Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak – 14ers 34 and 35 to round out our Chicago Basin trip.
We were both looking forward to Sunlight Peak after looking at Youtube videos titled "How to summit Sunlight Peak and not die" and a million Reddit and 14ers.com forum threads dedicated to the final summit block.
The usual oh-dark-thirty slog up from our Chicago Basin campsite to Twin Lakes – it sure would be nice to be able to camp up at Twin Lakes and save all this elevation and distance every morning!
Instead of turning left and heading northwest to Mount Eolus and North Eolus like yesterday, we continue east up towards Sunlight Peak.
The approach to Sunlight Peak is a steep gully well known for rockfall, so helmets on and up we go. Even with a few climbers ahead of us, no rockfall to be had and the gully ends up being pretty meh.
From the gully you begin the fun rock scrambling, picking your way up chimneys and around rocks to the summit.
Sunlight in Shadow
Ah, the summit block.
Yes, the summit block is crazy scary – not getting up there with my long legs, but coming back across to the "leap of faith" rock. Miss by 6 inches and you have several seconds to contemplate as you fall 2,000 feet to your death. It doesn’t look bad in video, but when you’re standing up there looking down it’s quite a pucker moment. Not recommended!
Sunlight Summit Block
Going back down the loose gully is far less fun than going up it as you’re sliding all over the place. I scree-skied – tuck low and try to ski down the loose stuff, pushing dirt and loose scree in front of you. Fun and fast if you get it right.
I had an oh-crap moment when I stopped and dirt and rock kept coming down behind me – I thought I triggered a rock avalanche.
Nope. A mountain goat watched me sliding down and decided to do the same thing right behind me. I guess they do have a sense of playfulness.
Built For It
The only rockfall we heard and saw all day was a small group of climbers coming down an extremely steep gully from Windom Peak. We were surprised they made it down, and steered way clear of their fall zone to the standard route up.
Windom Peak sucks. Crappy scree on the way up, then large boulders that you have to pick your way through. Definitely one of my least favorite peaks.
Sad that another climber died after falling off the peak the week following our ascent, sadder still that it was somebody that Greg personally knew. Even an easy Class 2 peak like Windom can be dangerous if you’re not at 100% all the time.
Windom Peak Marker
After banging out our 4th summit in 2 days, we were happy to return to camp and sit in the cold, cold stream while Shelby and Tom spent several hours wandering around the basin photographing the mines, waterfalls, and gorgeous scenery.
We’re looking forward to our trek out and drinking the cold beer we stashed down in the Animas River by the Needleton train stop even more!