February 5th, 2005
After exchanging emails earlier in the week with fellow 14erworld member Jason Halladay, we decided to climb Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Bross on Saturday. Jason is completing a second round of all the 14ers and still needed these peaks, while Amy and I were just looking for some new winter Fourteeners. I had been sick with a cold for the last two weeks, but began to feel better towards the end of the week. Oppositely, Amy who had been feeling well while I was sick, got my cold on Wednesday and stayed home from work Friday with a fever of 102. She still wanted to come along, but I convinced her to stay home and not make her cold worse. For my trip report of Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln and Mt. Bross in summer conditions CLICK HERE. For my trip report of Mt. Bross and Mt. Lincoln in winter conditions CLICK HERE.
February 5th, 2005
After exchanging emails earlier in the week with fellow 14erworld member Jason Halladay, we decided to climb Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Bross on Saturday. Jason is completing a second round of all the 14ers and still needed these peaks, while Amy and I were just looking for some new winter Fourteeners. I had been sick with a cold for the last two weeks, but begin to feel better towards the end of the week. Oppositely, Amy who had been feeling well while I was sick, got my cold on Wednesday and stayed home from work Friday with a fever of 102. She still wanted to come along, but I convinced her to stay home and not make her cold worse.
The alarm rudely awaken my slumber at 5 a.m. and after a quick breakfast I loaded my gear and departed Boulder. As I was leaving my apartment complex several CU students that live near me were just stumbling home after a drunken Friday night on the town. In a not-too-distance past that would have been me staggering home in the wee hours of the morning, sleeping all day Saturday to recover, and waking up Saturday night just in time to do it all over again. Luckily, Iíve found much more rewarding things to do on my weekends now, and thus I was off to meet up with Jason along the Kite Lake Road outside of Alma.
At this early hour, I was well ahead of skier traffic so I decided to take I-70 to Breckenridge instead of Highway 285 to Fairplay. What a difference an hour makes on 1-70 in the morning, hit I-70 in Golden at 6 a.m. and it is smooth sailing, wait until 7 a.m. and youíre in for a long, frustrating, call-fellow-drivers-every-name-in-the-book, drive to the mountains. I made good time up I-70 and as I rounded Dillion Reservoir the sun was coming up and the sky was coming to life. I quickly had to pull over to get a shot of the morning color dancing across the clouds. I always try to keep my camera handy since Iíve missed so many photo opportunities like this in the past.
I rolled quickly through Breckenridge and over Hoosier Pass into Alma. As I headed up the Kite Lake Road I noticed Jasonís yellow Xterra just off the road with a tent set up nearby. I was a little early so Jason quickly finished his breakfast and broke up camp, while I got my gear ready. We proceeded another 3 miles down Kite Load Road before a snowy hillside prevented forward progress. We both took a few runs at the hillside to no avail, so we parked the vehicles, and proceeded on foot towards Kite Lake around 8:30 a.m.
We opted to leave the snowshoes behind and traveling up the road wasnít much of a hassle since there was bare ground near the lip of the road in many places. Nearing the lake, the road made a switchback to the right and we decided to take a shortcut towards the lake. This was a posthole nightmare so we quickly made a course to regain the road as quick as possible. As we neared Kite Lake, the Southeast Ridge on Mt. Democrat looked like a clean, direct line to the summit. It is the obvious ridge the curls around left to the highpoint in the photo below.
We reached Kite Lake at 9:20 a.m. and commented how different the landscape is in winter versus summer. In the summer time there are dozens and dozens of cars up and down the road and also many parties camped around the lake. This time of year, it is devoid of any kind of life, not even birds or marmots can be found. Jason and I had both been up the standard route on Mt. Democrat several times, so we opted for Southeast Ridge as a new, exciting alternative. From the lake we began climbing the slopes towards the bottom of the ridge. The postholing reminded on the CAIC danger rose, moderate with pockets of considerable. A moderate posthole would have us sink only several inches, sometimes up to our knee, while the pockets of considerable would have us sunk in up to our waists. Luckily the section was pretty short and we found ourselves at the base of a somewhat steep slope to gain the ridge. We opted to stay on the rocks to the right of the snow gully in the photo below.
All was going well and we quickly climbed up the slope, hopping from one rock outcropping to the next. We gained the bottom of the ridge and decided to take a quick break. Jason brought a ton of food and was eager to share. He gave me a chunk of some banana leather type stuff, which to my surprise was actually quite good. After about 10 minutes we were on our way again.
The ridge was mellower than it appeared from the lake and never really exceeded class 2. We were finally getting into the sun and it was a welcome addition to the day. We could use Mt. Buckskin as a height gauge, and as it became eye-level, we knew we were getting close to 14,000 feet. The wind had picked up along this upper section of the ridge, so we stopped to layer up. During this break, Jason busted out some brownies and since I can never pass up chocolate, I gladly took a chunk from him. I also realized something was not right as I began to feel really weak and lightheaded. It was a really strange feeling, one I have never encountered during a hike before. I figured I must not have been fully recovered from my cold since I knew it wasnít dehydration, lack of food, and that I rarely am affected by the altitude when hiking 14ers.
I decided to press on the summit since it was so close and I also knew it would be easier to descend the standard route than the ridge we had just come up. Jason led the way while I began to drop back a bit. I popped in a cough drop and busted out my MP3 player in hopes that some Korn and Linkin Park might give me a surge of energy. No such luck, but I continued on away and arrived at the summit around 12:20 p.m.
Despite how I was feeling, it was a wonderful bluebird day in the high country. Many of the Sawatch Peaks could be seen to the west with Mt. Massive, Mt. Elbert and La Plata Peak being the most obvious. Jason also named off some of the nearby 13ers of the Ten Mile Mosquito range that he has climbed. The wind was gusting pretty heavily on the summit so after some summit photos, we quickly proceeded down to the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron.
The descent to the saddle was pure plunge-step bliss and we made excellent time down Mt. Democratís East Ridge. At the saddle I still wasnít feeling much better so I decided to descend back to Kite Lake while Jason proceeded up Mt. Cameron on route to the other 14ers. Jason quickly took off up Cameronís west ridge while I lingered at the saddle for a while to take a break and remove some layers since the wind had stopped and I was now baking.
Descending back to Kite Lake I found it much easier to stay on the snow when possible than contend with the rocks. I stopped occasionally to check on Jasonís progress up the ridge, and also take in some food and water. I felt I was already running on fumes and didnít want to let my tank go completely empty. Near the lake, there was a somewhat steep snow slope to descend. Half of me wanted to just glissade it and take my chances, but still having a somewhat functional brain, I knew I better err on the side of caution and skirt the rocks along the side. At the bottom of the slope I found a nice photo opp of an old cabin with Mt. Democrat in the background.
I arrived at the flat expanse of Kite Lake that I had been dreading, I was hoping it wouldnít be a posthole nightmare. Just like the slopes below the Southeast Ridge, this flat expanse had moderate postholing with pockets of considerable. Just when I thought the snow was going to stay firm for a while, I would plunge through up to my waist and thrash for a bit. This section took quite awhile to get across since my energy was fading quickly. I did find it ironic how I usually curse this place for being a crowded zoo in the summer, and now I wished there was just once person at the lake to break trail for me. Eventually I made it across the expanse and took the time to stamp out a big ďOKĒ in the snow so Jason would see this as he descended Mt. Bross. He would either think I was fine, or drunk, but either way he would know I had made it this far. The photo below is looking back across Kite Lake and my descent route from the saddle.
It was a welcome relief to regain our tracks from the morning as I descended the two miles down the road to the vehicles. I turned on my MP3 player again, this time not for a surge of energy, but basically to distract myself from the misery of how I felt. There were new tracks in the snow, looked like somebody had walked up to the lake with a pretty big dog. I proceeded down the road taking my time to take pictures of Mt. Democrat in the afternoon light. I arrived back at the vehicles around 3:30 p.m., quickly removed my pack and boots, and piled in my 4runner to rest and wait for Jason. Since we had busted through some snowdrifts earlier in the morning driving up the road, I told him I would wait and make sure he got down the road ok. I wasnít sure if I was up for driving back to Boulder, but after the 45-minute rest I got while waiting for Jason to return, I was feeling a little better. Jason arrived at 4:15 p.m. and we made it back down the Kite Lake Road with no problems. We parted ways in Fairplay with Jason returning to New Mexico and I opting to take Highway 285 home since skier traffic on I-70 would be in full swing. The drive home went rather quickly and I made it back to Boulder around 7 p.m. Like the drunken CU students I had seen earlier in the morning, it was my turn to stagger into the apartment complex. And also like my old partying days, it was again time to rest, recover, and hopefully do it all over again soonÖ climbing that is.