Mount Eolus

  • Mount Eolus
  • 4292 m.
  • Primary factor 665 m
  • 32nd in Colorado
  • Location: North 37:37.367, West 107:37.250
  • Climbed July 11, 2001.


How to get there: We travelled to this peak (as well as Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak) from Needleton. Needleton can be reached with the Durango to Silverton railroad. There is no road. This railroad is operated by old fashioned steam locomotives only. The trains depart four times (in the morning) from Durango, while there are four afternoon departures in the opposite direction from Silverton. What seemed to work best for us was the first train leaving at 0730 from Durango, arriving around 1000 in Needleton. We took the 1630 train from Needleton back to Durango, arriving there around 1900. The fare is dollar 60.- roundtrip for adults, half price for children under 12. There was no need to make advance reservations, we purchased the tickets the day before our departure. The trip is quite nice, the track runs along the Animas River, partly in a narrow gorge.
Route description:
First, from Needleton to Chicago Basin:

Immediately after getting off the train, one crosses the Animas River on a good foot bridge. The trail then runs south (right) for a little less than 1 km to the point where the trail along the Needle Creek heads east up the valley. There is a trail register near this point. The trail climbs gently as it stays north of the creek. This trail is about 10 km long. As it approaches Chicago Basin, there is a smaller (less heavily used) trail that crosses the creek and heads for Columbine Pass. Do not take this trail, but continue straight. A bit further along the trail forks, there is a cairn at this point. The right fork leads to a good (and popular) area for camping a short distance further, while the left fork of the trail starts the climb towards Twin Lakes. After the first hill this (latter) trail reaches a somewhat more level area, this is the highest possible campsite. There is a sign next to the trail at this point saying that camping is not permitted higher up, including anywhere in the Twin Lakes basin. We established our BC in this area, as high as possible given these regulations.

Second, from Base Camp in Chicago Basin to Mount Eolus:

Follow the trail passed the sign that indicates the camping boundary. Cross the creek and climb steeply. After a slightly easier slope, the trail again climbs steeply with a tiny creek immediately on the left hand side. As soon as the slope again eases, leave the trail (that heads to Twin Lakes) and ascend the slope going left into the basin under the east face of Eolus. There is a good trail coming across from Twin Lakes, this trail stays high under the distinct rocks above (on the right), therefore one should keep gaining elevation until one reaches this trail. Follow this trail as it climbs high into the basin, there may be some snow left at the very end. The trail ends at a broad ledge that goes right and provides a clear and good passage to an upper basin just below North Eolus. One will arrive at the west end of this basin, which is also the higher end, there is a small lake at the eastern end. (This lake was still covered by ice when we visited.) From this west end, turn left and climb the rock saddle just left of North Eolus. This climb is easy class 3, there is an even easier route following some small ledges further to the right. When the ridge has been gained, walk along it across to Mount Eolus. This passage is the famous "Catwalk". The ridge is narrow, but quite level and easy to walk on. When reaching the slopes of Eolus, one should continue the climb along a system of ledges on the upper east face. We found it easiest to immediately gain "the second level ledge", by way of an easy scramble just after reaching the face. However, there are several routes in this area. The key is to climb up to a higher ledge in a spot where this is easy. From about half-way up, one should find a shallow "v-shaped" formation that leads diagonally up towards the left. Scramble up here (easy) all the way to a "pit" just below a small notch in the ridge. Ascend the ridge at this point and head right (north) to the highest summit.
Comments: I did this climb with Pål Jørgen, 12 years. We tried to complete a three peak climb the day before, by traversing directly from the Twin Lakes area on a good trail, however, when reaching the broad ledge to the upper basin, we had hail, rain and beginning thunder. The decision to abort and schedule the climb for next morning was easy. We started at 0545, reached the summit at 0745, had a good rest on the top watching two "neighbors" from Boulder crossing the Catwalk, then descended back down to the ridge and climbed North Eolus which was reached at 0900. We then returned to Base Camp at 1000, a total of 4:15.
We subsequently packed camp and hiked back to the Needleton train in the early afternoon. A leisurely walk that took a bit less than three hours.