Drove up to the trailhead Friday night (16 DEC). The lower end of CR-8 is hardpacked snow that shouldn't prove to be a problem for any 4-wheel drive vehicles and any front wheel drive cars. There are a couple of 10-15 foot long deep spots that have well-developed ruts through the snow that you can follow without getting stuck. The higher end of the road is actually much clearer than the lower part. I made it about .20 miles from the campground and trailhead before I got stuck in a snowdrift, so I just parked there. The wind was coming in pretty hard; gusts of 30+ mph were rocking my truck so I decided to sleep in the truck rather than pitching my 4-season tent. I woke up ot 0330 and dressed and prepped my gear, stepping off at 0430. The half-moon was still riding high, so I could see easily enough without my headlamp, but I needed my long-distance spotlamp to find the tracks through the snow. The GPS route downloaded from this site kept me on track and not plunging through the ice of Kite Lake (thankfully). Snow in the valley is pretty deep and not very well consolidated, so I switched from microspikes to my snowshoes, but quickly regretted it. Once you get past the Kentucky Belle mine and start climbing up out of the valley, the snowpack starts firming up considerably, so I switched to crampons to reduce foot fatigue and increase efficiency over snowshoes. They may be overkill for some, but I am training on using them and I like the assured footing they give you when climbing steep trails with snow. I was going slow in the dark trying to stay on the trail, which is hard to find in the dark without very well-defined tracks, so it took me a while to make the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron. I made the saddle right around sunrise, and took this pic of the valley on the far side
Looking over the saddle
. Most of the mountain is snow-free except the trail, which has enough of a pack on it to make it slick. At the false summit, you can see the snow you have to negotiate to make the summit of Mt. Democrat.
Snowpack to the peak of Mt. Democrat
. It's pretty deep in a couple of spots, but if you get there early before the sun has softenend it up, you shouldn't have any problems walking over it. Heading back down to the saddle was quick, and I knew I would be dreading the slog back up to Mt. Cameron. I took this pic to show the trail to Mt. Democrat and the conditions up to Mt. Cameron.
Trail up the Mt. Democrat and the snow on the route to Cameron
. Looking up the route to Mt. Cameron: . Cameron is bare on top as you can see here:
Top of cameron
So is most of the trail going through the valley to Mt. Lincoln, although there is a nice snowpack on the backside of Cameron that you can glissade down and practice self-arrests (as I did). Here's what it looks like: . The route up to Lincoln is a nice exposed ridge with snowpack on top, and once up it was a quick hike back down to the saddle. Met up with some other climbers from Denver that started after I did, and then continued on to the Bross bypass trail. Ran into another climber coming up (he came up the loop from the Bross side first, using the bypass trail) and then negotiated the final bit of snow on the Bross bypass trail. At this point in the hike, my legs were pretty fried (I carry a 40+ pound pack on all my hikes) so I was using my axe and crampons on the slick snow on the trail due to proximity to a steep dropoff. Once I climbed down the ridgeline (also covered in snow) and hit the gully, it was back to plain old boots and poles and slip-sliding through the talus/scree. Pretty uneventful on the way out, but I did notice that the snow was softening up considerably and starting to accumulate on my crampons and gaiters before I finally took them off. Here's a pic of the gully on the way down the backside of the Bross bypass:. Made it back to the trailhead and back out with no problems, packed up and drove home. Noticed a really nice trail sign at the campsite. I wonder who put this up? Nice work by the 14ers folks. Bottom line, for those who read all this way: enough snowpack for microspikes and/or crampons (depending on your druthers). Start early before the sun starts softening it up, as most of the trails get a full day's sun. Stay off Bross, it's still closed to public access. Have fun!!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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