Climbing Mt. Democrat & Mt. Cameron 14ers

Since moving to Colorado we have made an effort to take full advantage of the nearby outdoors, which led us to attempt to climb a 14er.  A 14er is a mountain that has a peak over 14,000 ft of elevation, and it is a serious undertaking.  Some are harder than others, but in general it’s a good amount of exercise that you need to be physically prepared for.  If you’re interested in what that entails or looking to climb these specific peaks then read on for our trip report!

Cody had already climbed a 14er (Mt. Massive) a few years ago, and is eager to add 14ers to his list, so his idea was to climb a series of 14ers that are all very close together: Mount Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln & Bross.  So even though I had never successfully climbed a 14er in my life, he convinced me (and I tried to talk him out of it several times) to climb four in one day.

We decided to stay in Breckenridge for a few nights and drive to the trailhead at Kite Lake early in the morning on a Saturday for our hike.  We woke up at 3:00 AM and made it to the trailhead around 3:45.  After preparing all our gear and taking one last bathroom break we finally headed out around 4:00 AM.  It was still pitch black outside when we started which was both awesome and kind of treacherous.  Our headlamps were obviously essential, but I liked hiking without being able to see to far in front, because if I had seen how much elevation I still needed to climb then I would have probably turned around after 5 minutes.  However, there were a few streams that we had to cross which were a little difficult in the dark.  We had about two hours of hiking in the dark before full sunrise and we got a majority of the elevation gain done in that time.  As it started getting light I could see how much elevation we had left and had a mini break down – I just really wasn’t sure if I could make it all the way to the top.  I’ll blame that episode on the oxygen deprivation.  I pushed on and we watched the sunrise from the saddle between Democrat and Cameron; totally worth the 3:00 AM wake up call.

 

 

From the saddle we headed up to the summit of Democrat.  We were passed by two seriously intense hikers who looked like they were gliding up the mountain as I huffed my way inch by inch.  At the summit I felt relief more than euphoria, but it was still an amazing view and I took a moment to appreciate it and eat a piece of Toblerone (a ritual, according to Cody).  I had already planted the idea that I might not be able to make it to the other three peaks, and we decided to head back to the saddle and decide then what to do.  At the saddle I decided to keep my momentum and continue on to the peak of Cameron which I could see ahead of us only see the false summit of.  I had a decent pace up Cameron and felt good- there were definitely more drop offs but the terrain is a bit less rocky than on Democrat.   I got to the false summit, uttered some profanities, and continued on to the “peak”, which I put in quotes because it’s more of just a flattening out of the terrain.

On the peak of Cameron I realized a lot of things:

  1. my legs were weak
  2. although I could see Mt. Lincoln, I was in no way prepared to tackle the elevation required to reach it
  3. I had already reached and pushed through several breaking points during the course of the hike
  4. I had to have SOME semblance of energy left to descend the mountain

In summation: I was ready to turn around.  I said this to Cody, who initially attempted to proceed to Lincoln without me and meet me back on Cameron, only to turn around and agree that it was okay to start our descent.  We descended to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron and retraced our steps to the car.  I was so relieved to be on the way back to the car, but the descent certainly took awhile and was nearly harder than the ascent.  It took a long time and I was looking down stepping on rock after rock for what felt like hours.  I saw the scene in my sleep that night.  My knees threatened to give out.  But we finally made it back to the car, and drove back to our condo in Breck for much needed showers, baths, naps, snacks and hydration (and about 100 hours of laying in bed watching House Hunters).

 

 

 

 

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