Sunday, June 24, 2012


Mt Goat with Quandary Peak

On Monday we hiked Mount Elbert, on Tuesday we hiked to Cub Lake at RMNP, so why not go for our first 4fer on Wednesday?  Most people refer to it as the Decalibron.  There are 4-14ers within an 8.5mile circuit with only gaining a total elevation of 3,100ft.  Sounds like a good way to knock some of the most popular 14ers off the list all at once to me.  A few weeks prior this was my plan as well, but with the winds gusting to 70mph I only hiked Mount Democrat.  I wanted to go back and do all four peaks together so I could at least get 3,000ft gain in one day.  We were both feeling good, so on Wednesday morning at 5am we were off towards Fairplay, Colorado. 

Kite Lake from Bross saddle
It was nice that the drive was not so long today.  From home in Centennial it is about 1.5hrs to Fairplay.  From Fairplay it is 6 miles north to Alma where the turnoff is for Kite Lake.  We noticed as you drive into Alma there is a sign stating this is the highest occupied town in the US, somewhere in the 10,500ft range.  Alma reminded me of driving through Mackay, ID back home.  Soon we hit the one stop sign and made the left turn towards Kite Lake.  This 6 mile road to the lake is the worst part of the drive.  There are some nasty sections of wash board road that are never fun.  A little after 7am we arrived at the Kite Lake parking lot.  We elected to pay the $3 user fee for the day since there was a nice clean bathroom above 12,000ft and we had no desire to walk a few hundred yards down the road for the free parking off the road.  Of course Dad had to make a note of this probably being one of the highest bathrooms in the United States.  Only when you get to his age do you think of such things.

There were already four or five cars in the lot and a few other people were arriving when we were getting ready.  I would guess that this is one of the most popular 14er locations in Colorado.  They are easy to hike from one to four mountains in a day and any 2WD car can make the trailhead.  The bonus is, Kite Lake is just above 12,000ft so the gain if you just hiked Democrat is barely over 2,000ft.  When I was here in the bad wind a few weeks ago I probably still saw 30 people in the area, and today would be no different.  Maybe even more people with the great weather conditions, but I had no desire to start counting heads.

Mount Democrat

Mount Democrat from Bross saddle

Democrat is the first mountain to hike in the loop.  Since I had hiked it a few weeks ago I wasn’t sure I was going to include this one.  I guess I couldn’t let Dad go tag another 14er without me so I decided to do the loop with all four peaks.  From the TH I got tired of waiting for Dad who was taking scenic pictures of Kite Lake so I started up the trail.  I was moving a lot better than I thought I would be today, which was much faster than my previous hike.  Moving along at my pace I didn’t rest till I was near one of the larger cairns above the first major rise.  I believe it is in the neighborhood of 800ft vertical to that point. From here I waited for Dad to catch up so we could continue on together.  The trail was in great shape the whole way.  It turns mainly to rock on the upper portion, but the TH is so high the entire day is spent above tree line.  It took us just about an hour to reach the saddle that splits Democrat and Cameron.  By this time there were a few groups of younger bodies passing us on their way down from Democrat and onto Cameron.

Area to explore to the north

It took us another hour to reach the summit.  There was still a bit of snow from the false summit across to the true summit, but there was a well beaten path to follow.  It was nice having the summit to ourselves, which was different from a couple weeks ago.  The weather was near perfect so we hung out on top for about 20 minutes.  I could start recognizing the area a bit better now.  It seemed like a stones throw down to hwy 91 that took us to Elbert a few days earlier.  Soon we were off to Cameron the second 14er, but I should note it is unranked being its prominence is not 300+ feet.

Mount Cameron

While descending Democrat to the saddle that splits it from Cameron there is a great view at the trail we would be hiking shortly.  From the look of it, it didn’t seem that Cameron would be as far away as it actually was.  The trail was in good shape, but I may name it the never ending trail.  I’m not sure how long it took us from the saddle, somewhere around an hour I would guess.  There were plenty of false rises that just continued to the next one.  For the most part the hiking was easy and we stopped only once for a minute behind what turned out to be the first false summit.  The summit area is nothing to get excited about.  It seemed as if it were as big as a football field with some little rollers.  The views were amazing though.  This was our first look at Mount Lincoln which looked rather impressive compared to the others.  We had a snack and chatted with another hiker who was from Colorado Spring, then took off for Lincoln where we planned to have lunch.

Mount Lincoln

Mount Lincoln from Bross saddle

Lincoln looked so close from Cameron, and it was.  It probably only took us 30 minutes for us to summit.  Overall it took us a bit longer because we ran into our first Colorado Mountain Goat.  We stopped and took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed viewing some wildlife.  I ended up only getting one good picture, but that’s usually how it goes.  One day I will get a real camera and actually learn how to use it.  Only a 10 minute hike from the spotting to the summit.  The summit block was neat because it was an unusual kind of granite.  There was a bunch of other rocks fused into the granite, which I found rather interesting.  In the geology world I think these are Phenocrysts, but am not certain.  If I was smart I would have got a detailed picture to show, but I didn’t.  The entire summit area was covered with these rocks, the only other non rock we found was the benchmark made of steel.  All of the other mountains were on private land, so there were no other benchmarks to be found today.

The views north were pretty impressive.  Quandary Peak looked enormous along with all the other 13ers in the neighborhood.  I can see myself making my way back to that area and exploring all the other mountains, trails and lakes.  We met another hiker on the summit, but he didn’t know much about the area so I was left guessing what the peaks were without the reference of a map.  For the whole trip we had been debating with each other weather we should summit Bross or not.  Technically Bross is closed to the public, and today we saw at least 10 groups on the summit, so we started heading that way and would decide to summit or take the trail back to the car once we got to the split.

Benchmark 1 on Lincoln

Benchmark 2 on Lincoln

Mount Bross

Mount Bross from Cameron

From Lincoln it was a good walk to get across Cameron then pass the low saddle dividing Cameron and Bross.  For the most part the trail seemed level or close to it till getting to the other side of the Bross saddle.  I’ll note that there really isn’t much of a saddle either, just a long drawn out road up high on a ridge.  We continued to see people coming from Bross’ summit so we decided we would do a walk by on top.  After taking a breather near the saddle and getting some nice pictures of our route we were off.  I am typically not one for trespassing, so I already feel bad that we did go to the summit.  We walked the road to the top and without stopping continued down the trail on the other side till we were back in the public area.  The sad thing is Bross isn’t that exciting to look at, but it is a ranked 14er.   

The trail down from Bross to the parking lot was rather painful on my knees.  It was steep and had sections of loose scree and rock that took a bit to navigate.  We never really stopped, just kept making progress down.  This is typical for our descents; nobody really finds pleasure in this part of the day.  Once we got off the rock the scenery was pretty amazing.  There was a nice snow covered creek with beautiful greenery around and tons of wildflowers.  Of course this area drug Dad in with his camera while I just powered down to the car.  I should note that the range these mountains are in is called the Mosquito Range.  After arriving back at the car we found out why, with no wind and warm temperature it equals a lot of thirsty blood suckers.

Overall this was a easy hike that most anyone could do.  The gains were never too bad and with a popular area like this the path is beaten very well.  We laughed each time we passed a “closed for revegitation” sign, even at 13,000ft where there are only rocks.  Most of the area is on private property and the owners have allowed us to hike their property, so you do have to be respectful of where you are.  The most eventful part of the day came on the drive home.  About 10 miles out of Fairplay as we started climbing out of the valley I blew a flat tire.  Lucky for us the spare was full and it only took 20 minutes to change it out and be on our way.  So when I got home I hit up Costco and got a new set of tires better fit for the mountains.  Not sure what’s next but this puts me at 12-14ers this year, 23 total summits.  My goat is 50 summits this year so I’m almost half way there.
GPS Track

Date: 6/13/2012
Starting Elevation: 12,000ft
Mount Democrat 14,148ft, Mount Cameron 14,238ft, Mount Lincoln 14,286ft, Mount Bross 14,172ft
Total Gained Elevation: 3,100ft
Distance: 7.51 miles
Time:  5:40 moving, 1:56 stopped. 
Climbing Partner: Dad

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