July 31st, 2010
Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln, Mt. Mountain That Shall Not be Named
Round two for the year. I was not actually sure if I would really get to make this trip; the best made plans of mice and men and all. With my parents in town for a couple of weeks Karen was able to get away with me for this hike. This was her first time away from our son, and the first time we were both away from him overnight at the same time. We left Friday night after work, to avoid having to get up early and make the long drive then hiking. We missed the turn off in Alma to the Kite Lake trailhead, after turning around we spent a few minutes searching the darkened streets for an almost non-existent street sign. The road up to the trailhead was pretty bumpy. Passable is a passenger car, but I'm not promising how your suspension will be once you reach the end. There were a few tight turns that you would not want to swing to wide on. There is a small parking fee at the trailhead, but well worth it for the nicely kept bathroom. We tucked the truck in between the other vehicles already there and hit the hay.
My alarm went off at a quarter to five hoping for an early start. But with the sky still being filled with night and only one head lamp between us, I decided to snooze a little longer. About 45 minutes later we rolled out of the truck, made breakfast and packed up for the day. The parking lot was starting to come awake as well. A few new cars were slowly filing into the parking lot. We passed a sleeping form in a sleeping bag as well left the trailhead.
50 yards out of the trailhead we had a 8 foot stream crossing. The water was moving really briskly for this late in the year. Form the crossing the trail headed northward, skirting Kite Lake. The trail started off fairly level but began climbing at about the half way point. At the end of the first steep sections were the remains of old mining buildings. From here the trail made its way across an open bowl beneath Mt. Cameron before beginning to climb up to the saddle between Cameron and Mt. Democrat. The relatively plentiful remaining water often found its way to the trail, leaving rivulets of water to great us as we climbed higher.
From the saddle between the two peaks we got a great view of Quandary Peak to the north. With the sky looking nice and blue we left the saddle and headed up to Democrat's summit. I thought I was able to see the summit from the saddle, so you can imagine my disappointment upon reaching what I thought was going to be the summit only to top out and see the true summit another quarter mile or so away. The hike to the true summit provided no difficulties. I was surprised to find a small snow field remaining just past the false summit. There were about 15 people on the summit (14,148') when we arrived just after 8 a.m.. Already, at this early hour the peak were beginning to get busy. With a long day ahead of us, we took our quick victory photos and began the descent back down to the saddle. If we thought the summit was crowded, the trail was much worse. We passed a steady stream of hikers on their way up.
Back at the saddle we passed a family with a five year old, who was doing his first 14er. Hopefully our little one will love the outdoors enough to want to try one at such as early age. He is already showing promise though. After another quick breathers we headed up towards Cameron. The trail turned out not to be as bad as it looked. A steady climb found us at Cameron's "summit" just a little over an hour after summiting Democrat. The summit was very anticlimactic. Really nothing more than a football field size scattering of small rocks. Even though its elevation is 14,238', higher than Democrat, it does not count towards the official 54 due it the lack or elevation change to get to it. Climb your own climb I guess. Cameron does serve as the gateway to Mt Lincoln.
To reach Lincoln, we scooted down a short, lose scree slope on Cameron's east side to a small level area. This small flat area reminded me of something you would see on an African desert. The trail then followed along the north side of a ridge leading up along the western side of Mt Lincoln. As the ridge narrowed the trail headed closer to the ridge's back bone. About 50 yards before the summit the trail enters into a blocky section that climbs steeply. Karen decided this was far enough for her (due to the exposure) and I went alone to Lincoln's summit (14,286'). This was a proper summit, with incredible views in 360°, but once again I had lots of company. With one more summit to go before I rested, I had a quick picture taken and retreated downward to join Karen.
We headed southward back towards Cameron, but stayed low once we hit the bottom the scree field we originally came down. From this point the trail turns southward towards another mountain that will remained unnamed due to possible legal issues. I will neither confirm or deny whether we made the summit of this unnamed mountain. But if we would have made its summit I bet it would have been a great place to take a long lunch break after summiting the 4th 14er of the day. I have heard rumors that there is a 4WD road to the summit of this unnamed mountain. And that many times hikers have been passed by jeeps and motorcycles as they work their way to the summit. Each to their own, when it comes to how to reach a summit.
The Mt Bross bypass trail follows below the western edge of its summit. The trail is narrow and falls off sharply to the west side. One wrong step, and you are going for a long, unpleasant ride. The trail works itself around to the south side of Bross and into a loose gully. Here we lost the official trail, and followed the trail of the 2 groups in front of us. This was the lose, scree filled gully that Jon and Doug had warned me about. With each footfall, the scree keep going taking us another foot or two downwards. Where the scree was small, this sliding actually became fun once you got into a rhythm. Where the rocks were larger, our pace definitely slowed down. Our legs were much relieved when we finally regained the trail at the bottom of the trail. From this point to the trailhead is was a pretty casual stroll.
Volunteers were out working on trail maintenance. Rerouting several sections and replanting worn vegetation. Almost back to the trailhead, the trail past beside a beautiful waterfall. Once again wildflowers were abundant on this lower section, making for a great ending to a great day. As we got back to the truck the sky over a ridge to the south was looking darn and ominous. We had managed to beat the weather to complete an incredible outing.