.)