Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  07/20/2013
Date Climbed:   07/12/2013
Author:  Kansan
 Kansan Returns to Democrat  

Kansan Returns to Mt. Democrat
Five years ago when I was 60 years old two high school friends and I climbed Mt. Democrat. It was our first 14er and we have been back to Colorado every year climbing more every year. In the trip report I wrote about climbing some day with my Grandson. I was introduced to the mountains by my Father and uncle Bill. I climbed my first mountain with my Uncle Bill in Wyoming when I was about 10 years old. I want to pass on my love of being in the mountains to my Grandson. I wasn't sure if I would ever get to climb mountains with my Alex as he was born with a heart problem. He has donated heart parts. His first open heart surgery was when he was 6 months old. The Doctor installed donated child size parts. As Alex grew he was out growing his child size parts. Alex and I wanted to do a climb, but his oxygen level in his blood wasn't good for heavy activity. Last fall Alex was operated on again and received adult size heart parts. His blood flow and oxygen levels were now normal for a young man. Before the operation "Alex was telling all the Doctors and Nurses that he was going to climb Mt. Democrat with his grandfather when he was well. We were given the OK for Alex to climb high so plans were made to make it happen this summer. When all this was planned we all lived in Kansas. In June Alex's Father accepted a job with Great Outdoors Colorado. It was a sad day in that my Grandkids were moving away, but a good day in that Denver is not that far away from Kansas City area where I live. I saw this as a real opportunity to see if my Alex would really become a person that loves the outdoors and the mountains. My fear was that my Alex would not have a good day on Democrat. I wasn't sure if his physical conditioning was good enough for him to make it to the top of a 14er. For the last two or three years Alex was unable to be real active. I don't think his physical condition was as good as a normal 13 year old boy.
The planned time for our climb came and I drove to Denver to meet up with Alex. Our first day started with breakfast at a Denver Waffle House. Alex and I have a thing for eating at the Waffle House. We noticed a bullet hole in the window of this Waffle House. This made the food better I think. We then made our way to the trail head for St. Mary's Glacier. I wanted to take a short hike to see just how Alex would do. Alex and I had a wonderful day hiking to the glacier. We had seen the movie "Chasing Ice," and we wanted to see a glacier. I was afraid that we were going to be disappointed, but St. Mary's Glacier was more than I expected. Next was the drive to Fairplay as Mt. Democrat was waiting for us.
Next morning we are up early driving to Kite Lake. The road was rougher than I remembered. We were about a mile from the hairpin turns just before Kite Lake when we meet a car backing down the road. There was a large washed out place in the road. I parked here with the other car. After parking I saw that I might have been able to get my two wheel low ground clearance car across the washed out area, but I could see where cars had also bottomed out trying. Alex and I started our hike to Kite Lake. At the second hairpin turn was another large washed out area of the road. There were more cars parked at the hairpin turns than in the parking area of Kite Lake. Alex started hiking at fast pace. He was walking so fast I couldn't keep up. He waited for me at the lake. I told Alex if he was going to walk this fast to keep me in sight and wait for me at the saddle. I didn't want him to go up the ridge to Democrat without me being close. I also told Alex that he might think about slowing down as we had a climb ahead of us and he should pace himself. We started out again and Alex is setting a fast pace. I'm thinking that Alex is his mountain goat and this was going to be easy.
Alex soon slowed down and the going got tough. Alex was tired as this was the hardest thing he had ever done. My usual statement of, "We are doing good," was not working on keeping Alex going. Our pace up the mountain was very slow and somewhat unsteady. We took lots of long breaks and I was beginning to wonder if Alex was going to make to the top. We made it to the saddle between Cameron and Democrat. It was still a good day. Wind was not bad at the saddle. We sat for a long time snacking and drinking water. Just before we get ready to go Alex takes his shoe off and puts it back on. I asked him about it and he tells me something was stabbing him in the ankle. I tell him to let me see and we find a blister when he takes his sock off. A little moleskin and he was fixed up.
We start up the ridge to Democrat. I have to say the trail is in great condition for being a pile of rocks. Alex is now really slowing down. Breaks are being taken just about every 10 yards of advancement. I begin to get a little worried about the weather. We progress very slowly up the mountain. We are within sight of the false summit and Alex is very tired. We talked and I thought that we were going to go down. I knew we were close and I asked some climbers that just came from the false summit to tell Alex how close he was to the top and that he had done the hard work. With words of encouragement Alex got up and made to the false summit. The rest was easy and he made it!
It was a very happy wonderful day. Photos were taken, phone calls were made, and we started down. Weather was coming in. I found that Alex climbed down fastest if I kept myself just ahead of him. He told me it made him feel better if I stayed close to him. Weather started getting worse. It started to rain with small hail and frozen rain. We got to test our rain gear. The climb down was slow as Alex was so tired. We got to Kite Lake and Alex was hoping to catch a ride to the car. We were about half way to the car from Kite Lake when we were picked up by a nice couple who took us to our car.
It was a long day, but Alex did it! Mt. Democrat is a very special place for me. It was my first 14er with my Grandson. I was worried that the climb would sour Alex on hiking and climbing. When I got back to Kansas City I got an email from his Father that he had mapped out a 5 mile hike and was hiking to get stronger. Alex emailed me that he wanted to do another on Labor Day when we will visit them. I have also heard that maybe my Granddaughter might want to climb/hike some. This is all good news. I want to take him high again, but feel he needs to work up to it. I plan on getting a book on Rocky Mountain National Park to pick put some good hikes for Alex and I. If anyone reads this and has a good hike near Denver that would be good for us I would love suggestions on what hikes to do.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

It Doesn't Get Any Better
07/20/2013 17:07
The first thing that came to mind when I read this was 1 Cor 13:13 - faith, hope, and love abide; but the greatest of these is love. Your story is a powerful testament to all three, but especially to your love for your grandson Alex. Way to go, Paul.


You are doing good!!!
07/22/2013 12:56
Great job, Paul! I know how good you feel that Alex not only made it but that he's interested in doing it again. You've instilled in him a love of the outdoors and the mountains that will only get stronger each time you go out together. What a great future to look forward to!


07/22/2013 18:37
As one 65 y/o to another - you are doing GREAT. Kudos to you for helping Alex develop a love for the mountains! And I will PM you some suggested hikes near Denver.


Try Greys-Torreys
07/31/2013 16:01
A nice climb for you and your family would be Greys/Torreys. Good facilities and the trail head. Well maintained Trail, and you can do two 14ers in one day, unless you get too tired or the weather turns bad. Get to the trail head early as parking fills up by sunup, or go on a week day. I am over 60 and did Greys/Torreys with my daughter last summer.

Colorado Bob

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