14’ers are starting to become routine for John and I. Almost every weekend, we pack up and head out to climb another one of Colorado’s mountains. The first weekend in September, we set out to hike the DeCaLiBron loop which summits Mount Democrat, Mount Lincoln, Mount Cameron, and Mount Bross.
We left Denver around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon and arrived at the Kit Lake Campground around 7. We had just enough time to set up our tent and get settled in for the night, before an evening thunderstorm rolled in. We sat in our tent and ate some snacks while the rain whipped our polyester shelter. When we were full and certain the rain wouldn’t let up, we called it an early night and got into our sleeping bags.
The rain continued into the night, and when our alarm went off at 4 a.m., it was still coming down. We decided to pack up our things inside the tent and prepare for the day with hopes that it would stop shortly. When it didn’t, we went back to sleep until 6:30.
We woke up to the sun rising over the horizon, so we knew it was clear enough for us to get started. Even though the sun was out, it didn’t crest over the mountains until after 7:45, and it made the beginning of our trek just a tad chillier. By that time we had left our tent where it was, grabbed our pack, and been on the trail for 30 minutes.
We decided to go clockwise and summit Mount Democrat first. We had heard that Mount Bross has a lot of loose scree that makes the hike more difficult, so we figured that, with our late start, we should go with the easier route. Plus, there were signs saying Bross’s peak was closed, and we didn’t have time to take any risks.
The Democrat trail starts on the east side of Kite Lake and heads north cutting a path through a lush valley. For the first mile or so, the trail makes a steady but subtle incline. The valley was full of blooming bluebells, but the mountainside grass was starting to show some of its orange, fall colors. Once we’d left the lake, we followed a small and swiftly flowing stream.
The valley quickly turned into a steep, rocky boulder field. Until we reached the saddle, the trail was intertwined with large rock scrambles and sharp switchbacks. Sometimes, we had to climb over feet-tall rocks, and other times, the trail was large enough for us to walk side by side. Either way, the trail was always easy to find thanks to rock cairns and other people climbing up.
When we made it up to the saddle, we were blown away by the view and nearly by the wind. The whole hour climb up, we had no idea what had been waiting for us on the other side of the mountains. The view opened up, and we looked down on The Pike National Forest’s Clinton, McNamee and Traver Peaks inside a vast mountain range. From here, we took a left and began out summit of Mount Democrat.
The trail goes back to the south side of the ridge line, where we could look over the terrain we had just traversed. It was around a mile and a half to the summit, and it took us roughly an hour to make it to the top.
Once at the summit of Mount Democrat, we were greeted by roughly a dozen hikers and some strong winds. We found a spot to sit and gazed out over the vast view of rolling hills and mountains. The sunshine felt great between gusts of wind, but we didn’t stay long after we thought about the other peaks we wanted to climb.
We took some pictures and videos before making our descent, then we headed down the same route we had come. Once back in the saddle, we started up Mount Cameron.
The climb toward Mount Cameron was very similar to the route up Mount Democrat. It was scattered with scree and made for rough climbing in places, but the trail was still well defined and easy to follow. The main difference between the two paths was what lay on the other side of the first hill. Democrats’s trail remained similar after reaching the false summit, while Cameron’s crested a ridge and opened up to a windy, open trail with 360 degree views of the mountains.
It was unbelievable how much more windy the trail became from here. We were warned by every passing hiker that it didn’t get easier, and they were right. Each also said the peaks were worth it, and again, they were right.
As windy as it was, this part of the trail was arguably some of our favorite. It felt unreal to be walking such a narrow path in the middle of a circle of mountains. Sadly, though, this trail led to a disappointing summit peak.
Mount Cameron was nothing more than a big, open rock field. There was no special view or anything special about it, but that couldn’t stop us from enjoying a spectacular hike. We didn’t stop and kept pushing toward Mount Lincoln as the wind blew at our backs.
Our very favorite part of the trail was ascending Mount Lincoln. The views didn’t change much, because we only went about a half mile, and we were already on the knife’s edge, but we were approaching an actual pin-point peak, and it gave us the jitters.
Of course, there were more than one of these peaks, because 14’ers almost always have false summits. Lincoln’s false summit has been our favorite. The trail wraps around the south edge of the peak before revealing Lincoln’s actual summit.
We had been alone on the trail, for the most part, since we reached the saddle between Mount Cameron and Mount Lincoln. We had only seen a few others hiking out, and when we reached the summit, of Lincoln we had complete solitude. The views partnered with silence couldn’t have been more serene.
We found a bit of shelter from the wind in a rocky cove facing the south, where we sat and enjoyed lunch wraps, dehydrated apples, and beef jerky. It didn’t take long for company to arrive from a different side of the mountain than we had climbed.
Once we had gotten chilly from the wind, we packed up our picnic and were taking a few pictures when we noticed unwelcoming clouds rolling in from the north.
We started to discuss whether summiting Bross would be feasible, safe, and worth it. After some thought, we decided to opt out, because it was after noon and we had evening obligations in Denver.
We took our summit pictures and began down the same trail we had come up. Going down is always easier, but we still had to make a minor climb back up to Mount Cameron. In only about 20 minutes, we went from one 14’er to another.
After we left Cameron’s peak, the wind died down and our descent was steady for the next two miles down. We stopped a whole bunch to take pictures of Maria playing in the snow and the stunning wildflowers that we had missed during our dark hike earlier in the morning.
The flowers surrounded Kite Lake and the valley surrounding it. We were amazed by the colors we had missed while the sun was hiding. It took us two hours to go from the summit of Mount Lincoln to the trailhead, and sadly back to our car to make our return trip to Denver.
In just a little under seven hours we were able to summit three different 14,000 foot peaks. Even though we didn't finish the loop and make it to Mount Bross, we were still proud of the ground we had covered and the heights we had been able to climb.
Maybe next time we will start with Bross and get to add it to our list, but until then we are leaving these peaks in our rearview mirror while we check out some of the other 50 or so that are out there.
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!