Ascent of Sunlight Peak on 2008-08-07

Climber: Patrick Lilly

Others in Party:Trisha Conlon
Date:Thursday, August 7, 2008
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Sunlight Peak
    Elevation:14059 ft / 4285 m

Ascent Trip Report

Climbed this one via the standard route from a camp in lower Chicago Basin, where we had spent the previous night after hiking up from Needleton. We tried to get underway by 5 am MDT, and actually got off at 5:40. After half an hour or so, we dispensed with the headlamps.
All morning, the sun kept trying to break up, but we got only brief teases of real sunlight. At least it wasn't raining or windy, and we hiked in relatively light clothing.
There are reliable cairns virtually all the way to the top, and it's a good thing: After reaching the Sunlight Peak/Sunlight Spire saddle and turning left, it's difficult to see very far ahead, and impossible to see the true summit. The last 300 ft. or so of climbing involves some steep crack climbing with large steps; fortunately the rock is generally quite good. But you'll definitely use your hands. This is definitely at least a tough Class 3, and Class 4 will be required if you get significantly off-route.
The route from the saddle winds clockwise around the base of the summit block, before popping out onto the summit ridge. One thing we had not read about was the "tunnel" through which one must climb to make the final approach to the summit register. It isn't really difficult, but it's weird. After that, you just walk over to where the benchmark and register are located.
But then, of course, there's the little matter of getting up onto the true high point. I took the "leap of faith" route (climber's right) instead of the steep slab climb (climber's left). It's just as advertised: It's not technically difficult, but you have to launch yourself over the gap with some momentum, because the boulder on the other side slopes back toward you, and you have to keep your weight moving past the impact point to gain a secure stance on the actual top of the rock. Then there's a smaller climb onto the true summit. I made it, using my height to help me span the gap in both directions. Trisha demurred, but that's okay.
This was a long cherished, and long deferred, dream for me, so it felt very good. Fourteener #37 for me, #35 for Trisha.
We took helmets, crampons, and ice axes, but never used any of them. Then we set off for Windom Peak (see separate ascent report).
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3409 ft / 1038 m
    Elevation Loss:3409 ft / 1038 m
    Distance:6.5 mi / 10.5 km
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Low Clouds
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3009 ft / 917 m
    Extra Loss:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:3 mi / 4.8 km
    Route:Twin Lakes, red gully
    Trailhead:lower Chicago Basin  11100 ft / 3383 m
    Time Up:4 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:3359 ft / 1023 m
    Extra Gain:400 ft / 121 m
    Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Route:Windom Peak, Twin Lakes
    Trailhead:lower Chicago Basin  11100 ft / 3383 m
    Time Down:7 Hours 

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