The Decalibron

The Plan

It’s called the Decalibron, for Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, Mt Lincoln and Mt Bross (not sure where the “n” comes from). Four 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet) that can be climbed in one loop.

You have a couple of options.  The trailhead at Kite Lake is about 2 hours west of Colorado Springs (near Alma). Some people just get up very early and drive there. For me that would have leaving at 4:00 AM to get there at 6:00. The other option is to camp at the lake. There are 5 official, first-come, first-served campsites. You arrive in the afternoon after most of that days climbers have left, snag a campsite and are set to hike first thing the next day. This is the option I chose.

Kite Lake parking/campground area. Mountains to climb are in the background.
Kite Lake from the start of the trail up to the Democrat/Cameron saddle.

I arrived at Kite Lake at 3:00PM on Sunday, Aug 16 after a very bumpy ride on a gravel road (the last mile is not recommended if you do not have 4WD and decent clearance).  Kite Lake is at about 12,000 feet.

Tentsite at Kite Lake.
My home at Kite Lake.
Mt Democrat

I did the climbs a bit  differently than most folks. After setting up my tent, I decided to do a little acclimatization hike and ended up climbing Mt Democrat. I had planned to just go to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron but the weather was so nice I decided just to go to the summit.

Mt Democrat from near the start of the trail.

This was a 2,100 foot, 4 mile round trip hike. Not tough normally but I was starting at 12,000 feet so it was all about the oxygen, or lack thereof.

View from the trail up Democrat. That is Mt Cameron in the distance, my first peak tomorrow.

It took me 1:45 to get to the peak and I had the whole mountain to myself. I only saw two other hikers (while I was coming down).

At the summit of Mt. Democrat. You can see the Democrat/Cameron saddle and Mt Cameron behind me.

It took me about 1:15 to get back to camp (about 6:30). I read until it started to get dark (and cold) and then hit the sack.

View from my tent. That bump over my tent is Mt Cameron – first peak tomorrow.
Mt Cameron

I was up at 5:00 AM the next morning, making coffee and getting my pack ready for the day. I could see two or three headlamps in the dark heading up the mountain. This was not an option for me as my headlamp batteries died in the night.

Heading for Mt Cameron!

It was a chilly (low 40’s with frost on the ground) but clear morning as I started out. The weather held all morning, clear with just a little breeze. It took me about an hour to reach the saddle  between Democrat and Cameron. About the same as yesterday but I was breathing much easier today.

Mt Democrat from the saddle. I’m going the other way.

I ran into my first group of hikers at the saddle. But, because I did Democrat yesterday, I leave the “crowd” and heat east up Cameron.

View of Mt Democrat from partway up Cameron. That is the shadow of Mt Cameron on the right.

The traverse across the ridge was not bad, it only got steep again near the summit. It took me about an hour to get from the saddle to the peak of Cameron, arriving just before 8:00 AM.

Summit of Mt Cameron. That is Mt Lincoln over my left shoulder, my next goal.
Mt Lincoln

The traverse across to Mt Lincoln was short, only taking about 20 minutes.

Summit of Mt Lincoln. Another hiker was nice enough to snap this (and lend me the sign)

I ran into a couple other hikers on the summit of Lincoln. A couple of guys from Pennsylvania and a young man from Ft Collins.

Stunning view from the summit of Mt Lincoln. This is looking north.
Mt Bross

From Lincoln you retrace your steps back to the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln, where you take a left (south) heading toward Mt Bross.

Returning from Lincoln. You can see the trail from Mt Cameron (upper trail) and the trail to Mt Bross (lower and to the left).

Another pretty easy (though longer) traverse had me at the summit of Bross at 9:15 AM. On the way I saw a couple of signs warning that the trail to Bross was closed.

Uh oh.

But, like all good hikers, I basically did what everyone else was doing and ignored the sign. The issue is that the top of Bross is privately owned (I think by a mining company).  Though I saw no sign of any ownership outside of a couple of signs.

Nice view looking back at Mt Lincoln from the trail to Mt Bross.

The final climb up to Bross (on the “closed” trail) was steep but not too long. I caught up with my Lincoln hiker buddies on Mt Bross (they were all hiking faster than me).

Hiker buddies on the summit of Mt Bross.


Summit of Mt Bross. That is Mt Democrat behind me to my right and Mt Cameron to my left.

The descent down the south side of Mt Bross was not much fun. Steep, rocky with lots of loose gravel. I slipped several times and ended on my butt once. If I had to do it over I would return back over Cameron and the Cameron/Democrat saddle (the way I came up).

I was back at my tent by 10:15, so 4:15 to do roughly 6 miles and three peaks. It was a very good day.

A cold one back at camp. Mt Democrat over my tent.

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