| Windy then perfect on Democrat-Cubbie‘s 1st 14er
Elevation: 14,148' (28th in CO)
Round trip distance: 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,300'
Starting Point: Just below Kite Lake TH
Route: East Slope
Crew: Chicalorado (me), my brother Tom and Cubbie
As some of you may know, my Portuguese Water Dog, Cubbie, finally turned one a couple of months ago. Since then, I've been slowly working him into longer hikes with the ultimate goal of having him accompany me on the Class 1 & 2 14er ascents. With a couple of longer outings earlier this month, I deemed him ready. The question then shifted to where.
I eventually settled on Democrat. It had all the criteria I was looking for this time around: close to Denver, camping close to the trailhead, a class 2, and an option to head to Cameron, Lincoln and Bross if we were feeling strong. I also thought it would be appropriate since our fine President recently got a Portuguese Water Dog.
After packing up, the three of us left Denver around 6pm on Thursday. We made pretty good time and pulled into our camping spot around 8pm. Looking up at Democrat, there were some interesting low hanging clouds rolling in and out very quickly.
Clouds rolling in around Democrat's false summit.
We pitched the tent, started a fire and had a few beers before heading in for the night around 10:30pm, right around the time the weather started to become foul. The temperature had dropped quickly, and some heavy wind was starting to howl. We attempted to get some sleep, but the wind would not quit. The flapping of the rain fly, coupled with the wind hissing through the tent kept us up the entire night. I really don't think I was able to drift off longer than maybe ten minutes the entire night. Sometime in the middle of the night, it began to snow as well, and left a thin layer everywhere.
We had originally planned to be on the trail at 6am, but because of the lack of sleep and not wanting to get out of the warm sleeping bags, we didn‘t actually get up until 6. We packed up the tent, ate, got our gear together, and were on the trail an hour later. At the Kite Lake campground, we met another hiker who told us the wind had snapped his tent poles overnight and didn't sleep either. At least we weren't alone.
We crossed the snow bridge over the stream, and began the ascent. The trail just past Kite Lake was covered in snow in some parts, but it is still extremely easy to navigate and does not require crampons.
Past Kite Lake, hiking up some snow.
The trail continued up with Democrat's false summit looming over us.
Looking up at Democrat's false summit just past the Kentucky Belle mine around 12,500'.
We met two sets of climbing groups already on their way down. The first had turned around at the Democrat/Cameron saddle because the wind was too strong and they were not prepared for it. The second set made it to Democrat's summit, but they said they were in the clouds the whole time and had no view. We hoped our experience would be a little better than theirs.
After some switchbacks, we made it to the Democrat/Cameron saddle. The temperature had started to rise, the sun was shining periodically, and the wind was nowhere near as intense as the night before. However, the skies were still pretty overcast, although everything was moving fast. At this point the snow now covered the remaining route. The snow was firm and bootpacked, so it provided easy travels. We continued on.
Looking up at Cameron at the Democrat/Cameron saddle.
Tom with Cameron behind, just past the saddle around 13,500'.
Bootpack heading up to the false summit.
Although I had studied the route and read up on all the trip reports, for some reason I had forgotten about the false summit. I rallied my brother and we made a good push, only to realize we had more to go. "Yeah I forgot about that false summit." We looked up at the true summit and it was blanketed in white clouds. At least the view here at the false summit was clear.
Looking southeast toward Alma on the false summit.
We knew we didn't have too much further to go, and the end was in sight. We continued up the bootpacked snow and reached the summit at 9:30am. As soon as we stepped foot onto the summit, the clouds disappeared, the wind turned silent, and the conditions were absolutely perfect. Surprisingly, there was no one else at the summit and no one else in sight! I was excited for Cubbie as this was his first 14er. He seemed pretty excited too and had some fun running around the top a bit. I had him sit on the true summit and shot possibly the greatest picture I've ever taken.
Cubbie on Democrat's summit. His first 14er!
Obligatory summit shots.
Cub and me on the summit, 14,148'.
The whole climbing party on the summit.
I've heard from many people how unappealing these mountains are, but when tipped with snow in this picture perfect weather, the scenery was alright to me!
Cameron and Lincoln.
Looking toward Bross.
Cool cornice just off of Democat's summit.
SE toward Alma on the summit.
We discussed what our options were, and decided that we were probably too fatigued from lack of sleep to do the rest of the DeCaLiBron. Besides, I didn't want to push Cubbie too hard his first time on the high peaks. And to top it off, the weather was just too perfect to not sit down, soak in the scenery, and enjoy a fine Colorado microbrew.
Ska Brewing advertising with the Calibron behind.
Around 10:45am the crowds started to come in. At first a two person climbing party who we traded picture taking duties with, then a pair of skiers who were planning on descending the North face. We decided to give them the peace and serenity of an uncrowded summit like we had and began our descent. Once we made our way past the false summit, many more climbing parties came into view.
Now snowshoes, crampons and an ice axe were not needed, but trekking poles are almost a must. They might have been the most useful out of all of the hikes I've ever brought them. The snow had started to soften under the bright sun, and glissading was going to be prime. My brother had never glissaded before, so I lent him one of my poles and showed him the "art" of the glissade. We stepped off the false summit, sat down and away we went. An ice axe was not necessary as the snow was soft enough to dig your heels in and stop immediately if need be. After our second glissade, Tom was hooked. We discussed how the day had made us completely forget about how awful the night was before.
Cubbie watching Tom do some glissading.
We continued on glissading until we ran out of snow. There was a little talus hopping inbetween glissades where the poles again came in handy. There was a small bit of postholing, but nothing that was even remotely demoralizing.
Looking toward Bross on the descent. I thought the line on the left would be fun to ski.
We reached part of the dirt switchback, removed our boots and tried to squeeze our socks dry. I guess gaitors might be next on my gear purchase list. The rest of the descent was for the most part uneventful, with two more short glissades. At this point, the snow had softened considerably and it was getting tougher to get some speed. Eventually we reached the edge of the lake.
Tom with Democrat's false summit behind.
We again crossed the snow bridge across the stream, only this time I noticed how beautifully the stream had cut into the snow.
The stream near the trailhead.
We got back to the car at 12:15pm and all the snow from the night before was gone. We changed, had another beer, and we were off. We reached Denver around 4pm after a longer than expected lunch stop in Fairplay.
Democrat (just left of center) and it's false summit from our campsite.
All in all, it was 2.5 hours up, 1.25 hours on the top, and 1.5 hours down. Overall, a successful, fun adventure. 14er #7 for me, #2 for my brother, and #1 for Cubbie.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):