Date: 1 July 2003
Ascent: North Ridge (Dawson 4.2.8)
Descent: North Ridge
Difficulty: Class 3 over very exposed terrain
Base: 10,800 Chicago Basin
Elevation Gain: 3,283
Base to Summit: 2.9 miles
Summit to Base: 2.9 miles
Total Distance 5.8 miles
Time: 1 July SP from Base Camp at 7:15 AM; Return to Base Camp at 3:00 PM
Description: From our base camp, we once again traveled up Chicago Basin along the trail that parallels Needle Creek. Once at the headwall, the trail climbs steeply and crosses the creek two or three times. We chose to continue up to where the creek empties from the lower lake at Twin Lakes, because on our previous day's climb of Sunlight and Windom Peaks, we noticed a strong climbers trail leading just north from that position to the base of Mount Eolus. This route also obviated the need to bushwhack through willows along the intermittent stream west of Needle Creek that is shown on both Dawson and Roach's maps.
In retrospect, I recommend this route, because it is very nice, provides a casual walk up after the steep climb of the headwall at the end of Chicago Basin, and affords ample opportunities to view wild flowers. In any case, the trail is unremarkable and we got within .25 miles of the cliffs that comprise the east buttress of Mount Eolus before encountering snow. We crossed several snowfields using just leather boots and ice axes and ascended the ledges as described by both Roach and Dawson to gain the high ground just SE of North Mount Eolus. Thereafter, the trail switchbacks several times over slickrock and then present climbers with the northern gate to the connecting ridge to Mount Eolus. Once we arrived at this catwalk we rested for a few minutes, took some photos and then proceeded to quickly cross the exposed ridge. The degree of difficulty is slight, but the exposure is great, and as such, care should be taken.
Once on the SW side of the catwalk, we took several minutes to plan our next phase of the climb. This last portion of the climb involves complicated route finding on exposed ledges. The climbing is mostly Class 3, but the degree of difficulty is heightened by 1) extreme exposure; 2) dirt and unconsolidated material on top of the ledges and blocks; and 3) small cairns too numerous to mention that may or may not indicate the correct approach. The bottom line was that the phase after the catwalk, even though it is less than .25 miles from the summit and only 200 vertical feet below, will take at least an hour to negotiate. Guidebooks do well to urge climbers to take their time and exercise caution. We slowly proceeded to climb the ledges and blocks and arrived at the summit at 11:30 AM.
We were alone on the summit with beautiful weather and ate lunch and contemplated the Chicago Basin, spread out below in glorious colors. At noon, we began our descent using the same route as described above. We had left several unique cairns indicating the proper ledges to use, which made down-climbing and route finding easier. Once we arrived back at the lower snow fields, we ran through the snow to save wear and tear on the lower joints.
Upon arrival back at Twin Lakes in the early afternoon, we soaked our feet in a mountain stream for 15 minutes. It was very nice. We then down-climbed the Needle Creek trail at the head wall of the basin for the second time in as many days no fun there. We arrived back at our camp site at 3:00 PM and took a break before striking camp and hiking the 6.5 miles back out of the basin to the Needleton rail stop. The upside of the late hike out was that a food and beer cache awaited us for the evening. We caught the train to Silverton the next morning. Great trip.
Climbing Party:Tim Edinger; Mitchell Ackerman
Total Trip Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes
Temperature: 65 Degrees @ Trailhead; 75 degrees at summit; no wind at summit; warm and sunny; no clouds; very nice.