Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  09/05/2011
Date Climbed:   09/03/2011
Author:  Toni Marie
 The DeCaLiBron Trail Review  

To arrive at Kite Lake from Denver, merge onto I-70 west, and take exit 260/CO-470 E. Head south on this road for about 6 miles, and then exit onto US-285 S towards Fairplay. Stay on this road for 67 miles before turning right onto CO-9 N/Main Street in Fairplay. After about 6 miles, you’ll be in the small town of Alma. Turn left onto Buckskin Gulch Road (it’s the immediate left after Alma’s Only Bar).

Pass through a small portion of residential area, and then continue on the road for 6 more miles. The road is well-groomed, but be wary of potholes. The last mile of road gets a bit rougher, and takes you out of timberline to an elevation of roughly 12,000 feet. We saw a 1970s VW Bug at Kite Lake, so almost any car can make it! It is $3 to park here, and $10 to camp overnight.

From the parking lot follow the trail, which will take you past the lake. You’ll make an easy river crossing after about 100 feet of hiking. At about 12,200 feet, you’ll pass the first of several old mine shacks scattered throughout the area. From here, the grade becomes considerably steeper and more rugged as you make your way to the base of Democrat’s east slope. Despite the rugged nature of this portion, the trail is easy to follow.

Continue to traverse the east slope of Democrat to reach the Democrat-Cameron saddle, which lies just above 13,000 feet in elevation. When Nat and I got to the saddle, we took in some breathtaking views of the alpenglow surrounding us.

From this point, turn left to follow the trail west up the ridge. The next major section of the trail is clearly visible from this vantage point. The terrain becomes a bit more rugged once more, with sections of talus on the trail. The grade also becomes a bit steeper at this point. Keep travelling this trail to reach the summit ridge at 13,900 feet. At this ridge, there exists a few hundred feet of flat hiking before reaching the final summit pitch of Democrat. There is still snow in this area (not along the immediate route), so Nat and I made sure to play in it!

Follow the easy trail to Democrat’s summit, and take in the breathtaking views! To the west, you can see the Maroon Bells, Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive. To the southwest lies Mt. Antero and Mt. Sherman. To the southeast, Pike’s Peak is just visible beyond the terrain of Mt. Bross, and Grays and Torreys lie to the northeast. Of course, Mt. Cameron and Mt. Lincoln are clearly visible from this vantage point. This was Nat’s first 14er at 14,148 feet.

From Democrat’s summit, hike back down to the Democrat-Cameron saddle. Nat and I met a man named Don on our descent of Democrat. Don was on his way up, and told us that this was his first 14er since having a quintuple bypass surgery…you rock, Don!!! From the saddle, hike northeast along Cameron’s west ridge. The trail here is very well-defined, but quickly becomes a bit steeper.

After this section, the trail swings left to gain the ridge at 13,500 feet. This portion of trail remains well-defined but steep until about 14,000 feet, where the grade eases up. Continue on good trail to Cameron’s summit at 14, 238 feet. Surprisingly, I had cell phone reception on this summit, so I decided to call a friend to say hey. This summit was quite gusty and cold…about 35 degrees with wind chill. It was rewarding to look west and see Democrat in the distance. The same peaks are visible from this summit as from Democrat.

At this point, the hike over to Lincoln is obvious, as you can see almost the entire trail. Descend northeast along good trail to the Cameron-Lincoln saddle. This saddle is a bit more expansive, so you’ll get the chance to relax your legs on several hundred feet of flat hiking.
Once at the base of Lincoln, the terrain becomes considerably steeper, but the trail is still easy to hike. There are a two spots that are Class 2 terrain, primarily due to exposure…if you fell over the southern edge of these areas, you’d be falling down a pretty steep face. Nat became a bit agoraphobic in these areas, but made it just fine!

The summit is one of the smaller summits in regards to area, but this is my favorite summit to date. All the same peaks are still visible up here. Surprisingly, I still had cell phone reception up here! I’ve never had reception on a summit before, so I found this quite strange. This summit was quite a bit warmer and less windy than Cameron. This is the highest summit of the DeCaLiBron, lying at 14,286 feet.

Leave Lincoln’s summit and hike back to the Cameron-Lincoln saddle. Turn south and follow a well-defined trail towards Bross. You’ll reach the Cameron-Bross saddle at 13,850. Stunning views abound, so it’s worth a rest here to take some pictures. Continue to hike southeast to reach a trail junction at 13,900 feet. At the gully junction, stay left on the trail and follow an easy slope to Bross’s summit at 14,172 feet.

After having hiked all four summits, the most difficult portion of the journey begins. Follow the trail west along the side of a ridge to reach the ridge crest. The ridge narrows at 13,500 feet, but the trail is still easy to follow. Scree abounds in this area, which makes the terrain a bit unsteady given the steepness of the route. Leave the ridge at 13,300 feet and follow the trail into a large gully, which is still loaded with scree. After a bit more careful hiking, the scree disappears and the grade eases. The dirt trail is easy to follow once you enter the grassy basin. A beautiful waterfall exists alongside the trail about half a mile from the trailhead…it’s worth stopping to see.

Democrat would be a great first 14er for anyone in good physical condition, as the trail is easy to follow and there isn’t too much scree. This was Nat’s first time up a 14er, and he hiked all four without issue. The breakout:

Mt. Democrat: 28th highest peak in Colorado, Class 2 hike
Mt. Cameron: (unranked)
Mt. Lincoln: 8th highest peak in Colorado, Class 2 hike
Mt. Bross: 22nd highest peak in Colorado, Class 1 hike

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