Peak(s):  Mt. Bross  -  14,172 feet
Mt. Cameron  -  14,238 feet
Mt. Lincoln  -  14,286 feet
Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  09/03/2019
Date Climbed:   09/01/2019
Author:  michaelarm08
 DeCaLiBron or should I say BroLiCamDem   

Hiked the DeCaLiBron loop on 9/1/19 with my boyfriend and sister. My boyfriend and I are avid hikers, runners, OCR racers, etc. We have done a few summit hikes of 12ers around Estes and have one other 14er under our belt, Quandary. My sister is also an avid hiker who has put in long distances before however she did not have much experience with high elevation gains in short distances like we do. She is in fairly good shape but these were her first summits of any kind.

We got into Breck on Friday Aug 30th and that afternoon we hike McCullough Gulch going up to the upper lake. I think that helped us acclimate to the elevation and get our legs ready for the climbs to come. I was watching the weather and the wind pattern all weekend knowing I wanted to hike the loop either Sunday or Monday. I knew with a fair amount of certainty that Sunday would be a beautiful day with low chance of storms the the wind looked like it was relatively calm. I know all that can change in the high country though so even knowing the weather looked awesome I still planned for a 4 am start. So we all agreed to head out on Sunday.

I did a lot of planning for this summit attempt. I know the winds in the Mosquito range can be crazy so I was worried about that. I know weather in the mountains can change in an instant so I was worried about that. I knew Bross is privately owned but it according to all trip reports still hikable but I was worried about that. I didn't know what to expect signage wise at the trail head especially with starting in the dark. There was a lot keeping me up the night before so I figured I would do a trip report so that maybe my account will help others heading out.

We left Breck at 3:20 am to head to the Kite Lake Campground (when I googled Kite Lake Trailhead it showed the destination as a few miles away from the actual start so make sure to google map the Kite Lake Campground, I used All Trails app for the DeCaLiBron trail and used that map link from there). We got to the Campground/trail head at 4 am we were lucky enough to park right by the bathrooms and very close to the start of our hike. I want to note there were cars parked along the road already leading up to the trail head. Don't let that worry you if you are starting this early, go a head and drive on to the trail head because there were still plenty of parking spaces in the campground area and the road by the campground was empty. Now with that said by the time we were done and heading back at 11:00 am the road was packed on both sides for about a mile or 2 from the campground with cars. The road going up wasn't bad but I have an AWD Honda CRV so I wasn't too worried. I would of been a little worried of clearance in a lower profile car.

We started towards the Bross Trail at 4:23 am. One of the things I was the most worried about was the fact that Bross is technically closed and not a maintained trail and we were starting in the dark with head lamps. I was worried the trail wouldn't be marked and we wouldn't be able to find it and I wanted to do Bross first after reading the trail reports and hearing how terrible it is to descend. However there is a very nice trail map at the trail head showing the routes and when you go off to the right you see the smaller trail signs that let you know which trail is which and Bross is labeled. Now it does say that Bross is closed and is private land but I think that is just for liability reasons so don't let that stop you from heading up that trail like we did. We ran into a lady at the trail head who was starting when we were finishing and asked us about Bross. She also wanted to start with Bross but because of the intimidating signs felt like it was illegal and she was about to start with Democrat (which is fine if that is the way you want to go but she didn't). So we explained to her how we just finished that loop doing Bross first and it was fine.

Anyways headed up Bross. Which we were so glad we did Bross first because there were parts of that ascent that was brutal and I can't imagine coming down that loose sandy scree stuff. It was very steep in parts and going down would have been miserable and dangerous I feel. I am also so glad I had poles for Bross, my boyfriend and I both had poles and really leaned on them to get up some of that steep shifty sand. I honestly don't know how my sister did it without poles. We did loose the trail once, as we neared the summit but it was fairly easy to find the trail again. Going back to one of the things I was worried about, trail locating, even in the dark with headlamps the trail was very easy to find the whole way (not easy to climb just easy to find). I am not going to lie there were moments going up Bross where I questioned everything but once I got to the top (5:55 am) and saw the twilight views what little breath I had at 14000 ft elevation was taken away. I regained all my energy in that moment. My boyfriend and sister weren't far behind and we took a few minutes at the top to take it all in. I don't know that we were the first to summit on that route but at the time we were the only ones up there with a bunch of headlights moving up towards us from below. At around 6:15 we started again towards Lincoln. From Bross Lincoln and Cameron looked very doable and gradual so I was very excited.

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We got to watch the sunrise as we headed towards Lincoln. You have to summit Lincoln first then you head back east on that trail towards Cameron, which I was confused on when looking at it from Bross, for some reason I thought we'd do Cameron first but definitely don't do that unless you are just wanting to add more miles and time. Most of the way to Lincoln is very mellow and gradual, until the last little bit to the summit which I was so excited to bag another peak I barely noticed the incline. But I will say the left edge does have some exposure so make sure to take your time and watch your footing. We summited Lincoln by 6:58, snapped some amazing pics and then headed back down towards Cameron.

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Cameron was definitely the easiest summit of the four, very gradual. You're basically just on a very large high altitude hill, its fairly flat on top with lots of room. We got to that summit by 7:25 am. It was a bit windy on top of Cameron but nothing crazy like some of the reports I had read and heard from other people. There are also some nice little holes dug out up there so you can sit in the holes to get shelter from the wind (not from the cold but good rest from wind). We decided to have a snack and break up there before our last big push down Cameron and up Democrat which looks very intimidating. I will also say we did see people doing the hike in shorts and t shirts and I don't know how they didn't freeze. I had several layers on with a beanie, a head wrap, wind jacket, and gloves and at times I was still cold (I do get cold very easily though). At 7:43 am we started towards Democrat.

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The decent to the Democrat Saddle and trail split is fairly steep. Again I am glad I had poles. We just took our time. By the time we got to the bottom of the Saddle the wind was off of us and we were all hot so we took off some layers, switched to baseball caps, and started out climb. I personally think Democrat looks a lot more intimidating than it actually was for us. I thought we would have to break at each switch back but we didn't. We definitly took some breaks but not near as many as I thought we would need. Then when we reached the false summit it is such a gradual and short climb to the top I could've ran it if I wanted to. At 9:09 am we reached the summit of Democrat.

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The views were stunning and well worth the climb we just put in. The ascent to the top is very rocky (shifty rocks) so I was worried about the descent coming down but honestly the way back down to the saddle wasn't bad. It went a lot quicker than I thought it would. The tough part was the trail from the saddle down to the trail head. It was very loose grave with loose rock and parts were fairly steep. My sister fell 3 times and my boyfriend fell once which actually broke his pole but it was good he had it. I leaned on my poles a lot for that final descent and thankfully had some slips but no falls. Also we ended up going the long way round back to the trail head because apparently we lost the actual trail a couple of times which we didn't notice till we got further down. But they all connect down there so it wasn't a big deal. Even though that part of the trail was steep with some loose gravel and we had some falls I am still very glad I heeded the advice of others and went up Bross instead of down. I still can't imagine going down that steep loose sandy scree with tired legs and knees. I would've had to just roll down the mountain. But anyways we got back to the bottom at 10:50 am. My garmin watch said we did just over 8 miles. Weather was still beautiful once we were down but the parking lot and road heading back to Alma was packed so I am also very thankful we started so early. Plus the jaw dropping sunrise made it worth it. All in all it was an amazing experience and it was difficult but so worth it!

Also side note for other women (hopefully this is allowed on here). I started my period the day before. I knew I would be on my period during this trip so I was prepared. I use the diva cup and I purchased a pair of Thinx underwear just for this hike. The two together worked perfectly for me as I knew on this hike you start above tree line and there would be no where for me to change anything. So just some words of advice. The cup has been a lifesaver since I started using one a year ago and the Thinx were an excellent addition to ensure no leaks.

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