On my quest for 12 peaks this summer I selected the "quadrilogy" of Mt Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross for the Independence Day weekend. I had originally planned this trip for Saturday, but due to scheduling conflicts I moved the climb to Sunday which worked out great weather wise.
I drove up to the vicinity of the trail head on Saturday night scouting out the terrain. There is still a substantial snowfield preventing hikers from driving all the way up to the trail head. It is approximately .75 miles from the parking lot.
Snow field before parking lot
I backed down the trail and searched for an appropriate camping site. I was not sure what the land classification and subsequent rules were about camping, but I saw atleast one other car setting up camp and a few empty locations that looked suitable. I aslo came across a 4x4 trail and was obliged to give it a run.
4 Wheelin' at Mt Dem
I set up my camp next to the creek. When I was purchasing my food supplies before leaving I noticed a large Off insect repellent display and laughed thinking to myself "there's no mosquitoes in Colorado." As I stepped out of my vehicle I was swarmed with the very mosquitoes I had denied the existence of. As I type this report I am scratching the aftermath.
Mt Dem Basecamp
By now it was dinner time so I cracked open my Ranger IPA, lit my stove, and enjoyed some boiled hot dogs. I brought my own firewood and was happy I did as there would not have been much to collect in the terrain. There was enough dried out brush to use for kindling wood. As my fire burned out the EENT (end of evening nautical twilight) came to a close and my eyelids felt heavy. I dowsed the fire with water from the creek and retired to my tent.
Image #4 (not yet uploaded)
I awoke at 4am with a walk off target of 5am. There was a bit of chill in the air and I enjoyed a bowl of warm oatmeal and a hot cup of tea as I jumped around and stretched out. After a field hygiene routine I packed up camp by the light of my headlamp and drove up the the snowfield once again. I was shocked at how light it was at 5am. I had anticipated hiking under the stars for the first 30 minutes or so, but this was not the case.
My pack was set up the day before so there was no prep needed at the trail head. I chugged a little Gatorade and walked off at 5:15 am. I greeted a fellow solo hiker that was departing around the same time I was. The snowfield was very firm at this early hour much to my delight. I was carrying snowshoes, but I was counting on the all the snowfields being firm enough to walk across.
The first part of the trek to Mt Democrat is a large snowfield. I moved to the right as soon as possible to get onto the rocks because I had begun post holing in the snow. Once on the rocks I rejoined the trail and it remained easy to follow. There was one vertical snowfield that I put on my crampons for saving me a substantial amount of time. Others found ways around this, but I question if there route was truly snow free. As I approached 13,000 feet the sun had begun crawling down the valley walls.
The ascent to Mt Democrat is pretty straight forward. A snowfield covers the trail on the southwest face of Mt Democrat but you can easily create a route around it. You will be scrambling across large rocks in a scree field. On the way down I chose to descend the steeper ridge line as a more direct route to the Mt Democrat Cameron saddle.
Mt Demorcat trail
Mt Democrat summit
The trail to the top of Mt Cameron was much easier to follow with no snow to speak of. Once on top the lack of prominence is obvious after just summiting Mt Democrat and looking on to Mt Lincoln. The wind had picked up and it was time to put on a jacket. This was a quick stop and I was off to Mt Lincoln.
Again the trail is easy to follow with little/no snow. The final climb to the summit is an easy class II. This was a nice stop on the south facing slope to avoid the wind while offering a good view of the final summit at Mt Bross.
Mt Lincoln summit
I was underway shortly and after crossing onto the south west side of the ridge out of the wind it was off with the jacket as the pace picked up on a relatively level traverse. There was one last snow field that was soft enough to kick step in my boots. The ascent to Bross was short and sweet....
...but the descent was agonizing. This was the highest risk terrain of the hike with loose footing and a slide down a steep scree field as the penalty. My knees ached with every step due to the overzealous 40lbs + that I was carrying on my back. The trail head is in view almost the whole way down which kept my spirits up.
I made it back down to the car at high noon (6:45 round trip) and chugged my remaining Gatorade. 6 peaks down this year and 6 more to go.