When I first learned that it was possible to summit four different fourteeners on a six mile loop hike, I was immediately interested. For this reason I made the trip from my St. Louis home to the Kite Lake campground/trailhead in Pike National Forest above the small mountain community of Alma, Colorado. I arrived just after lunch on a beautiful August day and was lucky as I got the last available campsite. After pitching my tent I struck up a conversation with two other campers and decided to accompany them on a hike up to Lake Emma above Kite Lake. Lake Emma was pretty nice with remnants of past mining activity present. From the lake my hiking partners decided to retrace our steps back to the campground. I decided to hike east to the ridge above Lake Emma. The view from the ridge down to Kite Lake was quite impressive. I could make out each car and tent from my perch roughly 700 feet above. After viewing the steep slope down to Kite Lake I decided to head straight down the slope and with a little route finding and patience made it back down to my campground in about 45 minutes. I cooked dinner and went to bed early.
I awoke at about 3:45am to a full moon and decided that a moonlight hike would be great and it would give me a jump start on the other hikers. I prepared my backpack and got started around 4:00am using my headlamp just for foot placement on the relatively steep trail up to the saddle between Mt. Democrat and Mt. Cameron. Once at the saddle the trail became more of a boulder scramble than a trail. This was very fun under the full moon. I reached the false summit / broad plateau below the summit of Mt. Democrat just as the eastern sky started to brighten. Ironically, about this time it started to snow quite heavily. I summited and took refuge in the summit wind break for about a half hour until the snow passed. By this time the sun was almost ready to rise and I could clearly see that the sky to the west was clear and it looked safe to proceed.
My early start was paying off as I backtracked to the Mt. Democrat / Mt. Cameron saddle without seeing anyone. The trail up to Mt. Cameron was much more defined and easy to follow than the route up Mt. Democrat. Mt. Cameron has a very broad, uninteresting, summit that doesn’t officially count as a fourteener because it doesn’t rise 300 feet above it’s saddle with the higher Mt. Lincoln. To me, if it’s above 14,000 feet it’s a fourteener. Enough said. The trail to Mt. Lincoln was very easy other than dealing with a brisk wind from the west. The final push to the Mt. Lincoln summit was short but steep. Mt. Lincoln, unlike Mt. Cameron, has an interesting, small, summit. From here you feel like you are on a summit with great views in all directions.
After enjoying the Mt. Lincoln summit, I proceeded back to the Mt. Lincoln / Mt. Cameron summit and skirted around the northeast side of Mt. Cameron and followed an old mining road to the summit of Mt. Bross. This summit was even broader and more flat than the Mt. Cameron summit. From the southern edge of the summit I could see Kite Lake and just make out my jeep at the campsite. I also found the trail to Kite Lake which heads down the west face of Mt. Bross in this area. The trail got more and more faint until I was glissading down several hundred feet to a drainage that leads all the way back to the campground where I arrived just before 10:00am. The glissade was really fun and a great way to finish this route which is referred to as the Decalibron (De-Democrat, ca-Cameron, li-Lincoln, bro-Bross).
Footnote: The folks I asked at camp said it had rained earlier so the snow I encountered was only present above 12,000 feet.