Sunlight Peak
(Needle Mountains, Colorado)

30 Jun - 1 Jul 2003 - by Tim Edinger

Peak Name: Sunlight Peak

Rank: 39th

Height 14,059

Date: 30 June 2003


Ascent: Red Couloir From Twin Lakes Basin

Descent: Red Couloir to traverse to Windom peak via the NW slopes

Difficulty: Traverse Class 3; final pitch Class 4


Base: 10,800 Chicago Basin

Summit: 14,059

Elevation Gain: 3,259


Base to Summit: 2.9 miles

Summit to Base: 3.6 miles (includes traverse from Sunlight Peak to Windom Peak and then return to camp)

Total Distance 6.5 miles


30 June Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak

SP at 7:15 AM

Return to Base Camp at 3:30 PM


We left Colorado Springs, CO at 5:00 AM, Sunday, June 29 and drove to Silverton. We then took the Durango & Silverton Railway (narrow gauge) from Silverton to Needleton. Tickets currenty cost $60.00. The trip from Silverton started at 1:45 PM and we were dropped off at Needleton at 3:00 PM. The elevation at Needleton is 8,212 feet. We then hiked the Needle Creek trail up to Chicago Basin. We started at 3:15 PM and arrived at the camp site at approximately 10,800 feet at 6:30 PM. Estimated distance of hike was 6.5 miles.

Next morning, we packed day packs and began climbing from Chicago Basin to Twin Lakes at 7:15 AM. No snow is present currently below the lakes. Little snow exists at the lakes themselves, but there are still several large snowfields on the NW face of Windom Peak. Wildflowers were just coming into full maturity. Climb to lakes is strenuous Class 2 hiking on a well developed trail which becomes fairly steep at the head of basin. We arrived at the lakes at 8:30 AM. We then changed into hiking shorts, applied sunscreen, and plotted our approach to Sunlight peak. We observed several other small parties climbing Windom Peak. From Twin Lakes, we climbed Sunlight using the Red Couloir Route (4.2.3) described by Dawson. There is a fairly pronounced headwall on the east side of the lakes and once that is climbed, there is still a fair amount of snow present. The snow allowed for an expeditious approach to a high point approximately half way up the basin wall which is the ridge between Sunlight and Windom Peaks.

We then turned left and climbed across several small snowfields and used existing open ledges to arrive at the base of the Red Couloir. The Red Couloir involves Class 3 climbing over loose scree, which was completely dry. Rockfall was minimal. At the top of the Red Couloir, we then began an slow ascending traverse to the north. Route finding is challenging and it is useful to take one's time considering all options. After careful bouldering, we arrived at the last pitch before the summit and then did the Class 4 climb to the summit block. The summit is as exhilarating as described in all of the guidebooks. Considerable exposure exists and the view of the summit block to the north is similar to peering off the north face of Uncompahgre Peak or the east face of Long's Peak very impressive.

We were alone on the summit, in bright sun with no wind, and considered the traverse to Windom Peak. We arrived at the summit at 11:00 AM. We spent about 30 minutes at the Sunlight's summit.

Climbing Party:

Tim Edinger; Mitchell Ackerman

Total Trip Time:

8 hours, 15 minutes (includes climb of Windom Peak and summit time on both mountains)

Temperature: 65 Degrees @ Trailhead; 75 degrees at summit; faint wind at summit; warm and sunny; no thunderheads

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