This was my second 14er having climbed Quandary Peak with my son, Ben back in 2010. We both enjoyed our first 14er so much that we knew we had to do another. With a late-summer vacation planned for Breckenridge, we had a good opportunity to do add another 14er to our list while also introducing my daughter, Lauren to the world of 14ers.
We woke around 6:00 and drove south on Colorado 9 from Breckenridge to Alma. I had driven this route the previous evening to make sure I could easily find the road to the trail head. Many reporters had indicated that the road from Alma to the Kite Lake trail head was difficult to locate, but I had no problem; however, I would caution people to stick to the posted speed limits on Colorado 9 as the Alma PD goes to great lengths to nab speeders. Fortunately, I didn't pick up a ticket but the local sheriff was writing someone a ticket as I passed!
We parked at the trail head and paid the $3:00 parking fee. Several low-clearance vehicles had also made it all the way to the trail head, but I personally wouldn’t risk driving that far in anything that doesn’t have good ground clearance. You don’t need 4-wheel drive, but the rocky and rugged road requires caution even for a high-clearance vehicle like our Honda Pilot.
Kite Lake Trail Head
We put on our backpacks around 7:30 and headed onto the clearly marked trail that runs parallel with Kite Lake -- a nice easy start that lets you get moving and loosened up before the more strenuous sections. Weather was cool and perfect for hiking.
The trail running parrallel with Kite Lake
Just as on my previous 14er, there were plenty of people on the trail all striding out toward the summit.
The view looking back toward the trail head is a wonderful sight with the appropriately named Kite Lake easily recognizable.
Looking back at the appropriately named Kite Lake
Rest breaks were quite frequent (mainly for my benefit, I might add) as the altitude took its toll on my 53 year old lungs, but with such great scenery around you it’s nice to just stop, take a quick drink, and take in the wonderful views.
Lauren taking a well deserved break
Ben taking time to enjoy the views
The easy-going lower trail soon transitions to a rocky section which requires attention to foot placement to avoid rolling an ankle. The trail is well marked and the frequent switchbacks make it relatively easy to maintain a decent pace.
The trail starts to get a little difficult
After stopping for a break at the Democrat-Cameron saddle, we turned west and headed up an even rockier section which provided exposure to some strong gusting winds and some scrambling in certain sections. It is at the point that we were glad we brought along our gloves and hats as the temperature dropped.
Plenty of people on the trail
The amount of people sharing Mt. Democrat with us becomes apparent as we head toward the summit and notice the trail of people ahead of us. This clearly shows just how popular hiking Colorado 14ers is. As I had noted in my previous trip report, sharing the hiking experience with lots of fellow 14er enthusiasts is actually an enjoyable part of the day and feels nothing like the headache that some reporters have claimed in the trip reports. It’s amazing how many people (and their dogs) you meet and share stories with.
Nearing the peak
We all feel a surge of energy and enthusiasm is as we near the summit and know that we only have a short, relatively easy section to go.
Success at last as we get our picture taken! I'm not exactly sure what time it was when we reached the top (I think it was approximately 10:30) as we were all too preoccupied with taking in the wonderful panoramic views to bother with noting the time. The slightly haziness in the pictures is, according to several people we spoke to, caused by wildfires in Utah.
Success at last
Lauren enjoys the views
Marvelous views in every direction
After about 30 minutes of resting, eating, and drinking, we started the decent which represents a whole new level of difficulty as the unstable rocks make it even trickier on the way down. Each of us had moments where our footing gave way and we slipped onto our backsides.
Looking back toward Alma
Begining the tricky descent
The trail gets easier again as we clear the rocky section
Approaching Kite Lake again
A great day out in the fresh air of Colorado and another 14er completed. It doesn’t get much better than that – and it’s free!
And finally back to the trail head
I have no idea how many 14ers we will ultimately do, but this was another great day in Colorado and one we will certainly remember.