Friday, May 4, 2012

Epic Adventure 2011- Day 3

The third day was anticipated to be the most difficult and so we woke up at 3:30 AM to get an early "alpine" start. Again, it was very cold and wet when we awoke, just above freezing.  We quickly climbed in the blackness, but our haste lead to a real problem- finding the turnoff to Eolus was very difficult in the dark. We knew the general area, but the trail was faint. We eventually realized we were "off route" and it took about 15 minutes and some other hikers to eventually figure out the correct path.

The trail to the Eolus basin was very steep and poorly consolidated (sandy/slippery/loose). We reached the base of the peak area as the sun was coming up, hence no previous pictures. Jeff decided he was feeling too weak to continue, and would hang out around 13,000' until we got back down. I think the altitude and the stress on his body was catching up to him.

The sun rises over the Needle Peaks. The sunrise was the best I've ever seen in my life, and this experience is not unique to me. Eolus has the best sunrises- come try it, you'll see!


The early morning clouds catch the sunlight. Center left is "Jagged Peak" and it's just one of the many spectacular mountains in the area.

Sunlight, Sunlight Spire, and Windom (L to R). This photo shows most of our route from yesterday.

At the Saddle between Eolus and North Eolus, the remaining route is visible. We must cross the "catwalk" before we can make the summit push. At this point there is no "easy way"

On the Summit of Eolus, looking over at North Eolus. The catwalk is mostly in view. Some people ride that rock like a horse- I was a little hesitant due to the drop-off in front of it.

Scott and Dan pose on the summit of Mt. Eolus, named for the Greek god of wind. This was an incredibly exposed, rocky, and thrilling summit.

At the base of Eolus, we contemplate the return across the catwalk. Ryan's group is ahead of us on the catwalk.
Scott nearly finished with the Catwalk.

Scott takes a break on the rocky, exposed summit of North Eolus, his back to a sheer drop off.


Forgive me if I go no further. Lots of air between me and the valley floor.
 

And there is the way down off this 14er. Also a nice view of the Catwalk.
 


A pastoral scene at the alpine lake. The goats were everywhere and yes, they try to eat your urine (for the salt).

He's just a kid
Scott and Jeff coming down into the Chicago Basin. This trail is in great shape thanks to efforts by the CFI (Colorado Fourteeners Initiative).
A nice view of Aztec mountain on the way down. Beauty is everywhere.



The Needle Creek drainage was full of rockfall and trees from slides.
Tired and sore, but you still can't wipe the smile off their faces. Secretly, they probably want to stab me with trekking poles.
This is a massive freestanding boulder in the Needle creek drainage. It was easily 30' tall or more.
We press on down the mountain, the train ride is the goal. I was cracking the whip for a speedy descent.
Again, pristine, raw, natural landscapes continue to impress us.

Back at the New York Creek / Needle creek junction.

The bridge was a welcome sight. This last mile seemed to really drag on and on and it was getting quite warm!
 
Victory! Now all we need to do is wait for the train.Something tells me it won't be long.
 

We arrived an hour early and sat in the hot sun as the storm clouds started to build. After all the cool stuff we saw, we both wanted to stay and soak it in, but we also very much looked forward to a shower and a hot meal (in that order).


It was just dumping rain at this point, and the Animas River quickly got a little muddy.
A nice lake on the train ride back
The train ride was cool and wet, as it rained heavily most of the time. It was a nice change of pace, but it forced many of the train riders "indoors". We drank cold beers (delicious by the way) and snacked on some hot dogs while we took in the scenery and chatted about our adventures and held on to the rocking, clanking train as we rumbled down the tracks.

We were both exhausted and energized at the same time. What an incredible experience! All in all, we had gained over 10,000 feet of elevation and hiked about 25 miles, nabbing 4 high peaks.  Just about everything had gone according to plan, although Jeff and Scott both had some minor knee/ankle issue. In Durango we got cleaned up, ate heartily and passed out around 930PM. I slept like the dead.


2 comments:

  1. Nice write up! We are doing almost the same trip in two weeks, Where did you find a summit map? I have done the hike to the basin but not the summits. Are they pretty well marked? Thanks

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  2. Hey, you can find all the route information on 14ers.com. It's pretty simple really, once in the basin you head up a steep headwall to about 12,000 feet, you turn left for Eolus and N. Eolus, and right for Sunlight and Windom. They are both steep, rugged climbs but well worth it- You'll have a blast! Feel free to contact me further if you need more information, I'd be glad to help.

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