| Decalibron (kind of)
Today I took on my fourth and fifth 14ers, plus a 14er in Cameron that, well, isn't an official 14er but is taller than many of them. It was my fourth day since flying in from the flatland of DC and my second consecutive day hiking 14ers — I had done Quandary the previous day — so I was curious how I would handle the loop, which I would finish off on the shoulder of Bross since the summit is closed to the public.
I was also anxious as to how my rental Camero would handle the road to the Kite Lake trailhead. As it turned out, the low-clearance vehicle made it within 0.25 miles of the trailhead. I proceeded up the road.
I reached the main parking lot around 7:20am. It was frigid outside, but also beautiful as the sunlight reflected off the nearby peaks. The hike up to the Democrat-Cameron saddle wasn't too long or difficult, but I still found myself resting frequently to catch my breath. After about a mile, the sun eclipsed the Bross ridge and I was able to take off some layers.
I gained the ridge in less than an hour and headed up what I knew would be my toughest ascent of the day — Democrat.
The ascent was slow going over the talus, but not too difficult. On a couple occasions, I looked around to make sure I was on the trail. I was. I caught up with a gentleman, who said he was from Providence, RI, was 70, and had flown in the previous day. If that wasn't motivation, I was helpless. I reached the top of the steep climb, passed a pair of descending hikers, and emerged onto a plateau (aka, false summit), from which I had a clear view of the nearby summit.
Minutes later, I was on top of Democrat at 9am, a fairly quick first summit gained.
I waited for the Providence hiker, and a few others behind him, then chatted briefly about how brilliant the day was, got my photo snapped (No. 4!) and then headed back to the saddle. Before heading up Cameron, I stripped down to my shorts and polypro, as it was warm out. When I passed a couple of guys, they thought I was crazy. But I like hiking with few layers. It helps me feel less cumbersome.
Well, when I took the ridge up Cameron, as part of the very legitimate, have-to-earn-it ascent, the wind started blowing, harder and harder, and when I finally gained the flat summit, I was FREEZING! The top of Cameron was pretty unique, as it's like a table top, but it also makes for a windswept zone. I didn't stay long, especially with the picturesque twin peaks of Lincoln just ahead. It was only about 10:30.
The hike from Cameron to Lincoln is short and enjoyable — an easy descent, some walking on flat gravel the color of hot sauce, and a short ascent up a spiral staircase followed by a skinny — but not at all scary — ridge. A few maneuvers later, I was on top of No. 5!
It was a tad after 11am
The ridge hike over to Bross was easy and uneventful. It was mostly flat and on a packed-down, gravelly surface that wasn't difficult to navigate. The color of the rocks — bright orange — made it beautiful, and I found myself constantly looking back toward the alluring Lincoln and the seemingly tranquil Cameron. Democrat, in the distance, looked even larger and steeper than when I hiked it!
When I reached the sign indicating no public access to the summit, I was probably a quarter mile from the top. I headed down the designated trail, which was pretty tricky for its majority. Descending steeply over scree, gravel and dirt, I had to switch to careful hiking mode, and even then, I slipped a few times in descending the gully back to Kite Lake.
Just a couple hundred feet from the bottom, I stopped to soak my feet in a stream just above a small waterfall. I couldn't keep them in the water for more than 30 seconds. FRIGID! The air temperature, on the other hand, was hot — and getting hotter — and the sky remained a completely clear blue. Talk about a perfect day for such a hike!
I finished around 1:40pm, a little over 6 hours after I started. I highly recommend the Decalibron!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):