Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  10/15/2010
Date Climbed:   10/14/2010
Author:  Popo146

 First Timer!  

I ask forgiveness in advance if my terminology is incorrect. This was my first 14er, so I'm a novice for sure. I had set a goal for myself to climb a "14er," by the end of September. I finally accomplished that goal, two weeks behind schedule, but I can blame the oral surgeon who pulled out 4 wisdom teeth at the end of August for putting me behind schedule!

Mt. Democrat was the 14er I chose for several reasons: I had hiked in the area 3-4 times prior to Lake Emma, and felt familiar with the trail, it is only 2 hours away, and it seemed to be one of the easiest climbs (technically and distance). I finally felt ready after dropping 25 pounds of blub, and much improved cardio due to a steady dose of daily hiking at the local state park. Tuesday's rain storm here in Colorado Springs meant there would be snow at elevation, but Thursday's weather was predicted to be clear and sunny. Despite having several blisters on each foot as a result of acid treatments for a plantar wart, and a tension knot the size of a golf ball behind my left shoulder blade, I decided it was time to "put up or shut up."

An early departure was in order, and I hit the road at about 615. Traffic was very light getting out of the city, and by 815 I had bounced up the final 5-6 miles of dirt road to the trail head. A group of 3 college guys (track athletes from Vanderbilt on fall break) were gearing up for the climb at the same time, and after chatting for a few minutes, off I went. The trail started gradually enough skirting around Kite Lake, Mt. Democrat looming overhead, snow covered and pristine against the blue sky. I was in the shady valley, but as the sun rose and I climbed, it wasn't long before I changed my knit hat for a sun hat, and removed a layer of clothing. Looking up I remember thinking, "*&$%, thats a long way up...."

About halfway up, the trail became covered in snow. At first, only a few inches deep. By the time I reached the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron, the snow was up to my knees in places. Someone had hiked up to the saddle the day before and had broken a trail through the snow, making it a bit easier to hike and follow the trail. I really appreciated the numerous cairns and wooden sign posts that helped me navigate.

Once I was beyond the saddle I had to break my own trail. It definitely added to the effort! I had several printouts that showed photographs of the trail from various vantage points, and felt confident that I could find my way. I stopped for a few minutes just above the saddle for some trail mix and a needed breather. Looking down below periodically, I could see the 3 young fellows working their way up.

I finally reached a point where I had a clear view of the actually peak. An easy stretch along the ridge line led up to the final ascent. The snow was thinner, I'm guessing due to the wind whistling over the ridge. As I reached the summit I heard a distant whoop. Looking back, the college guys had just reached the same view point and were cheering for me. Much to my surprise, my 10 minute head start held up for the entire climb!

The summit was chilly, but not dangerously so. I put on another layer, changed my hats again and enjoyed some trail mix and water. And, of course, the million dollar view! The youngsters joined me and we took turns taking pictures of each other. Two of them were from Colorado and had roughly 25 14ers under their belts, and were impressed at the rate I climbed. Well, at least in my presence that's what they said, ha! They also thanked me for breaking the trail for them.

The descent went quickly and smoothly (about 2.5 hours up, 1+ hour down). Below the saddle, I found a sunny rock out of the wind and enjoyed my PB&J.

I was very happy to have my trekking poles with me. Not only did they help on the downhill, but they allowed me to poke the snow and make sure I had a firm place for my next step. The gear I had served quite nicely, except for my shoes. I was wearing a trail shoe with a low ankle. Slogging through snow would have been much more comfortable with a decent pair of waterproof hiking boots, and perhaps snow gators to put around my lower legs.


Thank you for all the hard work put into this website. It really helped and motivated me to finally do it!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

Excellent Job
10/15/2010 22:53
Congrats on loosing the blub and making your first 14er through some pow pow!


10/15/2010 23:16
Good Job!

Doctor No

Nice work!
10/15/2010 23:29
Looks like a great day in the mountains.


10/16/2010 00:24
I appreciate your trip report. I'm gonna be meeting some friends there on Sunday to tackle Cameron and Lincoln and was wondering about conditions. Thanks again!


Great choice
10/16/2010 04:45
Great choice for your first 14er - Democrat was my first one, in June of this year. I think it's a great one to start out with. And winter climbing looks like a lot of fun.


10/18/2010 18:54
Congratulations on your first 14er! As a member of the ”getting older” crowd (50 yrs), we have to keep showing those younger guys that we still have ”it” ;) Enjoy the next one, I'm sure you are already making plans.

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