DeCaLiBron Loop (Mosquito Range) – Combo Approach from Mt. Democrat to Mt. Bross (Class 2)
- Attempted 7/22/15
- 7.5 miles round trip (7.25 miles w/o “South Bross”)
- 6.75 hrs RT
- Easy 14er (Class 2)
- +3,700′ net elevation gain
- sunblock (at that elevation, you’ll feel the sun)
- tech shell (you will want a shell to protect you from the wind)
- Nanopuff jacket (always layer when attempting a 14er)
- headlamp (you’ll have to be starting this hike earlier than most 14ers)
- light gloves (for climbing and warmth)
- hiking poles (save the knees!)
- Lunch and lots of snacks
- Lots of water!
Because this loop was so close to Arvada and because the weather looked lightening-free all day, Maggie and I decided to leave around 4:30a. We arrived at Kite Lake’s TH around 6:30a and began hiking 15 minutes thereafter. By this time, it was quite light out already. While we met a couple that had brought their Honda Civic to the top parking lot, I would personally be hesitant in bringing such a low clearance car to the TH. My Nissan Pathfinder was more than appropriate for the trail – went up in 2wd the whole way with no fear of bottoming out. While one must pay to park at the very top, it is fine to park along the road right below the fee sign (that’s what I did). Really, I think 2wd cars should be able to park right below the fee sign with no worries if they go slow over the dirt road, but those feeling generous can pay the parking fee at the TH.
For those who want to take the main trail, there is one main trail that heads toward Cameron. Then it’ll split left (to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron) and then right (to bross). However, for those who want to take the route up Democrat that we took, stay on the trail beside the bathrooms (it’ll obviously look like it is going to the west side of Democrat).
Neither of us did our homework – but why would we study the trail, it seemed like such a popular trail should be obvious to follow. Well, perhaps due to my incompetence or Maggie’s misplaced trust in me, we ended up ascending the non-standard trail. Once we reached the couliers for the difficult class 2 approach in the winter, we were too stubborn to turn around, so we just powered through. There was really no trail here. We just hiked up the loose scree to the snow, where we just climbed up some snow on a col before making our way to the rock wall.
The col is rated at a difficult class 2 approach and really wasn’t that bad, we didn’t need any snow gear and we were doing fine. But we decided to spice things up and climb the wall. In my opinion, this was a difficult class 3 bordering on a class 4. To put it in perspective, I wouldn’t have wanted to climb down that rock wall by any means, it was a one-way street for me. Loose rocks everywhere with some mild to moderate exposure here and there. It was a lot of fun, don’t get me wrong – I would do it again in a heartbeat! But be prepared for some more difficult climbing than you might expect going into it. This route did add a TON of time onto our trip, so only take this route if you are confident in your climbing and if you have checked for the weather giving you a good day.
There was then another long scree field to democrat’s false summit. From there, we met up with the main trail and were on top of the mountain in about 10 minutes. Our approach was far more fun but time consuming. The views were much better, literally no one followed us (up the wall, they bailed before then). There were a few small lakes below the rock wall too.
We met at least two different groups who were summitting their first 14er on top of Democrat. It was a bit cloudy, we could barely see the summit of Democrat on our approach. In my opinion, one should begin hiking the loop with Democrat because otherwise you may not be motivated to summit Democrat. It was by far the nastiest summit of the loop – steep and loose scree.
Once you summit Democrat, you can head down the main trail and swing over to Cameron. This is by far the greatest elevation gain/loss between the mountains of the loop. It will be the most crowded, as people tend to summit Democrat or Cameron if they are going to do just one. You’ll end up hiking along the ridge to a couple of false summits, but they will be obvious because you can see the humps/false summits from the bottom of the democrat-cameron saddle. After you hike up a ways, you’ll hike on the back side of Cameron. The top of Cameron is a relatively big and flat top.
Now you can easily see your route up to Lincoln from Cameron. Proceed down the path to the junction where you can head to Lincoln or Bross. Lincoln, quite obviously, is the tallest of the peaks. The route up it is obvious and not very challenging. In my opinion, the standard route up Democrat would be the hardest because of its loose rocks. However, Lincoln is definitely the prettiest summit I thought!
While the trek from Lincoln to Bross looks super long, it is flat and easy to walk. Honestly, it’ll be the easiest saddle you hike all day. You can basically see the whole route from the summit of Lincoln. Be careful on Lincoln’s summit because it’ll be crowded but is a pretty tiny summit. If you were to slip down col, it would be a steep and long road to the base. Looks fun to ski, but a bit too intense for me I suspect.
The summit of Bross is the biggest I have ever been on – you could host a football game up there! The true summit of Bross is the closer wind barrier, not the far one – although the far one offers a view over Almo (the city you drove through to get onto the dirt road to Kite Lake). I am not sure if it is legally open or not on Bross – I got mixed reports up there and I thought it was legal now. Everyone goes up there anyway. Since I was already at the summit of Bross, I decided to tackle South Bross: an unofficial/unranked 14er because while its peak is above 14,000 ft, its saddle is less than 300 ft between Bross and South Bross. However, I am trying to get even the unofficial peaks, so I decided to just take the quick walk over to South Bross and bag that guy.
South Bross was nice just because it was so secluded – there was literally us and another group of 2. From here, we descended to Bross’ trail down (watch out for old mines that can collapse below you) – head wisely to the trail to descend, don’t try to shortcut it and potentially go over an old mine. While I have heard stories about how tough the scree is going down Bross (and that one should instead ascend up Bross) I can confidently DENY that this is the case. I would much rather go down Bross than up it. Albeit, I didn’t see what the main trail looked like to ascend Democrat, but I don’t even care. I took out my hiking poles and going down the scree on Bross (which was only for a small section) was not too challenging. It is easy to slip and fall, yes, I would definitely use hiking poles to keep your balance – but going up scree is so difficult and exhausting. It’ll eventually meet up with the parking lot directly (I think it can meet up with the main trail if you descend from the main peak of bross just below the summit, kind of on the saddle between Cameron and Bross – you’ll pass it on your way to Bross, it is obvious).
Overall, I wouldn’t do this hike again. Going into this, I had the mentality that it would be crowded and not quite as pretty as are the summits in the Sawatch or San Juan ranges. I came here to bag these peaks on my trek to getting them all. I was happy to have Maggie as company in hiking this, it made it way better to have someone to talk to! I think that if we didn’t take that detour around Democrat and took the main trail AND didn’t have 40-50 mph winds for the vast majority of the trip (basically once we came over the scree field approaching Democrat) I think we could have done the trip in 4 hrs pretty easily. It added so much time with the brutal winds and the detour. These peaks are notorious to be windy – all my friends who have climbed this can contest. But if you have to bag these peaks, make sure to give yourself some good time to tackle it and try to beat the crowds (which were more than present when we arrived at 6:30a). You’ll find a thrill hiking on the West slopes of Democrat because no one else will be back there! IF I were to do this again, I would definitely try to do the climbing section again. Super fun!! This sets me at 16 official 14ers and 17 unofficials (if you count Mt. Cameron, you must be going for the 58 peaks rather than 53 official).