The Jagged, Pigeon & Turret Mts. Attempt
August 6, 2012 - Needleton to Upper Chicago Basin
The game plan called for G finishing the 14'ers and for me to pick up no less than three Centennials, leaving but two more before I finished Colorado's top 100. The trip was a success with regard to G finishing his goal but for me, my only finish was the conclusion of my 2012 fair weather climbing season. Regardless, we all three had a great trip, saw some wonderful country, and without a doubt, experienced the commraderie of the climbing experience.
We left Cheyenne on Sunday morning and made our way to Durango to catch the train to the Needleton trailhead the next morning. We had a good dinner, did the last of our shopping and were soon tucked away for a last night's sleep in a bed before what we figured would be no less than five nights under the "stars", if the fervent monsoon of 2012 would allow them to shine through. The next morning we paid the requisite parking fee, donned the packs and were off to catch the 9:15 train to Needleton. The packs went into the boxcar, and we caught a last bite to eat before taking our place on board to ride the 2 1/2 hours to our stop in the Weminuche wilderness.
I am a huge fan of the Durango & Silverton RR as a means to access the Needle Peaks area. This would be my fourth trip in by train. Prior trips allowed me to pick up Windom Peak back in 2002, then Sunlight and Eolus in 2003 and finally Jupiter and North Eolus in 2010. If completing the 14'ers includes the soft summits, I scored #59 by train, bringing a close to a 26 year effort. We left in fine weather, enjoying our places in one of the gondola cars, as the train first made its way along the road and the flats before turning off and passing through Rockwood and onward along the Animas River. We had heard rumor of many climbers coming to Chicago Basin this year but there were no other packs in the boxcar when we handed ours over at about 8:30. That was a good sign for sure.
The train arrived at Needleton at 11:45 and we got off, with about 30 other folks. Where they came from, I have no idea. Many years ago, I would have been in a rush to get the pack on my back and get moving up the trail but I've learned that the turtle always wins in this game. Let the gung ho crew do the hurry act and you take your time . . . because they will burn out for sure and you'll pass them on the way up the hill. My real concern was not being one of the last to get to Chicago Basin but being one who got to the Basin dry. The summer monsoon was steadily dropping rain on the Needles every day and had been doing so for weeks. We made this climb two years before and got dumped on on the way up Needle Creek and I really hoped to avoid doing so again. Sure enough, by the time we got a bit past New York Creek, the skies darkened and the rain started to fall. I donned the soft shell and within 15 minutes we were huddled under a dense stand of tress, hoping that the storm would back off so we could move on and stay dry.
The rains did relent and we made the Basin at about 4:45 or so, passing on the lower sites as we wanted to camp up near the Twin Lakes trail cut off to minimize the distance on the next day. We had a specific camp spot in mind and figured that with the creeks running a bit high, no one else would cross over to nail the Shangri-La spot. We were wrong. G crossed over and came back with a big thumbs down, noting the we had been beaten to THE spot by just a few minutes. We knew of some other spots near by but not as good and not as dry in the event of a good storm. He suggested that we might ask the other folks if we could join them on the promise of moving along the next day and the promise of a quiet night. I shrugged my shoulders and figured to ask and to apologize and leave if there was any sign of the other folks not wanting to share the spot.
Let me just say one large THANK YOU to Tyson and Amy for being the nicest folks we could ever share a camp spot with. The allowed us to use a portion of the site and by the end of the evening we'd shared conversation and our plans for the next day. Amy and Tyson were bound for Sunlight for Amy to score her next to last 14'er, needing only Capital to close up shop. We related that G needed only Windom to finish and that afterward we would move on over into Ruby Creek to pick up Pigeon and Turret and then cross over and descend Noname Creek to pick up Jagged. At least we sure hoped so as we were lugging a half climbing rack and 60m of rope to accomplish the Jagged climb safely. We'd read of folks doing Jagged without rope but we figured that Jagged was a long way back in and the last thing we needed to address was a fall resulting in a broken leg or some other malady that would pretty much ruin the trip and our collective days.
Dark came and after dinner we all settled into our respective tents . . . morning, a 14'er for G and a trip over Twin Thumbs Pass would all start soon enough.