Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  09/12/2009
Date Climbed:   08/29/2009
Author:  Marcos

 Summer Saturday Solitude on Democrat‘s North Ridge  

Mt. Democrat, North Ridge

Pros: Good rock, beautiful scenery, quiet valley.
Cons: Descent from Cameron/Democrat saddle not so fun in late August


Trailhead 7:30 AM
Ridge 9:00 AM
Summit 11:15 AM
Saddle 12:00 PM
Trailhead 1:30 PM

Looking for a quality 3rd Class route close to home that I hadn't already done, I came across the North Ridge of Democrat. It's similar to Kelso Ridge on Torreys, although with easier and shorter 3rd class sections. Overall, it's a quality route with next to no traffic. I didn't see a single person until I hit the summit.

The route:

Start at the Montgomery Reservoir trailhead on the NW corner of the lake. This is accessed via CO-4 just south of Hoosier Pass. The trail follows a difficult 4WD road for the first hour or so. For the initial quarter-mile you can follow oil-spots left by the unluckier 4WD enthusiasts.

After hiking up the valley for a couple of miles, a stream crosses the road, and the road suddenly becomes steeper as it heads up towards Wheeler Lake. Take a left at that point onto a less-traveled 4WD road. Follow that as it angles towards the ridge until it ends abruptly in a high meadow. From there make your way to the ridgeline where the ruins of a mining shack lay in repose. An alarmingly unprotected mineshaft is nearby as well. (90 minutes from trailhead)

From there to the summit simply follow the ridge. The 3rd class begins near Point 13,460 with a wonderfully exposed ridge walk. The line then drops down to the "Sharks' Fin", which is the crux of the hike. From here I ended up missing the easiest line and got into some 4th class. Evidently that's not necessary, though, if you traverse around the west side of the fin at a level BELOW the notch.

Once into the second notch, the hardest moves are behind you, and it is similar to a lower-angle version of the Kelso Ridge, but without the long connecting segments of loose rubble. Follow the ridge to another large mining ruin at 13,700' which overlooks an eminently skiable couloir. (3 hours from trailhead)

From there an old miners trail runs to the summit. Regain the ridge proper as soon as possible and run it straight to the top for maximum 3rd class fun.

For descent I temporarily joined the hundreds of folks milling about the "Decalibron" to make my way to the Democrat/Cameron saddle. Once off the saddle, solitude resumed. The gully is nothing to write home about. It's steeper, longer, and looser than the standard descent off the summit of Evans. Thankfully it's shorter than, say, the Camel. I can't recommend it as an ascent route, at least this time of the year.

From the valley floor make your way to the stream, crossing it just after the most modern mine facility in the area. From there you can avoid the willows by working gently up the other side of the valley to regain the 4WD road.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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