In the summer of 2010, my friend Kyle, his friend Jake, and I took a trip to the Sangre De Cristos in southern Colorado to climb Crestone Needle. We had an incredible time (even though I never found time to blog about it) and decided to take another dude trip this summer.
Crestone Needle in the background
After some research, we turned our eyes towards Chicago Basin in southwestern Colorado (near Durango). Chicago Basin is a fairly remote wilderness area home to three of Colorado’s 14,000 ft. mountains.
Just getting to the Needleton trailhead requires a fun train ride via the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad or a long backpack in. If you want to save money or just have the time, I suppose the backpack option could be fun. We all felt the train added to the experience and was well worth the money.
Lauren took the train with us and waved bye as we got dropped off at the Needleton trailhead. She enjoyed a weekend exploring Silverton, Mesa Verde, Durango, etc.
Lauren @ Mesa Verde
From the Needleton trailhead we made the fairly arduous hike (3,000 ft elevation gain, 6 miles, 3 hours) to Chicago Basin.
The basin was quite beautiful!
We expected to see a lot of mountain goats based on our information, and they were literally everywhere.
We only had one full day for climbing. We hoped to climb all three 14ers, but Sunlight and Windom were enough to wear us out pretty well. Eolus would have to wait until another trip. We could have potentially climbed Eolus before hiking out to meet the train, but we didn’t feel like taking the risk of missing our only ride. Most people that climb all three in a day (props to you) start with Eolus and then end with the Sunlight/Windom combo. Sunlight was our main objective, so we opted to start there.
Nearing the summit of Sunlight
I was the only one in our group dumb enough to climb up the block on top of Sunlight. I’ve seen it described as the single hardest move on any 14er. Really its just a bit awkward and nerve-racking (sorry mom!).
Kyle part way up Sunlight’s summit block.
Me perched awkwardly on the Sunlight’s summit block.
Kyle making a quick descent of Windom.
Chicago Basin really is a special place…no wonder why it is so popular.
- Give yourself 4 days in the basin (1 hike in, 2 climbing, 1 hike out)
- Start really really early if you want to climb all 3 peaks in a day
- If you go over a holiday weekend (July 4th in our case) expect plenty of friends
- Hang everything and leave nothing in your tent. Lots of marmots and goats that would love to eat your stuff.
- Take Jake with you. He’ll make you laugh.
- For more tips on Chicago Basin, check out this post on 14ers.com