Chicago Basin 14’ers
Sunlight, Windom, & Eolus Peaks
The Chicago Basin 14’ers are some of Colorado’s most aesthetic and scenic 14’ers. Sunlight Peak (14,059 ft.), Mt. Eolus (14,083 ft.), and Windom Peak (14,082 ft.) dominate the skyline scenery, though the basin is host to a number of other worthy climbs. The area is unmatched for it’s wilderness setting, well maintained trails, and relatively easy access. For those who would like to experience the essence of the San Juans and climb a few 14’ers along the way, then this is the trip for you.
Many of our trip participants are also on the Colorado 14’er quest, attempting to become one of the few people who have had the chance to stand on top of all of Colorado’s 54 highest peaks. There’s no question that for both first timers and seasoned Colorado climbers, Chicago Basin will be the highlight of your 14’ers endeavor and represents a great opportunity to climb 3 of the 54 14’ers in one amazing trip.
Wilderness Access via the D&SNGRR
By virture of the Durango – Silverton Narrow Guage Railroad (D&SNGRR), we can limit the length of our approach to Chicago Basin to a mere 6 miles. A relic of the mining trade of the 1880’s – 1930’s, the train is world famous as it is one of the few narrow gauge railroads left in existence. This unique experience adds an interesting start and finish to this trip. We take care of all the details, so that you can focus on admiring the beauty of Chicago Basin, and the climbs to the top of the 14’ers found within. You don’t have to be an expert mountaineer to take part in this incredible adventure – we’ve reached the summits of these peaks with 7 – 70 year olds!
Have been to Chicago Basin with SJMG twice. Could not have been happier with both guides. You run a great program and your guides really do represent SJMG well! – Bob A. Chicago Basin 14’ers 2010
Chicago Basin 14’ers Trip Itinerary
In the morning we’ll board the D&SNGRR train in Durango for the ride to Needleton and the start of the hike/approach into Chicago Basin. After approximately 6 miles we reach our camp at treeline in upper Chicago Basin. Camp out.
Rising early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms, we’ll approach the West Ridge of Sunlight Peak, an exposed ridge with a good mixture of 3rd and 4th class climbing all the way to the summit! An alternate option for the ascent will be the Standard Route up the South Slopes of Sunlight Peak. Route choice on this peak will depend on a variety of factors and is up to the discretion of our guides and guest(s) for the trip. Descending the south slopes, we’ll cross the upper Twin Lakes basin and head up to the summit of Windom Peak via the West Ridge and a series of 3rd class ledges. We’ll be back at camp around 1 pm, where some relaxation and even a nap can ensue! Camp out.
Waking early again, we’ll approach the East Ridge of Mt. Eolus which is characterized by mixed 3rd and 4th class climbing – and the classic “Cat Walk” Traverse. After our successful summit, we’ll head back to camp, pack things up, and head back down to the trail head where the train will meet us for a 3:45 pm pick up. The train will have us back to Durango at approximately 6:15 pm – plenty of time to catch a shower and enjoy a celebratory dinner! Stay in a hotel or depart. We have showers available at our office for those participants that have a arranged to depart directly after the end of the trip.
The majority of the time spent on the Chicago Basin 14’ers trip is at or above 10,000 ‘ in elevation. If you live at sea level, it may be best to arrive in Durango a day earlier to allow for an easier adjustment to the altitude and thus a greater chance for success on the climbs.
Chicago Basin 14’ers Equipment List
- Backpack: Internal frame, 50-80 liters. Guides’ pick: Osprey Aether 60
- Sleeping bag: Down or synthetic bag rated between 15-30 degrees with compression stuff sack.
- Sleeping pad: Guides’ pick: Thermarest NeoAir
- Bowl, spoon, cup: Plastic/lexan
- Pocket knife: 2-3 inch blade, simple, light
- Small thermos: Optional, but nice to have
- Water bottles: 2 liters combined capacity; bottles or bladder.
- Water purification system: We recommend simple iodine tablets, but pumps are acceptable.
Clothing and Personal Equipment
- Hiking boots: Sturdy, waterproof, comfortable boots. Please contact us with questions or further recommendations.
- Socks: 2-3 pair of medium weight wool or synthetic blend socks.
- Base layers: Synthetic t-shirt and synthetic underwear
- Soft shell pants: warm enough for cool mornings and nights, yet light enough for warm days.
- Soft shell jacket: light weight. Guides’ pick: OR Ferrosi
- Insulated vest and/or jacket: down or synthetic. Guides’ pick: OR Transcendent
- Hard shell jacket: waterproof and breathable, no insulation. Guides’ Pick: OR Helium
- Hats: one with brim, one for warmth
- Sunscreen and lip balm: water/sweat-proof
- Headlamp: with extra batteries.
- Toiletries: Toilet paper, baggie for used TP, toothbrush/paste, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.
- Personal first-aid kit: for your personal meds/needs; guide will have a large one as well
- Stuff sacks: for convenient packing
- Lunch food: Everything you eat between breakfast and dinner. May include: bagels, dried meats, cheese, trail mix, candy bars, peanut butter, etc…
- Harness: Adjustable leg loops are essential.
- Locking carabiner: Pear shaped, wide mouth.
- Boots: Hiking boots, or alpine boots – many options. No tennis shoes.
- Crampons: General mountaineering crampons (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)
- Mountaineering Axe: 60 – 70 cm mountain axe (for May/June trips only – conditions dependent)
Training & Follow Up Climbs
As always, being in excellent physical shape is an important component of our our programs. A good mixture of cardiovascular fitness, muscular fitness, and especially core strength will help you to maximize the potential rewards that are possible on a great climbing trip.
1Before Your Trip
The Chicago Basin 14’ers trip is a strenuous trip conducted at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Therefore, previous experience hiking in the mountains and/or multi-day backpacking experience will be very helpful to you on this program. Though the actual climbing level required for this trip is not difficult, the best training regimen would include a mixture of cardiovascular fitness training (running, biking, hiking etc.), and muscular/core fitness exercises. The addition of some Yoga/stretching exercises will help to insure that you maintain good muscular flexibility as well.
For the Chicago Basin 14’ers you should be ready for:
- Hiking approximately 6-7 miles per day with up to a 40 lb pack at altitudes between 8,000′ – 11,000 ‘
- 8 – 10 hour summit days with a lighter “day pack”
- Wilderness living
2Follow Up Climbs
I found this to be a great experience and enjoyed all of the personnel and guides associated with San Juan – particularly Matt Pickren! – Steve K. 2011 Private Program
Durango, Colorado: Getting Here
Durango is located in the SW corner of Colorado, at the intersection of the sandstone towers of the desert, and the jagged, San Juan Mountains. A mecca for climbing, hiking, cycling, and foodies; make sure you plan to spend some time in town before and after your SJMG trip. The SJMG Durango office is located at 1111 Camino Del Rio, Durango, CO 81301.
Flights: The best option for flying to the area is to fly into Durango – La Plata County Airport. Multiple airline options exist, and most connections originate from Denver, Phoenix, or Dallas. The airport is a 20 minute drive from our office. Many hotels offer a free shuttle pickup. Buckhorn Limousine offers a shuttle as well.
Driving: Below are some approximate driving times if you’d like to drive to Ouray. If you plan on renting a car, please consider the winter weather when selecting your vehicle and at a minimum choose something that offers either front wheel or all-wheel drive.
- Montrose, CO: 2 hours
- Ouray, CO: 1.5 hours
- Denver, CO: 6 hours
- Albuquerque, NM: 3.5 hours
- Salt Lake City, UT: 6 hours
Hotels: Durango has a number of great hotels, suites, and vacation rentals for you to stay in while you’re in the area. Give our office a call at 800-642-5389 if you have any questions about what would suite you best for this trip! Below are just a few options catering to different lodging styles and preferences.
- Cost Includes:
- Guiding and trip leadership
- D&SNGRR Train Tickets
- Breakfasts and dinners on the mountain
- Group camping and cooking equipment (tents, stoves, etc.)
- Group climbing equipment (ropes, etc.)
- Harness, helmet
- Not Included:
- Transportation to Durango, CO
- Hotel costs before or after the courses
- Personal Lunch Food
- 5% land use surcharge
- Trip cancellation insurance – recommended
- Personal backpacking climbing clothing
- Costs associated with early returns, weather delays, or other factors beyond our control
- Guide gratuity
- Registration and Cancellation:
- Advance Registration is required for this program. You have the option to either call our office and register via phone, fill out our pdf Registration Form and send it in via fax or email, or utilize our secure Online Reservation System. All participants must read and sign an Assumption of Risks/Liability Waiver and agree to our Reservations and Cancellations Policies.
The guides were professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. The office staff was also great and very helpful. Thanks for a great trip and I look forward to more trips with San Juan Mountain Guides. – Trevor Y. Chicago Basin 14’ers 2011