North Eolus Route Guide | Another Tough Chicago Basin 14er
If you plan to climb Mount Eolus, you might as well add North Eolus to your plans as well. It only adds about 20 minutes to your trip to climb both peaks, as they’re separated by a small saddle and just a few hundred feet. As a Chicago Basin 14er, it’s hard to reach North Eolus, so it’s best to make your time there worthwhile. Plan your adventure with my North Eolus route guide below.
North Eolus Route Guide Fast Facts
North Eolus Route Guide - South Ridge
It’s harder to get to the Needleton trailhead than any other 14er trailhead… the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad provides train service to the location, which is how most people get there. Click here for information and buy tickets – make sure you call them and tell them you’re stopping at the Needleton stop. While you can do this trip without taking the train, it’s an extremely long backpacking trip only recommended for experienced hikers and backpackers.
My Mt Eolus Peak Route Guide begins in earnest from the Needleton train stop. You’ll see a few cabins and a bridge across the Animas River; grab your pack from the baggage car and hit the trail. Cross the bridge and take a right to get started.
A little less than a mile along this well-built and maintained trail, stay left at a junction, and shortly after officially enter the Weminuche Wilderness area. 5 more miles of hiking will bring you to the Chicago Basin area. I recommend following Needle Creek to find a good campsite, somewhere between 10,500 feet and 10,800 feet. This is a good place to stop for the night before your summit attempt. Mt Eolus will be visible above you at the end of the basin.
From your camp in Chicago Basin, continue along the trail towards the upper end of the basin. This is the same trail used to climb Sunlight Peak. Around 11,200 feet, take a left to reach the lower Twin Lake.
Continue along the trail, being mindful of a few rock slab sections where the route can be hard to follow. Finally get above tree line around 11,400 feet where you’re treated to a grand view of the route ahead. Make it across two stream crossings as your ascend up into the higher basin, finally reacing Twin Lake around 12,500 feet.
From the lake, Mt Eolus towers above you to your left. Follow the trail that heads towards Mt Eolus below a series of cliffs. Continue above 13,000′ as you approach the area where you’ll climb out of the basin. Just beyond some large slabs, you’ll see a large rock ramp that leads up and out of the basin, enter it to your right around 13,400 feet. While sections of this wide ramp can be sketchy, it should not exceed class 2+ difficulty. At the top, continue north from the ramp to reach a large flat area east of the ridge ahead of you.
Your next goal is to reach this ridge. Locate a notch in the ridge just above a short, green gully. While you have several options to reach it, the easiest and most direct route is straight up the green gully. Make it to the notch around 13,850 feet.
From the ridge, turn right and begin to scramble up the south face of North Eolus. The rock is very grippy and this section does not exceed an easy class 3 climb. The pitch will get more difficult, but not exceed class 3 as you near the summit.
From the top, enjoy unmatched views of the southern San Juans extending in all directions. Be sure you descend with enough time to reach tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a significant threat. I hope you found my North Eolus route guide helpful and informative for your climb!
My North Eolus route guide includes this topographical map of the trail and region. You can download this map on your phone or print out a copy to bring with you on your climb. Always bring some hardcopy map in case your digital version fails or breaks.
Use these two sources to check the weather conditions before your trip. Consider the temperature high and low, wind speed, precipitation, and whether there are any storm systems on the horizon to be aware of. No North Eolus Route Guide is complete without weather forecasts.
Hiking & climbing 14ers is an inherently high-risk activity – use my North Eolus route guide at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.
- Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
- Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
- Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
- Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
- Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
Hiking, scrambling and climbing up Colorado’s high peaks are inherently high-risk, dangerous activities. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my North Eolus route guide accept all risks associated with climbing 14ers and do not hold this website or any information they obtain from it liable for any accidents or injuries that occur while engaging in these activities on Colorado’s high peaks. It is each hiker or climber’s responsibility to research their route carefully, bring the ten essentials, and practice other safe practices, though even these precautions do not eliminate risk and danger. Visit these summits at your own risk.
About the Author: Alex Derr
Alex Derr is a mountaineer and blogger based in Denver Colorado. He is working to climb Colorado’s highest 100 peaks, and the 20 tallest peaks in California. He created The Next Summit to share advice, stories, history & reflections from the Colorado Rockies & Sierra Nevada. When not climbing, he is managing the Communications strategy at Visible Network Labs.