Peak(s):  Quandary Peak  -  14,265 feet
Mt. Sherman  -  14,036 feet
Mt. Bross  -  14,172 feet
Mt. Lincoln  -  14,286 feet
Mt. Cameron  -  14,238 feet
Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Date Posted:  07/25/2020
Date Climbed:   07/14/2020
Author:  SpeedWalker
Additional Members:   MounTimo
 Tenmile/Mosquito 14ers in 2 Days  

Tenmile/Mosquito 14ers in 2 Days

Alex "SpeedWalker" Walker

Introduction

My mission to complete all 58 Colorado 14ers in the calendar summer of 2020 had begun just three weeks ago, and I had already completed 26 of the requisite peaks. This included all the 14ers in 2 complete mountain ranges: the Sawatch and Sangre de Cristo, each of which was dedicated its own week-long trip. I have trip reports covering the details of each of these adventures so far. Now, before setting off towards the final 2 major ranges (the San Juan and Elk), I knew I should first finish up the smaller, closer-to-home Tenmile, Mosquito, and Front ranges. The latter will be covered in a future trip report, but today will be dedicated to the 6 Tenmile/Mosquito 14ers.

My plan was to complete this set of peaks over 2 days. First, I would take my usual hiking partner Tim along for the short hike up Quandary Peak, then quickly drive over and finish Mount Sherman as well. The next day, I would tackle the DeCaLiBron on my own, which Tim and I had already done together last year; I just wanted to repeat these 4 peaks to truly do all the 14ers in one summer. I would also be following the "3,000 ft rule," with my starting/ending points at least that amount of elevation below each peak, just because I'm a perfectionist and like the idea of a minimum requirement to count as "climbing a 14er." Normally this isn't a big deal, as most trailheads are well below 11,000 ft, although the Mosquito range is a notable exception, requiring some long road walks on my part.


Day 0 - July 13, 2020

I finished packing the car and left home around 4:00 PM to meet Tim, who was staying near Breckenridge. I got stuck in a huge traffic jam merging onto I-70, so I arrived a little later than I hoped. As usual, I ordered and ate a pizza along the way, arriving around 7:00 PM. I stayed with Tim's family for the night, located just a 15 minute drive from the Quandary TH. I was asleep around 9:00 PM.


Day 1 - July 14, 2020

Quandary Peak - East Ridge

Class 2 | Distance: 6.53 mi | Gain: 3,196 ft

  • 1:34 to Quandary
  • 1:18 to TH

We woke up at 4:00 AM, ate breakfast, and set off towards the trailhead. Tim's still not totally happy about waking up so early, but I always enjoy it, provided I get enough sleep. But since the weather for the day called for the typical chance of afternoon thunderstorms, we had to be sure to get up and down the two peaks relatively quickly. We were among the first cars to arrive, and got a parking spot mere feet away from the start of the trail. When we came back, this road would be packed full of cars, with some even on the wrong side of the street among the "No Parking" signs. From my experience, the most popular time to start a 14er hike seems to be right around sunrise, so it's worth arriving a little early to get a good spot.

20410_01
Sunrise over nearby Bald Mountain, you can see Torreys and Grays far in the background

We headed on up the trail through the trees in the dark, Tim using his phone's flashlight after forgetting a headlamp (again). The trail is extremely well-built compared to many others and seems equally well-maintained, which was a huge relief after a week in the much rougher Sangres. It hits treeline about a third of the way through, where the trail gets a bit rougher and the gradual elevation gain picks up a little. You're walking on a mix of dirt and smaller rocks at this point, but it's still quite easy because it's so well-traveled.

20410_02
Walking the East Ridge towards Quandary

Around 13,000 ft, the slope flattens out for a while, before picking back up and becoming considerably rockier. You take some obvious squiggly switchbacks, and it's overall quite easy for a Class 2 hike. The sun hit the trail as we were approaching the summit.

20410_03
Looking towards Bross, Lincoln, and Cameron (3 highest bumps in far background), plus Democrat (a little lower to the right) on the way up Quandary

We hit the top just past 6:00 AM, and it was by far the coldest my fingers had been this summer on a 14er. I guess the sun barely being up plus the unusually chilly wind just made this one particularly bad; little did I know that Quandary would not hold this record for long. We took our summit picture on my 27th peak of the summer, then sat down behind one of the wind shelters to eat a snack and warm our hands.

20410_04
#27 - Quandary Peak

We were eager to head back down to warm back up again. I had already noticed that the mountain seemed unusually busy for a Tuesday, but heading down only confirmed my suspicions. Soon enough, we were passing easily a dozen hikers a minute. In fact, I actually like to count the number of people I pass when it seems this busy, so I knew my record for this summer had been on Yale, where I was the first to summit, then saw 196 people on the way down. That had been on a Saturday, albeit on a less popular peak. Quandary actually managed to break the record, with 202 people passed while descending, all while on one of the least busy days of the week.

20410_05
Heading back down, approaching a crowd of upward hikers

The funny thing is, it seems like most people get up to treeline at a reasonable pace, but then slow down considerably, especially past 13,000 ft. Combined with the fact that most people start right around sunrise, this means you'll always pass hoards of hikers on the upper slopes, yet almost no one once you're back in the trees. So after dodging people for the better part of an hour, we did get a short bit of solitude before getting back to the car.

20410_06
Extremely nice set of stairs, with no one else around (except Tim)

We made it back just before 8:00 AM, which is normally about when we'd be reaching the summit, although I guess Quandary is unusually short. We drove off immediately, amazed at how many cars had since arrived, and started the relatively short drive over to the Fourmile Creek TH for Sherman. For most people, this peak is a laughably short and easy 14er to check off the list. But for someone crazy enough to want to follow the 3,000 ft rule (me), you're going to be covering the majority of your distance on foot before you even hit the trailhead. That's right, the road walk from 11,000 ft to the trailhead at 12,000 ft is well over 2 miles, which is literally longer than the hike to the summit. Things get even crazier if you're going for 13ers. Since there are a couple of centennials nearby, I wanted to also give myself enough margin if I decided to add one on, so I started at 10,850 ft. That sets you back more than another mile, for a total of around 3.8 miles before you even hit the trailhead. Yeah, I told you I was crazy. Anyway, we found the proper spot along the road, I packed my bags, then Tim drove off towards the trailhead as I set off on foot.


Mount Sherman - Southwest Ridge

Class 2 | Distance: 15.72 mi | Gain: 5,003 ft

  • 0:57 to TH
  • 1:01 to Sherman
  • 0:49 to Dyer
  • 0:41 to Sherman
  • 0:49 to TH
  • 0:35 to Car (10,850 ft)

Yeah, I managed to make my hike up Sherman over 15 miles long. I started walking...

20410_07
Starting the long road walk

3.8 miles on a dirt road...

20410_11
Passing some abandoned buildings

It was very exciting...

20410_08
Approaching the trailhead

About an hour later, I finally reached the trailhead and met back up with Tim. We started on up the trail, passing dozens of people on the way down from their morning hikes. Honestly, it wasn't much more exciting than the walk up to the trailhead. You're practically on a dirt road most of the way anyway, and there's hardly any scenery.

20410_09
Abandoned mines: the most interesting sights along the trail up Sherman

At around 13,000 ft, we came to a large snowfield that seemed to be blocking the standard trail. I continued really far down a temporary-looking trail, then switchbacked up around the snow. I soon realized you could've walked though a short, packed-down section of it to bypass most of that extra distance. Tim took an additional shortcut, surprising me by appearing ahead of me while I was waiting for him to come up from behind. It gets a little steeper from here on somewhat loose dirt and rocks. It's still really not bad though; I would call it the easiest trip up a 14er from its standard trailhead. It got very windy up on the ridge as we approached the top, and didn't improve much at the summit. Luckily, it was now late in the morning and much warmer, so it was more of just an annoyance than anything.

20410_10
#28 - Quandary Peak

I gave Tim instructions to head back down to the car and drive it to a lower intersection, in case I decided to descend centennial Horseshoe Mountain to there. But in the meantime, I would be heading in the opposite direction, towards other nearby centennial Dyer Mountain. It's a relatively easy 1.5 mile ridge walk to there, although this seems like quite the task when compared to Sherman itself. There's a loosely-defined trail the whole way, although you kind of have to make your route up in a few places. I first stopped by unranked 13er Gemini Peak along the way, then headed down and up towards Dyer.

20410_12
Powerlines on the ridge up Dyer

I hit the top of Dyer fairly quickly, with the weather starting to look a bit more intimidating. It was still rather windy, and only getting windier. The views were pretty unremarkable from here, aside from a few peaks far in the distance.

20410_13
Looking back towards Sherman (Gemini is the bump to its left) from Dyer

I made my way back over the ridge, as there's no easy way to make it back to the trailhead without reascending Sherman itself. Along the way, I found an iPhone on the ground. I honestly I have no idea what model it was, but it was one of the newer ones. I picked it up and tried turning it on, but it was dead. Since it had presumably been there for a while, I took it home with me where I could find a cable to charge it up. We later contacted the owner and returned it to them. Anyway, it was now time to decide whether to continue on to the other centennial, Horseshoe Mountain. I experienced what had to be the strongest wind I'd ever felt on a 14er along the ridge down Sherman. It was only forecasted to be around 20mph, although it had to be nearly double that at some points; I had to brace myself to stay upright along the most exposed section. Not wanting to walk miles more along a ridge like this, and with the weather looking iffy, I decided to forgo the last peak and just head down to the car. That was when I realized: I had never even given the keys to Tim; he couldn't have driven down to the pickup location for Horseshoe, and was probably still waiting outside in the parking lot. So, I firmly decided to descend straight to the car, picking up my pace a little at the thought of Tim sitting out in the rain. At around 2:00 PM, I eventually made it back to him looking somewhat annoyed, gave him the keys, and headed down the road. On foot, of course.

20410_14
Walking the 3.8 miles of road again

I soon realized that this gentle downhill dirt road was the perfect terrain for running, so I broke into a jog, hitting a number of consecutive sub-10 miles along the way. As a runner, that's usually nowhere near impressive, but it feels like a great achievement at this kind of altitude, with a pack on, and with over 20 miles of slow hiking (at nearly 30-minute pace) already on your legs for the day. I eventually made it back to my starting point and waited for Tim, who somehow managed to arrive after me, despite having the car. I got in and drove all the way back to Breckenridge, where we wondered around and failed to find any fast food restaurants, before I dropped Tim off for the night. I then drove back the same way again, turning off towards Kite Lake TH for the 4 14ers I would be aiming for tomorrow. I planned to go up Mounts Bross, Lincoln, Cameron, then Democrat, and if I had time, I would then traverse over to centennial Mount Buckskin. Unfortunately, this is one of the other few trailheads that starts well over 11,000 ft, meaning I again had a long 3.3-mile road walk just to reach the standard starting point. So, still near the beginning of the road, I pulled the car over at around 10,850 ft, giving me 3,000 ft above all 5 peaks I planned to hike. I found a narrow old trail on public land that seemed to lead to a few camping spots, so I went in and managed to park the car perfectly between a few trees. I ate everything I could find around the car for dinner, and tried to fall asleep around 7:00 PM, ready to wake up early the next morning


Day 2 - July 15, 2020

Mount Bross/Mount Lincoln/Mount Cameron/Mount Democrat - Combination

Class 3 | Distance: 15.46 mi | Gain: 5,968 ft

  • 0:55 to TH
  • 0:59 to Bross
  • 0:28 to Lincoln
  • 0:11 to Cameron
  • 0:44 to Democrat
  • 1:53 to Buckskin
  • 0:47 to TH
  • 0:36 to Car (10,850 ft)

I again awoke at 4:00 AM, but this time on a much less comfortable camping pad in the back of the car, which was tilted at a strange angle. Still, I was up and moving soon enough, on what would be my second-longest road walk of the summer. I know that most people truly don't understand why someone would go through hours of unnecessary hiking just for an arbitrary rule, or at least wouldn't care enough to do it themselves. And yeah, looking back, I guess I would've rather just driven up those roads; I just knew that at some point in the future I would've looked at that empty 3,000 ft checkbox and wish I'd done it, or even drive out and redo the peak just for the sake of the rule. I figured I would get it out of the way right now, both to be able to say I've done it, and so that I'll never want to do it again in the future. Next time I come back to Kite Lake, I can just enjoy the peaks from the upper parking lot without thinking about the rule, since I've already done it. Anyway, I set out from the parking lot on the trail towards Bross. I found it funny how many "Bross is closed" signs there were immediately at the start of the trail, whereas at the top there's basically no indication as to where you're actually entering private property. I guess if someone's made it that far, there's probably no convincing them to stay away.

20410_15
Ascending the slopes of Bross

By the way, I decided to do the DeCaLiBron loop "backwards" for two reasons: I wanted to attempt the traverse from Democrat to Buckskin, but wanted to make sure I finished the 14ers first, which necessitated this order. Also, I had already done it the standard direction, so I just wanted to switch things up. Overall I'd say the order doesn't matter much, but I slightly prefer the standard direction for a few reasons I'll explain shortly. Now, back to the subject of Bross. Many people complain about the steep, loose scree descent down this peak, and we experienced the worst of it last summer when the excessive amounts of snow had, as far as I knew at the time, covered half of the standard trail. There's a major turnoff to the left where you get off the ridge and onto a different slope. This other slope looked totally covered in snow to us, so I decided to continue down on the ridge, which resulted in some really annoying off-trail sliding down scree. Looking back, there was probably a reasonable workaround with the snow on the standard route, but I wasn't nearly as familiar with maps and routefinding back then; it was basically the first 14er trip I was leading. Anyway, since I would now be ascending Bross, and doing so by the proper route, I was curious to see just how bad the loose on-trail sections were. First, be aware that at that left turn I mentioned earlier, there's a way to descend from the ridge early and shortcut the standard route, on what looks like a less-than-ideal trail that I wouldn't recommend. Just make sure to know where the standard route is, and follow it. Anyway, ascending Bross was pretty smooth up to this point, but you're soon in the middle of the steepest of terrain. Still, there were only one or two sections, making up perhaps a couple hundred vertical feet of the route, that were really anywhere near bad when going up, and I remember them not being too terrible when coming down either. Overall I'd say it's not a big deal (nothing compared to a lot of harder 14er routes), just be prepared for a short section of mildly annoying terrain, stay on the correct trail, and the worst of it will be over in just a few minutes.

20410_16
#29 - Mount "I need more fingers"

Well, we've spent enough time talking about the trail, so let's just say that I took the above picture in a location that shall remain unnamed, and continued on towards Lincoln.

20410_17
The (windy) trail to Lincoln

Atop the summit of Quandary yesterday, I noted that it was the coldest I had been while on a 14er this summer. Well, that record was broken just 24 hours later. I've found so far that the wind always tends to be the worst on the ridge up to a summit, especially if it's a really round ridge. Once you get up to a pointy peak, the wind from all directions must just cancel itself out or something; it's always surprisingly calm at the top. The exception to this rule is when the peak itself is really flat, or not much more than a bump on the ridge. This is why peaks like Sherman, Bross, and Cameron are all so windy. So even while moving quickly along this flat section of the ridge towards Lincoln, I could hardly feel my fingers because of the crazy wind and early morning temperatures. This is one of the reasons I would recommend doing the DeCaLiBron in the standard direction: you avoid the windiest peaks until the end, when it's later in the day and much warmer.

20410_18
#30 - Mount Lincoln

I made it to the top of Lincoln just past 7:00 AM, now over the halfway point of my 58-peak goal. It was still extremely cold and windy all the way across the ridge to this point, but the summit wasn't quite as bad. I dreaded the short traverse to Cameron, which I knew would hold the worst winds of the day, and it did not disappoint.

20410_24
Panorama from the top of Lincoln, with Bross (left), Cameron (just right of center), Democrat (center), and Quandary (far right)

Just like I remembered from last year, summiting Cameron involves walking onto the slightest of bumps on the round ridge, then looking around and questioning if this really is the summit. I actually walked over towards the other highest point, looking for the top, before turning around and realizing I had just passed it without noticing. A single cairn marks the top, from which I took my summit picture, hoping nothing would blow away.

20410_19
#31 - Mount Cameron

I will not comment on whether or not I accidentally held up 13 instead of 31, flipping the picture around in post. Luckily, my hair was being blown straight up, and the summit's terrain is so boring, that you probably wouldn't have noticed anyway. And yeah, it definitely doesn't feel like a 14er up here. Even though you're a hundred feet higher than your next destination (Democrat), the minimal prominence and rounded summit makes it feel like even less of a mountain than Bross.

20410_21
Looking up towards Democrat's false summit from its saddle with Cameron

From Cameron to Democrat, the ridge gets a lot less round and a lot more rocky. However, this means that the wind dies down a lot, which was definitely a relief after about an hour of freezing hands. The trail really wasn't bad either; it's your typical well-maintained Class 2 walk through rocks. In fact, the vast majority of this route would probably be considered Class 1, if not for a few rocky sections on Democrat and the steep parts of the descent of Bross. This is also where I started seeing lots of other hikers. From my car at under 11,000 ft to the (hypothetical) summit of Bross, I didn't see a single person on the trail. But there were increasingly more on Lincoln and Cameron, escalating to crowds of dozens of people around the saddle with Democrat. So if you want total solitude on Bross, then sure, do the loop in reverse. But personally, I would rather start early in the standard direction, beating the crowds to the top of Democrat, and dealing with the relatively few people on the peaks later on. If you go the way I did, even on the least busy day of the week, you'll be confronted with hundreds of people making their way up and down Democrat, the standard starting peak.

20410_22
Crossing a well-packed snowfield to reach the true summit of Democrat

Again, the trails up these peaks are all very nice and well-built, with the rockiest terrain existing on the switchbacks up Democrat. This is the other spot where we deviated from the standard route last year, having to maneuver around a giant snowfield with some off-trail rock hopping to gain the false summit. This year, the proper route was snow-free and very obvious, although there was one lingering snowfield to cross just after the false summit. From there though, my biggest obstacle was the hoard of hikers taking their time on the final stretch to the summit. There were easily 20 people sitting around on top. I tried to enjoy the views, but was distracted by multiple people presumably video calling their families.

20410_23
#32 - Mount Democrat

Anyway, now comes the fun part. I put on the helmet I had been carrying with me through all of this, probably attracting some strange looks from others on the summit. I set off down the South Ridge of Democrat, which lacks a trail but is initially rather tame. It's certainly a huge step up from the barely Class 2 route up to this point, with plenty of untouched loose rock, but not steep enough to really worry about yet. It was amazing how quick it went from one of the most packed 14er summits I'd ever seen, to total silence and solitude along this empty ridge.

20410_25
Starting down the ridge from Democrat to Buckskin

After almost a half mile, you're nearly a third of the way to Buckskin, but the easiest terrain is all behind you. The next half mile is by far the worst, a rugged ridgeline with the constant choice between mostly solid but difficult climbing, or loose bypasses on the side of a steep slope.

20410_26
A small glimpse of the type of terrain along the traverse

I'm not writing this as a guide or recommending this route to anyone, as it's remarkably unpopular for such a busy area, and that's definitely for a reason. You can do some fun scrambling along the ridge proper, but you'll probably end up spending most your time cautiously traversing loose faces of rock while trying to avoid taking any wrong steps. Unless this sounds like a good time to you, I would really suggest against it. You generally stay just to the west of the top of the ridge, where the terrain is steep and loose, rather than just a sheer dropoff to the east. There are a number of towers along the ridge, big and small, most of which I decided to skirt around on the loose slope rather than attempt to climb. The rock is definitely a lot more solid up top, but I didn't want to run into any serious obstacle from which I'd have to backtrack. I'm relatively fast on this kind of terrain, and it took me around an hour to get through this tricky half mile.

20410_27
Looking back on Democrat from midway through the traverse

The one piece of advice I have to give, especially to those starting the traverse from Democrat, is to make sure to ascend the majority of the way up the final (southmost) tower. This is the biggest bump in the ridge, and signifies the end of the traverse, so I figured I'd just stay low on the west slope and contour around it. It turns out that there are some really nasty cliff bands which largely block passage down low, which I narrowly managed to maneuver, but not without some sketchy Class 4+ moves followed by a leap towards solid-looking terrain. Overall the traverse can definitely be kept at Class 3 if you choose your path properly, you might even be able to call it Class 2+ if you for some reason bypass the easy scrambling on yet more loose rock. But the worst part of the ridge is by no means its technical difficulty; it's just the terrible loose rock. There are unroped Class 4 routes much safer and more pleasant than this. Anyway, once the traverse is over with, your next obstacle is... a tangle of powerlines?

20410_28
Mess of powerlines just after the traverse

There's a couple of posts solidly in the ground from which I believe electricity is actually running, although they do later dip down into the middle of a snowfield. But there's also a few powerlines attached to a broken pole randomly suspended in mid-air, plus about a dozen other poles that have fallen over with messes of old wire and other mounting components all over the place. It looks like this powerline must just fall over every other year, and rather than clean it up and fix it properly, they just put in a new pole and hope for the best. Anyway, I ducked under anything that looked like it may be live, which was easy enough. From here, it's best to follow the ridge about another half mile up to a subpeak of Buckskin, then take a sharp left and walk along the final relatively flat quarter mile of the ridge to the top. The first part is steep, but fairly solid if you stay up high, with a path that seems reasonably-traveled. The final part is even easier, just a typical rocky ridge walk. I made it to the top a little past 11:00 AM, and although the clouds were rolling in, the weather still looked fairly nice. I captured this beautiful panorama of Kite Lake and the surrounding 14ers.

20410_29
Great view of Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross (left-to-right near the center) from Buckskin

This is by far the coolest view I've seen of the DeCaLiBron, and it's definitely worth coming up Buckskin to see, if you have an extra couple hours to spare at the end of your day on the 14ers. It's also of course a centennial, and the off-trail walk isn't that bad for Class 2.

20410_30
Looking back up at the worst section of the Democrat to Buckskin traverse

The descent from Buckskin is much easier than the rest of the traverse, although not completely trivial. You continue along the ridge before choosing a gentle path down the rocky slope, which soon changes to soft grass. There seemed to be very little sign of an established "trail," although I think I was a little bit off from the standard route. Still, once you're in the grass, it makes the walk down rather easy, although the steepness is still a little annoying. There's one more very steep dropoff before making it back to a proper trail, but if you aim it right you can find some nicely-established switchbacks right as you hit the powerlines. I missed them a little bit, but you can see where they are on a satellite image. From there, I basically headed straight north through a very wet, marshy area, before crossing a creek and hitting a real trail, that's normally used to access Lake Emma from Kite Lake TH. But if you head slightly more to the east, I believe there's a much drier way to reach this trail, which involves two creek crossings.

20410_31
Looking down the trail towards Kite Lake TH

From here, it's a short, easy walk back to Kite Lake TH, and then for me, another 3.3 miles of easy jogging down the road to the car. I was back not long after noon, making for a good half day of hiking before the weather rolled in. I had finished all 6 of the 14ers in the Tenmile/Mosquito range in just under 30 hours, of which a good 9 were spent sleeping (or at least trying to). I'll be back at it again within the next week to finish up the 5 remaining peaks in the Front Range, before tackling the more extreme goal of the entire San Juan and Elk ranges, which will conclude all the 14ers for me. I'll have those trip reports posted soon!


My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31


 Comments or Questions
wildcheetah
Driving
08/31/2020 12:46
hello, how was the drive up to the trailhead at Quandary? I heard you will need 4x4. Thanks!


SpeedWalker


Re: wildcheetah
08/31/2020 12:54
The Quandary Peak trailhead is only about a third of a mile from the paved highway. The dirt road in between is a little bumpy, but almost any car can make it easily. If for some reason you can't make it (or more likely, there's no parking spots left along the road), there's a huge parking lot right next to the highway, a short walk from the start of the trail. You can find trailhead descriptions for every 14er on this site; here is the page for Quandary.



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