by Heather Towt
On July 4th, 2014, we set out to conquer the DeCaLiBron, a collection of four 14ers joined by saddles that can all be summited in one day.
The initial ascent of Mt. Democrat from the Kite Lake trailhead was fairly easy, with solid terrain and a gradual elevation increase. About 2/3 of the way up, we encountered the toughest part of the day: a 20-minute steep scramble up loose rocks that really put the pressure on the knees. Past that hurdle the trail leveled off, and it was a quick 15-minute hike to the summit. We took in the first of several amazing views, snapped some pictures (keep an eye out for the wooden “Democrat” sign, a great photo prop), and turned our eyes to Mt. Cameron.
The path to Cameron had us retracing our steps down part of Democrat, including the steep rock field. Just past the rocks lay the smooth saddle to Cameron, followed by 20 minutes of large rocks that had to be navigated to reach more solid terrain. From there it was a steady yet steep hike to Cameron’s summit, where the fierce winds had us quickly on our way to Mt. Lincoln!
The saddle to Lincoln was very exposed, making it impossible to escape the wind chill, but the terrain was smooth and easy to manage. Past the saddle it was a quick hike to Lincoln’s summit, where the views to the east were stunning. A fellow hiker produced a bottle of champagne from his pack and we toasted to Independence Day before descending to the saddle to Mt. Bross.
The path to the summit of Bross was solid and even, and we reached the peak quickly. A protective rock wall provided nice cover from the wind as we refueled, took more pictures, and enjoyed the beautiful Colorado day. By that point, our legs were tired and the car was calling, and we could almost taste the celebratory wine that we would enjoy that evening!
The initial descent back to the trailhead was routine, but we quickly reached the second-toughest part of the day: a steep descent along scree, which had us slipping and tumbling more than once! After 20 minutes the trail became more solid, and it was a pleasant hike back to the car. The trek, which I highly recommend to any novice hiker, took a total of six hours.
- The closer you can stay to the trailhead the night before your hike, the better. Breckenridge boasts a number of lovely condos complete with welcoming, post-hike hot tubs, and it’s a quick 30-minute drive to the trail. Camping along the trailhead is another great option if you’re up for sleeping in a tent the night before the hike.
- Some hikers choose alternative routes, such as starting with Bross and ending with Democrat. We found Democrat to be the toughest hike, followed by Cameron, then Lincoln, and finally Bross; as such, we recommend our path – your legs will thank you!
- The summit of Bross is technically closed as the land is private and not all landowners have granted access, and you’re likely to see lots of online chatter about the possibility of being fined for trespassing. That said, we did not encounter any issues, and a hiker who has summited Bross several times mentioned that he’s never had any problems.
- Shoot to be on the trail ideally by 6:00 am, and by 7:00 am at the latest. This will help you avoid crowds and ensure that you’ve begun your final descent by noon (critical as this is when lightning storms tend to begin).
- Trailhead – Kite Lake
- Trailhead Elevation – 12,000 feet
- Summit Elevations (feet) – Democrat: 14,148; Cameron: 14,238; Lincoln: 14,286; Bross: 14,172
- Total Elevation Gain – 3,700 feet
- Route Length – 7.25 miles
- Total Time – 6-8 hours, depending on fitness level and speed of acclimation