Mount Eolus and neighboring North Eolus are rocky peaks in the Needle Mountains, a remote subrange in the San Juan Mountains. The 14,083-foot mountain is the 33rd highest peak in Colorado, while 14,033-foot North Eolus is an unranked Fourteener since it lacks 300 feet of prominence above the saddle with Eolus. Topographer Franklin Rhoda of the Hayden Survey named the mountain for the Greek god of winds in 1874. Eolus along with nearby Fourteeners Sunlight Peak and Windom Peak surround Upper Chicago Basin, an alpine cirque in the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Compared to other Colorado Fourteeners, Eolus offers a wild experience with few other hikers and fun Class 3 scrambling to its rocky summit.
- Half of the fun of climbing remote Mount Eolus and its neighbors is getting to Chicago Basin in the Needles. The best way is to take the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to the Needleton stop and the Chicago Basin railhead. The train snakes through a deep gorge carved by the Animas River to the Needleton stop in the middle of nowhere.
- From the railroad stop, cross a suspension bridge over the river and hike up the Chicago Basin Trail for about six miles to the basin. Good campsites are located just below timberline. Use Leave No Trace techniques when you camp in the fragile basin and properly dispose of human waste. Water is obtained from the creek but must be treated or boiled before use. Also stash your food in a bear canister to keep all kinds of critters like bears, marmots, and mountain goats away.
- Several routes ascend Mount Eolus from Chicago Basin. The 2.8-mile (one-way) standard route climbs into Upper Chicago Basin, then climbs grassy and rocky slopes to a final steep gully that ends at the 13,820-foot saddle between Mount Eolus and North Eolus. Finish by following the narrow ridge along a catwalk with dramatic drop-offs on each side with some Class 3 scrambling to the airy summit and its expansive views south to New Mexico.
- If you’re fit and have an early start, descend from Eolus and North Eolus into Upper Chicago Basin and climb 14,087-foot Windom Peak and 14,059-foot Sunlight Peak for a quadruple Fourteener day. Both are fun scrambles from the basin on rough trails that are easy to follow.
Recommended season(s): May through October.
—Stewart M. Green