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 Sunlight Peak:
From our high Base Camp just below the sign indicating the boundary
for camping, the trail continues up to Twin Lakes. The trail crosses a creek
and climbs steeply p a step, then more gently between a couple of more steps
before reaching the Twin Lake area. The trail continues up into the basin
between Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak. Take the right fork of the trail,
another fork leads deeper into the Twin Lake area. Climbing mostly on
the Windom side of the basin, the most distinct trail will indeed head
for Windom Peak. As soon as the basin has been reached, one should leave
the trail and go left, possibly with a small descent in order to continue
up the basin along its lowest line. Sunlight Spire with a very distinct
"thumb" as its highest point is visible between Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak,
but much closer to Sunlight. Head up the broad (south) face of Sunlight Peak,
mostly on scree and broken rocks, partly between some cliff bands. The route
is not very difficult to find, some quite promising "broken gullies"
head up a bit further to the left (they angle up towards the right).
After some initial gain, we found a good route by traversing a bit left
and then following these natural features. Higher up, the terrain
features larger boulders, as the number of possible routes shrink, one is
quite naturally led up some big boulders to a place where one sees a hole
under a large block of rock. Scramble up here and go through the hole.
As one exits there is a good ledge heading left, this route now easily
leads to the area immediately below the summit block. The summit register
is located in this area. To further gain the proper summit requires an easy
scramble up a tilted block to a ledge. The summit structure can be
observed from here. There is a huge hole under the summit towards the north,
a fairly smooth slab about 4 meters long tilts up to the left, a couple
of blocks provide an alternative route higher going right. The right route
is supposed to be the easier ( class 4), it ends with the need to cross an
exposed gap in order to get directly onto the summit. The left route
ends in a short, narrow ridge (only about 2 meter) that terminates at the
summit. We chose the left route. The climbing up the slab is relatively
easy, at least when dry. There are small holds and good friction. However,
downclimbing this kind of slab without a nice, level plateau below, is
more of a challenge. Two adults can easily do it, if one is left below
the slab to provide some support for the feet of the climber coming down
(using hands). I helped Pål Jørgen down in this way. However,
he could not support me, so I downclimbed using a couple of slings attached
on the top corner of the slab as an extra hand hold. (Pål Jørgen
then took this with him down).
Comments: I did this climb with Pål Jørgen, age 12. It took us two hours from our Base Camp to the summit register just below the true summit. We started at 0600 and since the sun was rising behind Sunlight Peak, we had the first sunlight of the day as we came to Sunlight Peak at 0800. We spent a full hour on and by the summit. We both climbed the actual highest point, enjoyed the scenery, the sun striking Sunlight Spire and the view north. The summit is indeed most suitable as a place to sit and enjoy the summits all around. To do a headstand on the summit (as was appearently done in 1920), seems pretty insane, there is basically only one "safe" direction to get down from such a maneuver.