Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hot Route: The DeCaLiBron (The Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, Bross Loop)

Kite Lake Trailhead          
Length: 7 miles
Difficulty: class 2
Elevation gain: 3,500 feet
Exposure: Mild

Mt. Lincoln from Mt. Cameron
Mt. Lincoln in late spring
**NOTE** As of now the summit of Mt. Bross is closed to public access. Climbers that choose to o to the summit anyway could jeopardize future access, which the CFI (Colorado Fourteener Initiative) and CMC (Colorado Mountain Club) are currently fighting to obtain. The Bross portions of this historic route are included only for reference and in the hope that future access is restored.

The Decalibron is by far the easiest route in the state that allows you to collect four of the 59 fourteeners on the extended "59 List", and 3 of the 53 fourteeners on the standard list. In one big loop you can make a ring around this large cirque and collect Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. Since the trailhead at Kite Lake is over 12,000 feet and can be reached by a passenger car, this four-summit tour is highly abridged and quite popular.

Though the technical difficulty on this climb never exceeds class 2, the amount of time you are above 13,000 feet is substantial as is your exposure to weather. At the deepest points of the route the fastest way off is to simply continue around the cirque. As we discovered on a 2010 attempt of this ridge when we climbed in 80 mph winds, getting caught in the wrong conditions can be an unpleasant and even dangerous proposition.


The saddle between Colorado 14ers Mount Democrat and Mount Cameron
The saddle between Cameron
and Democrat from Democrat's
From the Kite Lake trailhead, cross the creek and find a strong trail that heads north from the lake. Ascend the easy but winding class 1 trail to the 13,300 foot saddle between Democrat and Cameron. Turn left (west) and climb Mt. Democrat on a low class 2 trail. After enjoying Democrat's summit, descend back to the 13,300 foot saddle. Climb east to the rotund summit of Mt. Cameron, which is not ranked but usually included as one of the six unranked summits to be included in the 59 list.

From Cameron descend gently south to the saddle and it is only a short ways to Lincoln, the tallest route of the group. Lincoln's summit cap involves a small amount of boulder hopping. When you are done with Lincoln descend back to the saddle between Lincoln and Cameron and traverse to Cameron's east side to avoid having to re-climb to the top. Continue aroun the cirque to Bross and make a decision.

Mt. Bross on the Decalibron
Mt. Bross from Mt. Cameron
Currently, it is illegal to climb Mt. Bross, which is located on private property. It is legal to get within a few hundred feet of the summit and traverse on around to descend the West Slopes of Bross. Many people, eager to check off all of Colorado's 14ers, will quickly, quietly and respectfully make the out-and-back to Bross's summit and quietly move on. While it may be tempting to do so, you could jeopardize future access to the peak. Tread lightly!

The descent down Bross is steep and a bit gravelly at times, but very quickly you will be back down at your car.

In the center of Alma turn west (right if coming from Hoosier Pass, left if coming from Fairplay) off Highway 9 onto Kite Lake Rd. Follow this mostly smooth dirt road for 6 miles to Kite Lake. In some conditions lower clearance cars will sometimes park a few turns below the lake but I've seen sports cars come rolling into the parking lot before. There is limited camping available here.

Mount Democrat in the snow
The last few, snowy feet on Democrat
Decalibron: How to Climb in a Hurricane- Eighty mile-per-hour winds and snowy conditions on the Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross loop.

Decalibron on

Decalibron on

Colorado's Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs by Gerry Roach on Better yet, buy this helpful and entertaining guidebook at your local gear shop or bookstore.

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