Mt. Democrat - 14,148 feet
Mt. Democrat - 14,148 feet
|Windy Winter Democrat|
We had a limited window of availability to hike a 14er, and we picked a day partially sunny with blustering 40mph gusts. We parked a little less than a mile before the summer trailhead at Kite Lake.
The wind was whipping snow off the angled slopes around us as we made our way to the upper lot. The sun was beginning to poke out over the Bross ridge.
Obligatory picture of the upper lot bathroom facilities. One was open, the other was blocked by snow.
We stopped briefly at the trailhead sign and pondered our next plan from the basin floor. From the initial start point Kite Lake is not visible, frozen and covered by layers of snow. We hiked across the lot and followed the signs at the start of the trail, taking us into the basin and up onto the shelves that form the east slopes of Mount Democrat.
The first part of the lower basin contained some of the deepest snow, with some transitional rocks and ledges. The weather had been good for several days prior and the sun warmed the snow enough to render microspikes unnecessary. Nobody in our group used snowshoes. Some minor postholing around the lake but nothing to worry about. Avalanche risk extremely low when following the standard route.
Snow in the lower basin varies greatly with some sections thinning out or hard-packed by recent activity. Deep sections may catch the visitor off-guard while the winds barrage the lower slopes. We made it up most of the lower slopes without the use of any traction.
The turn up into the switchbacks is a nice reprieve from the initial slog, presenting glorious winter basin views and a moderate incline for our legs.
The switchbacks were uneventful and the wind picked up dramatically as we approached the Democrat-Cameron saddle. To stand directly on the ridge and peer out across the endless chasm of mountains, required us to brave powerful winds coming across the top. The hike from the saddle up to the false summit of Democrat was impressively windy, but the ridge offered some periodic protection from the stronger gusts. The switchbacks continued up the gradually steepening ridge until the trail disappears entirely. The final stretch to the false summit consists of moderate routefinding on semi-steep snow with lots of rocks. From the false summit the hike over to the true summit of Democrat was cold but brief.
Finally at the summit of Mount Democrat and the skies directly above me were clear, as the storm clouds continued to build all around us. The views of the entire DeCaLiBron were shrouded in the clouds.
We reached the summit about 20 minutes apart as we split up across the final ridge ascent. My moment at the top was brief but amazing.
Had a chance to soak in the incredible mountain view across the Sawatch.
Returning down to the false summit I passed the rest of my group still heading up. We talked briefly and then I pushed back down to the saddle while the rest of the group completed their summit. The hike down from the false summit requires some moderate caution on steep slopes where microspikes are key. After waiting for a bit for the group to return, we linked back up at the saddle. Hikers can seek protection from some of the worst winds by the medium-sized rocks that dot the eastern slopes. The hike down from the saddle goes quick and easy, with perhaps some of the best views of the basin.
Most of the cairns are visible and stand out proudly in the winter terrain.
After turning off the switchbacks and dropping into the lower basin, we found the snow a bit too soft to glissade on. The trek down went quickly as we were able to quickly hike down through the deeper snow.
The temperature warmed up as the sun continued rising and we dropped lower in the basin. The views of the snow-laced mountains all around us were an encouragement as we made out way back towards Kite Lake and the road below.
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
|Comments or Questions|
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