Date: Thursday Feb 9, 2012
Time: 7:30am – 3:30pm
Stats: ~9 miles, 3100 vertical
Crew: SilverLynx, SurfNTurf, Yikes
Team 3J – Jennie, Jeff and Jim attempt a winter ascent of Decalibron.
Another early morning. Up at 3:50am to make the 45 min cross-town drive to the Morrison Park N Ride for the scheduled 5am meetup. I volunteered to drive the Trooper in case we needed some clearance up a snowy road. MapQuest showed the I-70 drive to Alma to be 8 minutes longer than 285. Figuring there would be more deer to dodge on 285, we jumped on I-70 and headed west. In hindsight it might have been wise to check the road conditions first; I-70 ended up being snow packed and the drive took an extra 30min.
Our second choice of the morning was the route. Should we take the familiar Kite Lake route or break trail on the unknown Quartzville route. The advantage of the latter is that we would ascend Lincoln first. I tagged Democrat and Bross in a prior winter trip, but elected to skip Lincoln to conserve my energy for the descent. Also, a recent trip report indicated that the road to Kite Lake might be passable above the normal winter closure. So we choose Kite Lake due to familiarity and the hope for a higher winter closure. Turns out the road was closed at the normal winter closure and we had to deal with the 5 mile round trip slog up the road.
Getting ready at the winter closure.
The morning started out snowy and breezy. The weather report promised better conditions later in the day. Turns out they were wrong and we would have to claim Democrat in full on winter conditions.
The hike up the road went fairly smoothly, alternating patches of dry roadbed and snow drifts. It was about fifty-fifty on whether snowshoes helped or hurt. The outhouse at the lake was conveniently open, if you don’t mind sharing it with a 2 foot snow drift.
A few weeks too late.
Jeff thinking about some other mtn.
We quickly hiked up the hill above the lake and approached the only questionable slope. The snow showed no signs of instability, so we practiced safe travel and quickly traversed one by one, and heading into the upper basin.
Up the hill
Crossing the slope
The summer trail isn’t very easy to follow in winter, so we hopped a few thousand rocks and eventually made it up to the home stretch. The wind picked up and was making white-out conditions; it was hard to tell where the ground ended and the sky began. Fortunately the route is fairly straightforward and we continued to the summit without much visual guidance.
The summit was very cold and very windy. It wasn’t a good day to hang out and eat lunch. It was the kind of day where you touch the summit rock and turn tail. No pictures were taken on the summit. We quickly decided that Lincoln and Bross would have to wait for another day. We were moving too slow, we were too cold and conditions would have likely left us on the mountain in the dark.
It was disheartening leaving the 13,400 foot saddle, knowing the effort it will take to get back to Lincoln. The descent down the talus was cautiously slow and fortunately uneventful.
Everyone was happy to get off the rocks and onto the snow and dirt above Kite Lake. The snow and wind continued to the car, at which point we finally saw some blue sky.
Scenic place for a break
285 was dry and the drive back to Denver went quickly. Unfortunately the same could not be said about the drive across town during rush hour. 90 minutes. Ugg, welcome back to civilization.