I was readying to get out of the familiar a bit and go out on an excursion. I spent the majority of the 30th doing laundry, tying up loose ends, and organizing gear in my car. I had my sights set on completing the "decalibron". The highest incorporated town in North America is Alma and it sits at 10,521 feet. Kite Lake is above this town and it has four 14ers that circle it. In one day you can climb and then traverse over to the peaks of Mount Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. The decalibron so to speak. In my usual fashion I finally managed to get up there late as all hell. Here I am bumping up some eerie county road in the middle of nowhere at midnight. I kept half expecting to see a bear or moose saunter across the road. The only thing to greet me as I passed by was wispy tendrils of fog. The road got progressively worse as I got higher up. I had been up there a time or two before so I knew what I was getting into but it was much more interesting under the cover of darkness. I had to keep it in first gear on the final mile or so. Subarus will go places you wouldn't think possible so long as you keep your tires on the highest parts of the road and correctly navigate the tricky parts. The last turn before the homestretch and parking area was a hairpin. In the daylight it would have been alright to pick my way through but in the dark it was surprising to say the least. Since it was a hairpin turn I swung around coming at it blind. One side was big and the other bigger so I chose to go the big route. Since my car is a 5 speed and it's hard to get going from a stop on a steep incline I just put the pedal to the floor. Keeping my tires on the tallest part of the big ditch was the goal. I managed to make it over but not without lifting a rear tire off the ground in the process.
I rolled into the parking area and noticed how there were several tents spread out across the area. I'm sure they loved hearing me fight my way up the hill with my loud, falling apart exhaust. Once there I made it a point to stay as quiet as possible. I set my car up for sleeping in the back but wasn't tired yet. I was taken aback by how clear the night sky was. Being so far from any light pollution really set the area up to be an amazing star gazing location. As I was sitting in my chair I was lucky enough to see a shooting star. I took that as a sign that the next day was going to be a good one. I wound down and settled in for the night. Being up above treeline at 12,000 feet is nice during the day but at night it can get pretty cold, especially for summer. As I lay there trying to get to sleep I noticed it getting colder and colder. Nualla was in a restless sentry mode, quietly woofing at people in there tent when they turned on a headlamp and stirred around. I eventually gave up on staying warm and convinced her to get in the back with me. That night it ended up being a one dog night and we both fell right asleep after that.
For the sound on my phone alarm I chose a mellow funky little beat. I don't care what sound it is though you never like hearing it. I absolutely did not want to get up that next morning when it started going off. I had a good bit of work to do though so I finally managed. Most of the trails here carry a class 2 rating but they were all very forgiving. I scooted up Democrat with no problems and was surprised to look off the backside and see the top of Fremont Pass and the Climax mine. It's wild how close you can be to something as the crow flies without realizing it. From there it was a traverse over to Cameron. The rock started to change in shape and color. The rocks on Democrat were larger and darker and the ones on Cameron smaller and gray to yellow in color.
|Looking off the backside of Cameron towards a high alpine lake.|
This pattern continued on over to Lincoln and Bross as well. On the way to Lincoln the rocks were small enough that you didn't have to pay attention to your footing which is a novelty on mountains as tall as these.
|Nualla says, "Follow Me."|
I also noticed how the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln was inundated with only one kind of flower. They were spread out all over and hadn't yet started to flower. They are really unique flowers in that their leaves are very geometrical and the flowers they produce only bloom around the perimeter of the whole plant structure. I heard somebody refer to them as nature's mandala and that description suits them perfectly.
|Pictured here are some flowering on the Bierstadt/Evans climb.|
Lincoln had more character than both Cameron and Bross in that it had some cliffs to look off of and there was a more pronounced top to it.
Approaching Bross was unique in that the rocks took on a more red tint to them. Obviously I have never been to Mars but I imagine it would look very similar to what I was seeing on the saddle between it and Cameron. The rocks on just the saddle were slightly larger and I had to pay attention to my footing a bit more.
|Flowers on the saddle between Cameron and Bross|
|Flowers on Cameron near the saddle to Bross|
Once I started getting up the slope towards the top the rocks were smaller and more yellow in color. Bross was an unimpressive sloping mountain but the views of the rest of the 14ers around were well worth the climb up there. The only memorable thing about Bross was how broad an area it was for the top of a mountain to be. Because of the nature of the rock the mountain had a very gently smooth surface to it that I hadn't yet seen on another mountaintop. Once I had had my fill of being up high I made my way down the other side of Bross to complete the full circuit. Nualla and I both were happy to be back at the car and off our feet for a bit.
I made my way back to town for a couple of odds and ends but now I had my sights on the Sawatch Range. Once done in town I hit the road again but this time I was headed for Leadville. After camping out amongst some old mine ruins and hanging out for a day I had my batteries recharged. I fumbled along some county roads in the dark trying to find a nondescript trailhead and finally stopped in what I knew to be the general area. I was going to hike Mount Sherman, my first Sawatch Range 14er.