As the high country snowpack settles in, now is the time to reflect on a few more climbs. In all honesty the small band of misfits on my San Juan 14ers trip, massively annoyed me. As time passes by, I’m able to realize these wildly unique characters were the perfect ingredients for supreme adventure making.
Cast of characters
Climber, Mr. Loud (name changed to protect the guilty) continued with his evening self-medication ritual resulting in a second night of LOUD snoring. His drinking companion, Gadget Man, seemed to be turning a bit more yellow each time I looked at him. It was next to impossible not to stare. Each time I glanced at Gadget Man … talked to him … or generally stood near him it was obvious his skin had a yellowish hue. Rounding out the tribe was Trick-Knee-Hippie. So determined to realize his 25-year dream of standing on top of Windom Peak, he refused to admit he injured his knee during the long strenuous approach.
Misting sky, Sunlight Peak 14,059 feet via South Slopes
After a night of rain showers, LOUD snoring and other camp antics, we rose early, departing at 5:30 am. In near silence we climbed the steep trail to Twin Lakes and took the right-hand spur leading to the upper basin. The well-marked route is straightforward. Slogging across the upper south slopes left our boots packed with mud, making the final fourth-class scramble sketchy and scary. Shortly after crawling through the wormhole we saw Sunlight’s summit blocks. These were twice the size I expected them to be! No one in our group did the final slippery summit block moves, choosing instead to focus on surviving the fourth class down-climb while keeping an eye on the weather.
We reached the basin floor at 9:30 am. Mr. Loud, Gadget Man, Trick-Knee-Hippie and I were all smiles.
Plenty rains, Windom Peak 14,082 feet via West Ridge
With clearing weather, we decided to proceed up to Windom’s West Ridge. Gadget Man descended to base camp having climbed Windom Peak the previous day. By now Mr. Loud was giddy. Trick-Knee-Hippie started whimpering in pain and adopted a distinctive limp as we breached the ridge.
Suddenly two climbers came up from behind us. Seeing Trick-Knee-Hippie's predicament, they gave him a pair of trekking poles. (This proves timing perfection and trail miracles do happen.) From the ridge saddle, the climb is sustained class two and class three terrain up to Windom’s summit blocks. All I can say is Trick-Knee-Hippie was an amazing sight as he worked his way up the mountain. Under once again clearing skies we all made the top and sat a few minutes admiring the views.
Halfway through our descent, thunderheads raced in unloading a steady trickle of water all the way back to base camp. We arrived at our tents at 2:00 pm, ready for dry clothes and a chance to finalize the following day’s climb of Jupiter Mountain 13,830 feet.
Stats from a Chicago Basin basecamp
Roundtrip mileage for both peaks: 5.4 miles
Elevation gain: 3,846 feet
Remember whatever your adventure, have fun and be safe out there!
Colorado’s Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs, Third Edition by Gerry Roach
National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map #140
USGS Quad Maps: Mountain View Crest, Columbine Pass, Snowdon Peak, Storm King Peak