Climbing Mount Eolus | 14er Route Info, Map & Advice

Looking for a challenge? With Mt Eolus, you’ve found one. This fourteener is a class 3 peak with a long, arduous approach hike that includes a train trip into the wilderness. Beyond that you’ve got exposure, route-finding and backpacking required for a safe and successful summit. This is not a good 14er for beginners – wait until you have some experience for this climb, and prepare and plan ahead using my Mt Eolus route guide below. Safe travels on the trail!

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Climbing Mount Eolus Fast Facts

Climbing Mount Eolus - Northeast 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. Those who do wish to hike should follow the Purgatory Creek Trail.

This route description begins at 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. Mount 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 reaching Twin Lake around 12,500 feet. Things only get toucher climbing Mount Eolus from this point onwards.

From the lake, Mount Eolus towers above you to your left. Follow the trail that heads towards Mount 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. You have almost finished climbing Mount Eolus, but the climbing gets more complicated from here.

From the notch, turn left to approach the “catwalk” portion of the climb. While this section is primarily class 2, there are a few spots that require simple class 3 moves. Take your time and head towards the peak along the ridge. Reach gentler terrain beyond the crux of this terrain.

The remaining 300 feet to the top includes a lot of route-finding and class 3 scrambling. The northeast ridge is directly above, but the easiest route to the summit is by climbing the east face, just left of the ridge. Turn left and traverse under rock walls on the east face until you come to the ledges along the face.

This crux of climbing Mount Eolus involves steep and exposed class 3 scrambling. Take care on the narrow ledges, zig zagging up the face without going too far in either direction. The climbing will get more difficult higher up, but still never exceeding class 3. Finally, at the top, scramble up on to the ridge and over to the summit.

Once you make it, enjoy your accomplishment and the summit views. Be sure you descend with plenty of time to reach the tree line before afternoon thunderstorms become a hazard. I hope you found my route guide helpful and informative for your planning needs. Safe travels on the trail and good luck climbing Mount Eolus.

Mt Eolus Route Guide

A topographic map is essential for climbing Mount Eolus, allowing you to locate your position and navigate through difficult terrain to stay on route. I recommend downloading a copy of this map on your phone and printing out a backup copy in case something happens to your electronics. Bringing a compass and GPS app or unit is also a good idea while climbing Mount Eolus.

Use these 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 moving in that you should be aware of.

Mountain Forecast for Mt Eolus

Below is the full National Weather Service forecast for the Mount Eolus area. I highly recommend that you read it thoroughly to prepare before climbing Mount Eolus.

If you are taking the railroad, be sure you arrive at the correct station. Double-check your ticket if you are not sure.

DIRECTIONS TO THE RAILROAD PARKING LOTS:

DURANGO: Long term parking in Durango is available in our large lot adjacent to the train yards. Parking is $10.00 per day for passenger cars and $15.00 per day for RV’s. You will need to pay for each day your vehicle will be in the lot. By city ordinance, overnight camping is not allowed in our parking lot. Click here for more parking information.
 
SILVERTON: You are invited to park your vehicle at the Silverton Depot on 10th & Cement Streets at no charge. (Note: D&SNG does not assume any responsibility for your vehicle.) This is a few blocks away from where you board the train. You may want to drop off the rest of your party and gear closer to the train and then park the car.

There are a few types of gear you will need while climbing Mount Eolus if you want to increase your chance of a safe and successful ascent. Here’s what I recommend bringing with you for this fourteener.

Read all of my gear reviews and recommendations by clicking here.

Camping near Mount Eolus:

There are no organized campgrounds in the Chicago Basin area, however, dispersed camping is available below the lakes in the higher parts of the Basin. Please follow all signage and area closures while selecting a campsite.

Lodging near Mount Eolus:

There are many cabins available via Airbnb and other services in Durango, Silverton, and the surrounding area, ideal for those hiking Windom Peak.

Mount Eolus is located in a pristine wilderness area that faces an increasing number of visitors with each passing year. Help preserve these peaks for future generations by following these Leave No Trace practices while climbing Mount Eolus.

  • Plan ahead, review the route and pick a weekday or day in September to hike.
  • Stay on the trail, and keep dogs leashed on and off-trail to reduce trampling of alpine grass.
  • Leave your Bluetooth speaker at home and let nature’s sound reign.
  • Urinate off-trail, and pack out your waste – a cathole won’t work at high altitude.
  • Give wildlife a wide berth – 100 meters if possible. If they approach, back up to keep space.
  • Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.

Safe travels, and good luck climbing Mount Eolus! Learn more about LNT on 14ers here.

Mount Eolus is named after the Greek God of the wind. While it was originally spelled “Aeolus” in the 1874 survey, the name was spelled “Eolus” by the 1878 Wheeler Survey just a few years later. It is a moderate-difficult class three peak in the Chicago Basin group, located within the Needles sub-range of the San Juan Mountains in southern Colorado.

Climbing Mount Eolus is an inherently high-risk activity – do so at your own risk, and use the following best practices to help keep yourself safe.

  1. Research your route and bring a compass & topographic map.
  2. Check the weather forecast and stay home during inclement weather.
  3. Bring the Ten Essentials and the knowledge/skill to use them.
  4. Leave your plans with someone back home along with a detailed itinerary.
  5. Start early, and end early: Be back at tree line by noon to avoid lightning.
  6. Bring a buddy on your first ascent, preferably someone experienced.

NEW TO 14ERS? CHECK OUT MY BEGINNERS GUIDE FOR A SAFE FIRST SUMMIT!

Climbing Mount Eolus is an inherently high-risk, dangerous activity. There is a significant risk of injury or death, even with proper planning and experience. Those using my 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.

Alex Derr, Creator of The Next Summit

Alex is an Eagle Scout and mountaineer living in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. You can subscribe to his Next Summit Newsletter here.

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