Standard Decalibron: Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross (area). Round-trip time: exactly 6 hours parking lot to parking lot. I mention this not because we set any records but because it may be a helpful reference for planning purposes. We were a group of three, travelling at a moderate pace.
John, his brother-in-law Jeff, and I consolidated into one vehicle and pulled out of the Wendy's parking lot in Silverthorne (I-70 Exit 205) at 3:30am. Arrived in Alma at 4:15am and the parking lot at 4:30am, so door-to-door in 1 hour.
Dirt road to Kite Lake was dry - although rough - all the way to parking lot. Recommend high clearance vehicle. 4WD not necessary but a rental sedan may not make it. There's an option to park for free 1/4 mile before pay parking, which is $3.00 for a day permit ($10 for overnight camping). Nice toilet facility at parking lot.
When we arrived, the parking lot had ~10 cars for overnight campers plus three other cars of day hikers like us. It took us longer than we would have liked to get ready; we began walking at 5am with a light snow that turned to sleet but stopped 30 minutes in. Ominous conditions for any 14er outing so we were not optimistic about completing the Decalibron. We monitored fast-moving clouds throughout the morning but there was little vertical formation and we felt lucky to beat Mother Nature.
Prepare for a water feature 100 yards beyond trailhead: snow runoff has flooded the stream -- do your best to find a narrow spot to pass. Recommend using hiking poles to steady your way over slick river rocks. BRING AN EXTRA PAIR OF SOCKS in case you dip in -- not fun for a trip to be scuttled 5 minutes after setting out.
Wet grass and some remaining snow pack for the first 20 minutes. Recommend snow gaiters. Not sure how long it will take for snow fields to melt but I would suspect gaiters will be helpful for at least another 2 weeks. John and Jeff had gaiters and I did not. I dipped into snow and got snow in my boots multiple times on our route.
We reached the Democrat-Cameron saddle at 6:10am, took a break for trading picture taking with 4 nice flatlanders from Illinois and Indiana. We reached the summit of Democrat, stayed for only about 5 minutes and made it back down to the saddle at 7:45am. Black clouds we saw on the way up dissipated. Dark clouds moving quickly in a NE direction, clear of Cameron, so we decided to start up and watch weather carefully.
The trail to Cameron is in nice condition: crushed gravel with natural steps along the way. We could not find the US Geological Survey bench mark. The only thing that looks like a summit marker is a vertical rebar stake on the east side of this flat summit.
There’s an easy and relatively flat saddle from Cameron to Lincoln. We walked at a brisk New York City speed walk since we all had a nice altitude buzz with the joy of bagging two 14ers in such a short time on an easy morning. Lincoln had the only real exposure we encountered all day, and you can only get to it if you explore the jagged rock area that faces Bross. We ran into a father-son hiker combo and traded picture taking responsibilities.
We left the Lincoln summit at 9am, watching clouds with increasing vertical development moving towards us quickly.
The steepest snowfield of the day was in a stretch directly below Cameron on the way to Bross. Crampons and gaiters would have been helpful, but it’s not worth lugging along crampons for this one short stretch. We reached the intersection of the Bross open/closed trail at 9:25am. We left the intersection at 10am. We estimated winds at 50-60 mph, strong enough to lean into them and do a partial superman without falling forward.
I read one report that was critical of the descent from the Bross intersection, but we had the opposite experience: the first 1/3 of the descent had moist gravel, which held well enough to prevent out of control sliding but was soft enough to cushion the blow of the descent. Reminded me of the descent from Mt. Kilimanjaro. John saw an old wooden comb next to the crumbled mining operations.
The middle 1/3 of the descent was over a snowfield, which gave us a fun glissade until we had to cross the running stream. After crossing the running stream the last 1/3 of the descent was through a beautiful meadow right out of the Sound of Music.
After navigating the overflowed stream, we reached the car at 11am and headed to the Dam Brewery in Dillon to celebrate with a Pale Ale.
This is a fun and easy hike – have fun!