Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Mt. Cameron  -  14,238 feet
Mt. Lincoln  -  14,286 feet
Mt. Bross  -  14,172 feet
Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Date Posted:  06/16/2009
Date Climbed:   06/13/2009
Author:  tink
 Decalibron +1  

I set out last Friday directly from work for the mountains. My internship had me in magistrate court that morning, and I was able to pick up an ice ax and crampons in anticipation of completing the Decalibron. The last trip reports suggested that it could be icy on the ridges, and I figured I may need them.

For the first time in awhile, I managed to get to the trailhead before it was dark out. With about 30 minutes of good sunlight left, I prepped my car to sleep in and took a walk up the trail. The plan called for a 2 am rise, and it seemed prudent to get a good feel for the route up to the ridge. Prior experience climbing Blanca had left me traversing slopes and wasting time after losing the trail; it was an experience to learn from.

The 2 am wake up didn't come together, as my cell phone's battery died overnight. By God's grace, I was still up and out at 3 am, though. To my surprise there were others up at that time. I passed Ollie from Chicago as he rolled out of his rented H3.

To my greater surprise, it was downright balmy as I started up the trail. Overnight cloud cover had trapped the days warmth, and the snow had developed only the thinnest of crusts; I found myself wishing for snowshoes rather than crampons. The warmth also played some tricks on the snow, causing a ground fog to develop and slowly build itself up in the drainage. I tried to take some photos of it, but to no avail.


However, thanks to the wonder of Photoshop, you can get a sense of the view, although it is substantially brighter.


An early start combined with the climb out of the bowl to present an opportunity to view a sunrise over the rooftop of the Rockies. After topping out on Democrat before sunrise, I made a best effort to get up Cameron to view it from there. It was not to be. However, I was able to snap some nice shots of the dawning light on the ascent to Democrat, and on top.


Once on the saddle between Democrat and Cameron, I also snapped a few photos looking over towards Quandary.


As I began the ascent of Cameron I could look back over my shoulder and see Ollie climbing the well defined trail up to Democrat.


Topping out on Cameron I caught the sun full on in my face for the first time. I've never been this high with the sun that low on the horizon, much less on a snow covered slope. Snowblindness became a concern, and later in the day it became clear that I had suffered some injury from the brightness. Thankfully, it didn't seem to be anything serious, as I got down with just a dull aching sensation.

The obligatory ice ax shot. It was my first time using an ax and so this is my first such shot.

Walking across the broad top of Cameron, Lincoln's corniced ridge seemed intimidating. It took a moment's consideration to decide to go for the peak. In the meantime, I enjoyed the experience of being on the high ridges and peaks with the clouds forming below me. In the above photo you can see them starting to rise and just begin to peek over the ridgelines.

It took a remarkably short time to get to Lincoln, and the walk was substantially less intimidating than I had feared. My energy was just beginning to flag, but I took plenty of time to enjoy the more jagged peak, and to snap a few classic summit shots.

Lincoln's benchmark.

Summit shot, walking into the wind.

At this point I made my (at least) one goof per hike. Rather than descending from Lincoln back to the trail, I tried to traverse the slope over to the Cameron-Bross saddle. Where the slope up to Democrat had been punchy with a thin crust, this one was hard and slick. I was thankful for the ice ax on a couple of occasions, and even more thankful when I finally regained the trail. In the interim, though, much energy had been expended and I found myself panting on the trail up the mountain that will not be named.

Once on top of the mountain that will not be named, I encountered the first people since crossing paths with Ollie as he ascended and I descended Democrat. Using them for a focus point, I snapped some photos creating a panorama of the entire Decalibron.


Shortly thereafter I picked up my ax and made a glissade down the mountain that will not be named. It was the longest, fastest glissade of my life. The snow had not yet softened on this face, and it flew up in my face like I was looking down a sno-cone machine. My gloves became soaked and my hands grew numb. It was a thrill.

As this point I am tired. Not yet completely drained, but certainly getting there. With the monster wind blowing, the early wake up, the start of dehydration, and not taking enough food breaks, I would have had a good day's hike right then and there. But that wasn't to be the end of the day.

Hurrying to my car and tossing my gear in the back seat, I took off down the road to Alma. The Al-Mart provided me with my lunch (Gatorade, a gallon of water, and a bag of potato chips) and I headed up the road to Quandary. I was on the trail to the top by a quarter to 10.

The trip up Quandary was an ambitious addition, and the fact that I did it with my snowboard was more a point of damnable pride than anything else. It would also make the hike incredibly unpleasant. My pace was slow as it was, but once I hit the ridge the strong winds knocked me around. Just before the main push I came across two of the Quandary billy goats and snapped some photos.


I am ashamed to admit it, but after seeing the billy goats the going got to be very, very rough. Now that I was coming up on close to 11 hours of near continuous hiking, and having been battered by the wind, I was completely drained. Purely out of pride and the desire to get 4 1/2 fourteeners in a day, I kept going. As the wind kept coming I acted like Job's interlocutors, asking God how he could keep this up. Petty, stupid, and prideful. Particularly in light of the beautiful weather he developed.

I finally made the summit after dropping my pack about 200-300 feet short of the summit. I continued up with just a stick I had picked up on the trail and my camera. I stopped, snapped a quick photo, and stumbled down to my pack.


Being completely exhausted I threw on my snowboard boots, strapped in, and made a series of slow, wide turns down the upper bowl. Concerned about building clouds and storms further north, I simply left my boots on and continued down. Although I tried to board down one more snow field, the board didn't float on the warm wet snow, and I wound up face planting from a rock.

With exhausted legs and a dehydrated body screaming for nutrients, I slowly plodded my way down to the car. The gear was thrown into it, and I made my way home, stopping at BeauJos for a much needed pizza and beer. All told, it was 13 hours of hiking since I started, which would be followed by another 10 hours of sleeping.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

06/17/2009 07:24
Glad to see someone still getting lines in the middle of june good work and nice goat pic!


Good report!
06/17/2009 14:55
Aside from that one part on your way off Lincoln, would you say your crampons and ice axe were necessary?


06/17/2009 17:58
4-and-a-half is a nice feather in one‘s cap, to be sure! Loved the pano from the mountain-that-will-not-be-named (Rowling would like it, I‘m sure).


06/18/2009 06:30
Those pictures are sweet and nice report also. Some unnamed persons on this site think it‘s bragging to include the ”mountain that won‘t be named” any where on the net but I think more people should do it.


Bross pics?
06/18/2009 17:25
Great report. Do you have any pics of the S gully on bross? Thanks!


S gully
06/19/2009 00:13
I don‘t have any pics, but I can tell you that it was still holding pretty decent snow. That was my glissade route down.


Crampons & Axe
06/19/2009 00:14
I wouldn‘t want to say they are or aren‘t necessary. It really depends on the conditions. Wasn‘t necessary for me, but with a good freeze they may be. The axe was definitely, useful, though.

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