Backpacking to Chicago Basin with the Family

This past weekend I made the trip up to Chicago Basin again, only this time I did it with more of the family (7 of us total).

Thursday night I stayed at Orvis hot springs with my Brother, Mom, and step father.  It was a great way to relax and unwind after quite the past few weeks of stressful work packed on top of a 6 hour drive down to Ouray.  I would recommend the place to anyone (At least anyone that doesn’t mind a little nudity since it is a clothing optional resort).  I did wear clothes as it would probably be a little strange being naked around family.

Friday we met up with Mandy and Andrea in Ouray and picked up a few last minute supplies at a local store.  Then we went and checked out Ouray’s Box Cañon Falls where they do the ice climbing in the winter.  It’s pretty amazing watching the creek rage through that canyon.  After that short hike we headed over to Silverton and met the rest of the family.   After having lunch at the local Pickle Barrel, we gathered up our packs and 7 of us boarded the train headed for the Needleton train stop.  My Grandma, Sister, and two Nieces boarded another train a half an hour later and headed for Durango to stay the night.

That day we hiked most of the way up to Chicago basin but didn’t quite reach it.  Instead we stayed at a cool campsite that overlooked some thundering waterfalls.  Saturday we backpacked the rest of the way up to Chicago Basin.  That day we explored around the basin and took a look at some of the falls and mines, and got acquainted with the goats.  This year the goats seem to be less afraid of people and more addicted to urine.  Pretty unfortunate.  They almost act like crack addicts do.  They get all fidgety when you are around and are super paranoid, yet they will do about anything to just get a lick of those rocks.

Sunday Morning Spencer and I headed out for our attempts at summiting 14ers.  The first one we headed for was Mt. Eolus.  After hiking up to Twin Lakes we reached the base of some pretty big snowfields.  We watched as a group of hikers tried to make it through the snow and it seemed to take them forever just to gain a few feet since they were wading and post holing through the snow.  After seeing their struggle we decided to take a route to the right that was still in the shade and the snow was hard.  We strapped on our new crampons and made our way up the steep slope.  Trying to kick step into the snow I slid a few times since it was so steep, luckily I was able to stop myself with my ice axe.  Then I figured out if I side stepped up the hill my crampons held much better.

IMG_1069After reaching the top of the snowfield it was time to cross the catwalk which wasn’t too wide but both sides of it had a pretty extreme drop off on both sides.  If you look closely at this photo you can see a group of people crossing the catwalk to gain the upper part of Mt Eolus.

After this it was a fairly easy climb to the top of Mt Eolus where we enjoyed the views while hanging out with a few other climbers and one fat marmot.  After that we headed down and did a short hike to the summit of North Eolus.

Then it was time for the fun slide down the snowfields we had climbed earlier.  The slope was so steep it made it very difficult to control how fast I was going or where I was going.  But luckily I made it down with only a major case of frozen ass.  It took us hours to get up and only a half an hour or so to get back down to twin lakes.

After making it down to twin lakes it turns out we had perfect timing and met the rest of our group there who was just doing that as a hike.  We sat down and had lunch and chatted for a while before Spencer, Andrea, and I headed up for our attempt of Sunlight Peak.  Only to be turned back less than 1/4 of the way up by a nasty storm.

After a nap and hanging out at camp, we heard a helicopter fly up the canyon.  We all rushed out into the field to see what was going on.  The helicopter circled around the area for nearly 15 minutes trying to find whatever it was looking for and then finally touched down not far from our camp.  We all made way to see what was going on.

After finding the helicopter we learned that a 17 year old boy had fallen from a cliff and had been there for several hours since the ranger’s walkie talkie was out of batteries.  Luckily they had eventually found someone with a Sat Phone that was able to call for help.  Unfortunately the boy had to sit in pain for over 4 hours before the helicopter was actually able to reach him.  With the help of many of the hikers up in the basin they were able to get the boy off of the hill and down into the helicopter and off to the hospital.  I can’t seem to get those disturbing images out of my mind these days.  I just hope he will be able to make a full recovery from his many injuries.  Here is a link to the news story that the Durango Herald ran about the accident

The next day we made our way out of the back country and back into civilization.  I arrived in Denver with my nephew just in time to watch the fireworks light up the skies of Denver.  I made it home after picking up Zip just after midnight.  Boy am I ever dragging ass today at work…..

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One thought on “Backpacking to Chicago Basin with the Family

  1. Kyle says:

    Hello from Arkansas! I just got back from the holy cross wilderness,,,,everything above 11000 feet was snow covered and frozen. I am planning on hiking up into the Chicago Basin in 10 days (mid July)…what can I expect to find at the Basin?

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