| Decalibron Reversed
Although I spent my first 30years in Colorado backpacking, hiking and climbing around the state, I had never summitted a 14er…until two years ago. At that point I had been living out of Colorado for two decades as a result of, as Jon Krakauer put it, "..moved for a job, stayed for a girl and ended up with neither." After I turned 50, I decided if I haven't done everything in life I wanted to, I had better start now because the clock is moving fast. I committed to make a sojourn back to Colorado every summer and try to make at least one summit a year.
This year I decided to accelerate my list by summitting Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross. However, as many of you know who travel from out of state, you have to make plans early, book your trip and hope things work out. I became nervous early in July when I started seeing posts that the access road to Kite Lake was closed for construction. I resigned myself to settle for Elbert and Quandary if Decalibron was inaccessible.
When I arrived on the 26th I spoke to people around town and everyone told me the same thing: the Kite Lake access road was closed on weekdays, open only on the weekends. I drove to the road the next day and saw the signs. As I was standing there, staring blankly at the "Road Closed" signs, a dump truck pulled up to my right. The driver asked if I was trying to get up to the trailhead. I said "Yes" and he said "Hop on!" So I jumped on the sideboard of his truck and he drove me up to the construction site. We had a nice conversation about hiking in the area, what the crew was doing (replacing the main waterline to the City of Alma) and the prospects of getting up there the next day. He told me that the crew started working at 7am but they repair the road at the end of their shift. He said if I drove up before 7am or after 7pm, I could get to Kite Lake, the caveat, however, was that I wouldn't be able to get out until the crew knocked off for the day and filled in the trench.
Well, that was good enough for me. I was up at 4am and left Fairplay at 5am. I beat the crew by an hour and was on the trail at 6am. After reading several trip reports regarding the problems on the Bross descent, I thought it might be better to do the climb in reverse. This was a decision that I questioned once I got around the loop to Democrat. I prefer to get the hardest part of the climb over quickest, but by the time I got a real view of the descent from Cameron and the ascent to Democrat, I was not sure.
The weather was moderate when I started. Heavy clouds, but they were high clouds and I hoped things would clear. It had rained pretty hard the night before.
The trip up Bross was not horrible, until I came to the gully crossing. The hike up to the ridge looked pretty nasty. At the time I thought I had made the right decision, but the trail turned into a soupy mess of dirt and scree. It was not very fun. Once on the ridge, the ascent ahead seemed steeper than reported. Once I gained another 150feet the trail became more moderate. Bross is an ugly mountain. Not very interesting…the views are okay, but honestly, I could have skipped it.
I got to the cutoff in about 2hours. The weather started to change. It got very cold and I could see clouds to the north and northwest starting to drop. There were some short periods of sprinkles, but nothing scary.
The best part of the trip was Lincoln. Very fun hike, nice little push at the end and spectacular views. I was at the summit of Lincoln in about 2 ½ hours. After taking a few photos and having a snack, I returned down the saddle and hustled up Cameron. Cameron is a big wide top. Didn't feel like I was on a peak. While I was there I saw the clouds northwest of Democrat dropping. Suddenly there was a flash. Yup. There was some lightening in that cloud. I thought I'd better beeline it to the saddle in case things moved my way. Fortunately, the clouds ended up toward the north and except for an occasional 20 second whiteout and some spitting rain, a storm never materialized.
At this point I could clearly see the task ahead. The descent to the saddle and the ascent up Democrat was more daunting than I expected. My legs were starting to tire and I didn't relish the thought of dropping 1000ft and going up another 1000ft.
Once I got to the saddle, I seriously considered going down and coming back the next day to get Democrat. As I was contemplating it, two gentlemen from Minnesota stumbled off Democrat and we chatted for a while. They told me the route was steep, but not grueling. I felt like they were encouraging me to continue and get my fourth peak, although when we parted, one of them turned to me and said, "Are you sure you don't want to leave your pack down here?" Of course I thought about that comment all the way to the top!
Getting to the ridge at Democrat was an effort. I wasn't as bothered by the exposure as much as I thought I would be. It was the physical push that got me. Very tiring at this point. I rested for a few minutes on the ridge and then got the summit. It took me 5 hours. It was a great summit. Spectacular views. Great peak to spend time on. During this climb I had every peak for myself. I saw people on the trail, but nobody was on the summit with me. That was nice. Four peaks alone. (Of course, if someone was on Cameron, I might not even see them!)
The worst part of the trip was the descent from Democrat. I hate descending. My knees were killing me the entire time. It seemed SO LONG to the meadow, which has three levels of elevation drop. I would get to what seemed like a moderate slope and then..another staircase. I was cussing the entire time. I got back to the trailhead in 7 hours.
Would I have felt better about going down that god-awful scree trail on Bross? I don't know. It's kind of like…pick your poison. Honestly…if I were to do it again…I would skip Bross all together..
Once at the trailhead, I met up with the guys from Minnesota and four other hikers. We shot the bull for about an hour and decided to go down and see if the construction crew might knock off early. Good choice. We got there at 1:30pm and by 2:20pm they had the trench filled and we were out of there.
It was a successful trip. I mulled the idea of staying until Friday and doing Quandary, but decided to change my flight and come home early. My family missed me and I missed them. I bagged my peaks for this year, so I was ready to go. I guess I missed them more than I miss Colorado. We still have a house in Durango and retirement is only ten years away!
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