This report was (sadly delayed) from a couple days before Thanksgiving. Our goal was a quick easy Democrat ascent with some family in town, but of course plans were made to be changed!
Will keep it nice and brief!
Our first concern was road access. I've done the Decalibron a couple times and it tends to be more or less clear, even through winter, except for massive drifts. We made it through a few drifts (4wd 4runner w/ good AT tires), and actually made it about halfway up kite lake road before we decided to stop. Pic of the drift that stopped us below.
The drift that stopped our drive.
Bless the person who invented 4wd.
We hoped that the 4 or so days of warm sun would melt down the snow enough for us to not need snowshoes (out of towners had none, though renting would have been a good choice). This was true enough, except for the drifts. We ended up with slightly wet shoes. From Kite Lake looking at Democrat, it seemed like there would be a lot of post holing stretches, so we decided to take the rocky ridge up Bross, and then from there decide whether to continue around to Cameron.
We were pretty well protected from the wind until we made it to the flatter upper sections of Bross. I spent the previous day on top of Pike's Peak during recorded 60 mile per hour wind, and I can honestly say that the wind on Bross was sustained at least at 60mph but gusted closer to 100. It almost knocked me over several times and was honestly the strongest wind I've ever felt.
Because of the wind, we decided to make it a 1 peak kind of day. On the return, we decided to try the goat looking trail on the other side of the gully for more wind protection. It turned out to work really well, though if covered in snow it would be hard to stay on without sliding down (enter glissade!).
Coming down goat trail
From goat trail looking down
From up high we had a great view of Democrat (and the blasted false summit!)
A nice view of Democrat
The topo map shows our ridge line ascent of Bross pretty well. It also shows how I forgot to turn the GPS on until about halfway up kite lake road o_0 and our trailblazing for the last stretch on the way down.
Our reward? Hot pizza and cold beer!
Our pizza and beer reward.
Moral of the story and general mountaineering (boyscout too!) advice: be prepared. Snowshoes and gators would have made a world of difference and we would have been able to do our intended peak. Still a beautiful day and enjoyable hike though.