Monday, April 23, 2012

Epic Adventure 2011- Day 2

EA2011 Day 2:

Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak

It was cold and dark as we left our tent before 5am. That was fine with me, I did sleep much anyway. We quickly made our way up into the upper basin in the dark long before the sun started to light up the rugged landscapes. We knew we had a long, hard day ahead of us, so we wasted no time in getting started on the trail to Sunlight Peak.

The Sun is just coming up as we take a break near 13,000 feet above the high basin.

Scott and Jeff climb up the dirt and rock gully. This area was steep and loose.

Scott tops out on a small class 3 chimney. This was a "choose your own adventure" area.
Looking up toward the rocky, blocky summit area.

You can see me climbing near the Crux of the route at the bottom of this picture (courtesy of Ryan M.)


Serious face on the summit of Sunlight Peak.

Scott Lowery mounts the summit block on Sunlight

Arrow and Vestal Peaks in the distance  looking Northeast past the sheer dropoff on Sunlight's summit slabs.

A view East from the summit of Sunlight Peak

Sunlight Spire (L) and Windom Peak (R) from the Summit of Sunlight Peak

Pigeon and Turret Peaks from the summit. Climbing those is no joke.

Coming on down from Sunlight, like a Boss.

Scott looking back at Sunlight Peak. We were just up there.

The first mountain was fun an exciting, but it doesn't take long before we realize we have a lot more work ahead of us to summit Windom Peak, which is seemingly just so close to where we were. Again, no trail, we had to pick and choose our way through large and unstable talus and boulders.

We got a little off track at this point. Jeff climbs a class 3 area next to a precarious cliff.

Jeff and Scott carefully negotiate the summit area. You don't want to slip here, as a steep and loose ravine resides on the left side of the photo.

On the summit of Windom Peak, Scott takes a little break. Rugged peaks dominate the landscape. Sunlight peak is in the background.

Sunlight Peak (L) and Sunlight Spire (R) from near Windom's summit.

Beautiful views in every direction from the Summit of Windom Peak. I believe this is looking South.

Jeff and Scott downclimbing some big wobbly boulders. Jeff wasn't especially fond of this part.

Chunky boulders on the way down stretch Jeff out.

Scott shows us the summits we'll attempt tomorrow, as storm clouds quickly build overhead.

Clouds darken as we start to descend from the upper basin.

This pristine lake is well over 12,000 feet above sea level. You can't see all the mosquitos and horseflies but they were there in abundance.

Streams and waterfall everywhere as we descend back to camp.

Looking down into Chicago basin with Columbine Pass and Aztec Mountain in the background. Our tent is down and to the right of this photo.
All in all, it was a fantastic day in the mountains. Plain statistics for this day were not impressive, but the routes you take were far more tiring than they appear on paper. The storm clouds built up by 1pm, and we descended down to our tent in light rain and distant thunder, as the skies darkened. Good thing we started early! Jeff had some problems with his blood sugar, and nearly lost conciousness climbing Windom. Luckily, he was able to sugar up and push on to the summit.


Day 3 can be found below:

Epic Adventure 2011 - Day 1

Chicago Basin Group

From Durango via DSNGRR train

In mid August 2011 we embarked on an epic journey to the summit of 4 remote, rugged, and high mountains. Why is it epic? First, the trailhead is only accessible by the Durango Silverton Narrow-guage railroad OR 14 miles of hiking. It's in the remote San Juan mountains, and it's in the Weminuche Wilderness area. We'll hike over 24 miles round trip and gain over 10,000 feet of elevation, reaching the summit of four unique 14,000+ feet peaks (aka 14ers)! Being a wilderness area, mountain goats outnumber people, and "running water" is a nearby creek. Electricity is provided by the frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Cell phones have no signal, except maybe on the summits. In this place, nature in it's raw, natural form can be seen.

All revved up and ready to go! This train is OLD, and there are very few coal-fired trains still in operation. It creaks and smokes and rumbles up the track. We were anxious to get started on our journey.
Just another ho-hum beautiful day in the San Juan mountains.
The train slowed to a crawl as we climbed high over the Animas River. This part was awesome!

Blowing off a little steam (literally)

These are our accomidations on the train in the open-air car

The train climbs high above the Animas River

The minerals made the water all sorts of wonderful blues and greens.
The middle portion of the train ride looked a lot like this
An awe-insipring look at the needle mountains from the train

 After nearly 2 hours on a coal-fired train, we depart in the middle of a wilderness and cross over the Animas River on a modern steel bridge. Once the train leaves, you really are on your own. Hope you are ready to "survive" in the Wilderness!

The trail climbs up a gully above Needle Creek.  The wilderness trail has kind of a raw, wild feeling to it. The climate was warn and dry when we left the trailhead, but it quickly got cooler and more moist as we climbed into an Alpine climate.

New York Creek falls as it joins with Needle Creek right off the trail. This is a popular rest stop along the way.
Taking our 2nd and final break after about 5 miles.


Further into Chicago Basin. Jupiter Mountain is on the right.

Jeff looks at rocky peaks from the Chicago Basin. At this point we are nearly to our campsite for the day.

Sunset on the mountainside

Cool lighting as the last rays of the sun light up the mountaintops.

The sun sets on the Needle Peaks near the end of day 1. See you tomorrow!

After over 6 miles of hiking in 3 hours, we settled into a campsite in the green, lush valley well over 11,000 feet in altitude. It had been a fairly long day and we kicked back for a little while with our books before going to bed around 10PM.  It was very cool and damp even in the heat of the August summer in this magical place.


Day 2- Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak