Mount Lincoln, Cameron, Democrat and Bross
This was a big day… four 14ers in one day. This is one of the few locations in Colorado where it’s feasible to summit this many peaks in a single day of hiking. For me, this day also meant four Fat Tires above 14,000 feet in a single day. I knew it was going to be an interesting and long day as I planned for the climb. However, I was stoked to cross four peaks off the list in one day almost doubling what I had completed previously.
For this climb, I stayed at my friends Ken and Christina’s cabin, creatively named “Cutty Cabin”. Their cabin is located right outside of Alma along Hoosier Pass and minutes away from the several trailheads leading to the top. Cutty Cabin has a great view of Lincoln and Bross from its porch. It was nice to know that for the first time I didn’t have to wake up during the early hours of the morning to drive a few hours to the trailhead. The night before climbing the three of us sat on their porch admiring the peaks and discussing our plan of attack for the following morning. I work with Ken and he, I and Jason from our office brew beer as a side hobby so we enjoyed partaking in our own brew while we sat there.
Our plan for the day was to start at the Quartzville Creek Trailhead and to arrive there around 7:00 a.m. From there, we would summit the four peaks in the following order; Lincoln, Cameron, Democrat, and Bross. The downside of this route was we had to pass the saddle between Democrat and Cameron twice. Therefore, we would have to summit Cameron twice and there was no way to avoid it before heading to Bross. Most people start on the backside of Mount Bross at the Kite Lake Trailhead so they can avoid this traverse twice. Christina only planned to climb the eastern three (Lincoln, Cameron, and Bross), which she could see from the cabin while Ken and I planned for all four. I was also concerned about the weather because the reports on Friday indicated a high chance of rain. I said a little prayer for decent weather the day before… that prayer would later be very useful.
The morning started at around 6:00 a.m. It was very casual and a nice change of pace. We had coffee and breakfast at the cabin and left around 6:45 a.m. for the trailhead. We had a problem finding the poorly marked trailhead. We utilized a topographic map to find the approximate location but never found a sign identifying the trailhead. In fact, all we found was a single vehicle parked in a flat area so we parked next to it and began hiking a little after 7:00.
The ascent to the base of Mt. Lincoln was steady and followed an old mining dirt road. There were several neat locations along this path. At one point I saw an old cross remnant of the mining operations that once occurred on these mountains. I was captivated by this symbol and it was a prominent feature because it was the only object that stood above the ground. The landscape lacked any trees and the vegetation hugged the earth due to its limited growing period and lack of oxygen. You couldn’t pass by the cross without observing it. Further up the trail we had to veer off the old dirt road because it went onto private property and we respected the signs. I took some great pictures of both of these features.
The remaining 300 vertical feet to the top of Mount Lincoln was strenuous. We were on a route that was rarely utilized so there was no defined trail and the face comprised of very loose material. Although it was demanding, I made it up to the summit first to find it covered with numerous people. As we approached the summit I couldn’t see the 20 plus people. I was surprised with how many individuals were on top considering we hadn’t seen anyone on our route. I assumed the majority of these people had arrived from the Kite Lake Trailhead. I actually ran into someone I went to high school with on top of Mt. Lincoln… it is a small world.
Shortly after I reached the summit, Ken followed me up and was trailed by Christina. This was a great moment for me to see both of them make it to the top. Christina’s knees were hurting but she pushed through the pain to make it up there. She would fight that pain the rest of the day…she showed her strength and determination. The three of us enjoyed the view. This was the best view I had seen on top of all the peaks I had been on. I could see so many 14ers surrounding me including the Collegiate Peaks, Quandary, Grays, Torreys, Evans and Bierstadt. The lower mountains surrounding these four peaks were also majestic. It was a beautiful view. I cracked open my first Fat Tire of the day and was relieved to reduce the weight of my back pack.
We proceeded to the summit of Mt. Cameron. This stretch of the route was simple and relatively flat. The vertical difference between the two peaks is minor, which is why Cameron is not considered an official 14er to the purists. The peak of Mt. Cameron was a large mound and the top of it was relatively flat. Although the surface wasn’t ideal, you could play a football game on top of this mountain. This summit was the center point of all four and you could see people making their way to and from all the different peaks. I would imagine there were at least 100 hundred people on these mountains.
I proceeded to open my second Fat Tire of the day and indulge in its delightfulness. From here, Ken and I would proceed to Mount Democrat while Christina waited for us on Mount Cameron. The hike over to Mt. Democrat was deceiving. It looked closer than it actually was. I figured it would take about an hour to hike over to the summit and back. I was way wrong.
Ken and I began the hike down Cameron casually. The vertical drop into the saddle was a more gradual descent compared to the ascent up the face of Mt. Democrat. As we were working our way down, we noticed a slow moving group ascending up Democrat. It was a large group of about 10 people and they were creating a traffic jam since the narrow path made it difficult for other climbers to pass. At the rate they were moving, we knew we would catch up to them fairly quickly. As we arrived at the saddle, I actually ran into another familiar face that I had met about a month earlier in Fort Collins at the New Belgium Brewery. We have a mutual friend and a group of us met there before going to a Matt Nathanson concert. Once again, it is a small world.
When we began our ascent up Mt. Democrat, Ken and I became a little more concerned about the weather. The ascent was up the eastern face so we couldn’t observe the weather arriving from the west. Part way up the mountain, someone told us that it was starting to look bad to the west and that we should hurry if we want to make it to the top. We picked up our pace but the climb up Democrat wasn’t easy. The route was a Class II and the tight path comprised of loose small boulders so we had to be careful were you stepped. Luckily, the group that was causing the traffic jam stopped so we were able to bypass them without any issue. Ken was getting a little beat down by the higher pace so I moved ahead of him to make sure that I got up to the summit and to begin celebrating with my Fat Tire.
I immediately opened my Fat Tire upon arriving at the summit. I have to admit, I wasn’t able to savor it like the other peaks I climbed. I consumed it relatively quickly because the weather was beginning to turn all around us. We realized that we had to still go back to Cameron since Christina was waiting for us. The climb to Mt. Democrat required a little over an hour, which was more than anticipated and added to our worry. We spent only a couple minutes on this peak before heading down.
We descended rapidly. At one point we passed the group of young kids (high school) heading towards the summit. At the rear of the group, two guys were assisting a girl who was not in good condition to the summit. She looked like she was in pain and had altitude sickness. I couldn’t believe they were still heading up given the condition of that girl. They should have been helping her down not up. On our ascent back up Cameron, Ken and I could really start to feel the effects of the climb and moving so quickly. We knew we needed to get back up onto Cameron before any bad weather hit. We could see some lightning in the distance but nothing was hitting close to us as of yet. I gave Ken my trail mix so he would throw some in his mouth every hundred feet for energy. It was like a drug to him and I had to give it to him. I couldn’t let him go into convulsions on the mountain…I didn’t have my wallet to put in his mouth so he didn’t bite his tongue. All kidding aside, it is amazing how food boosts your energy on these mountains.
I ended up getting to the summit a few hundred yards before Ken did. When I arrived, I didn’t see Christina, which concerned me. I figured I should wait for Ken before searching for Christina. It had now been two hours since we were previously on Mount Cameron, twice the time I thought it would take. Hiking can take you longer than you think and that was a good lesson for me to learn. Once Ken arrived we started to head for Mt. Bross. We could see Christina waiting in the saddle between Cameron and Bross. At this point, I could also see rain surrounding us but we were still dry.
We met up with Christina and the three of us decided to make the ascent up Bross. This wasn’t an easy decision considering the weather surrounding us, knowing how quickly it moves and how exposed we were. However, the ascent to the top of Bross wasn’t a long distance and not a lot of vertical. It didn’t take us to long to get there.
When we arrived on the top of Bross, there were a couple people riding dirt bikes. Punks! At this point I am tired and thought how easy they have it. I was relieved too and felt like I accomplished something great. I did it! I climbed four Colorado 14ers in one day. I don’t think I will be able to ever say that again in my life. The final Fat Tire tasted so good. With that said, I can also state that I had four Fat Tires above 14,000 feet in one day. Sweet! Honestly, it is more likely I will be able to make that statement again in my life in lieu of the previous one.
It neat to see Ken and Christina celebrate on top of this mountain. Ken climbed all four with me and Christina fought the through the pain in her knees to climb the three she sought after. They will now be able to sit out on their patio at Cutty Cabin and be able to say they climbed these three peaks towering over them. I hope when they look at these mountains they recall the difficulty of the climb, the achievement of triumphing them, and our day together.
We descended down the northeast face of Mt. Bross. There was no defined trail so each of us chose a route to get down. Along the way, Ken found an abandoned mine shaft that we both glanced into. It was interesting to see numerous icicles hanging from the roof to the base.
I have to mention that the weather never turned bad on us. On the way down, we were still surrounded by rain and lightning (in the distance). Ken made the off handed comment “I can’t believe the weather didn’t turn on us when we have been surrounded by it all afternoon”. I told him I prayed that we would have decent weather so we could achieve all four peaks and for Gods protection. He responded “that was a good prayer”. Moments like this strengthen my faith.
We ended the day at 3:30. It ended up being over 11 miles and 8 hours of hiking. Shortly after we returned to Cutty Cabin, it started to pour rain for the next few hours…
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