Mt. Democrat P750
Mt. Cameron
Mt. Lincoln P2K
Mt. Bross P300
Quandary Peak P1K

Fri, Aug 23, 2019
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profiles: 1 2


My second day of tagging Colorado 14ers saw me in the Breckenridge area, tagging five summits over the course of the day. Four of these 14ers are part of the Lincoln Group and can be combined in a loop hike of 7.5mi and 3,400ft of gain. I managed to finish this before 10a, so headed over to hike Quandary Peak as a sort of bonus, a peak I thought I would have to save for another year. It added another 6mi and 3,300ft of gain, so combined they made for a pretty solid day.

Lincoln Group

I spent the night camped just off SR9 where it goes over the Continental Divide at over 11,500ft - that's one high piece of pavement, more than 1,500ft higher than any paved road in California. In the morning I was up by 5a and drove to the Kite Lake TH. There is a $3 charge to park there, thanks to the City of Alma that manages the area, or one can park a mile down the road for free. I figured two miles was easily worth $3. The lot was nearly full and would be overflowing with cars parked well down the road before I returned. I timed my start to avoid using a headlamp, right around 6a. I followed the loop in a clockwise direction, heading up the well-maintained trail that leads to the Democrat/Cameron saddle, taking about 45min to climb the 1,350ft where views open up. The previous day's weather never fully dissipated, leaving the skies partially overcast and slowly growing to mostly overcast by noon. This made for poor photographs, but had the advantage of keeping thunderstorms from developing, leaving the afternoon safe for more hiking (I wouldn't have been able to do Quandary so late in the day under normal circumstances). It was 40F when I started out and would warm with the rising sun, but a cold wind blowing over the summits and ridges kept it pretty cold most of the morning. On my way up the saddle I picked up a doggie boot I found lying in the trail. Just before the saddle I found its owner looking around for the missing shoe, thrilled that I had picked it up and was able to return it. My good deed for the day was done.

At the saddle I turned left and climbed the remaining 800ft in another 20min. The sun briefly shone as I approached the summit, but it would disappear again before I left the top. The trail was busy as I passed more than a dozen parties. The summit was even busier, it seemed, with folks lolling about all over the place. I know, this is what CO 14ers are all about, but it did little for me and I left after pausing only long enough to take a few pictures of the surrounding views. I returned to the saddle and then continued on the other trail fork that climbs Mt. Cameron's Southwest Ridge. The trail continued to be in good shape all the way to the summit (Cameron has little prominence and probably shouldn't be considered a valid 14er, but I don't make the rules) where the flattish top made for poor views. I continued northeast over the summit to the highpoint of the group, Mt. Lincoln, which also happens to be the highpoint of Park County and a P2K. There were several benchmarks at the summit but no register (none of the day's peaks had one - perhaps registers have become passe on 14ers?) I did find a small cardboard sign with Mt. Lincoln, the date and elevation written on it. I would find another of these on the summit of Quandary. I didn't realize this was "a thing" to do, make a sign to show with your 14er selfie, then sharing it on social media. Seems the signs might get passed to another summit party and eventually finding no one to pass it on to, it gets tucked under a rock. Funny and sad at the same time. There's a whole circle jerk about these (that was one of the poster's term, not mine).

I headed back off Lincoln towards Cameron, skirting the summit on its east side to head south towards Mt. Bross. I was surprised to see a sign indicating the summit trail to Bross is closed. The sign looked somewhat old, but admittedly I did no research on this beforehand. I had thought Culebra was the only closed CO 14er, but if I had looked at any of the usual places (, SummitPost, etc) I would have found that indeed the summit of Bross is officially closed to the public. Oh well. I continued towards the summit, stopping to check out an old red pickup that has been left to disintegrate on the ridgeline. Evidently there is a 4WD track that can be driven to near Bross's summit. How did I not know about this?

At Bross's summit I found a pair of ladies hunkering behind one of the rock windsceens to avoid the biting wind blowing over the summit. Bross's summit is the worst of the lot, just too large and flat to offer decent views despite its high elevation. I headed southwest off the summit, descending the trail that would return to Kite Lake. This trail section was the worst of those I traveled today. It is steep and loose and more resembling a use trail in places than a maintained one. I suspect the Bross access issues has kept folks from improving this trail. It might be better to travel it uphill rather than the downhill direction I used. Once off the west side of Bross, the trail improves as it crosses the lovely meadows that occupy the middle parts of the Buckskin Creek drainage. It was only when I got back to the start that I saw the less-ambiguous sign regarding Bross's access status - I had missed this in the morning when I had started out. I was surprised to find that it was only 9:45a when I got back to the jeep, a good workout but hardly enough to call it a day.

Quandary Peak

During the earlier hike I had begun to think it would go much faster than planned and figured I could add Quandary Peak if the weather held out. It did. Quandary Peak is less than 4mi north of Mt. Lincoln, easily visible from Democrat, Cameron and Lincoln. It lies on the other side of the Continental Divide, which interestingly goes across a lower ridge between the Lincoln Group and Quandary. Quandary is also the Summit County highpoint. It was necessary to drive all the way back out to SR9, then north about 10mi to the junction with Blue Lakes Rd. The popular Quandary Peak Trail starts near the highway and climbs the 3mi-long East Ridge of Quandary. The parking lot holds only half a dozen cars, but dozens of others lined the road before and after the TH parking. The fast early birds were already back from the summit, so I was able to find a parking spot close to the TH, and by 10:20a I was starting up. My legs were tired but hardly exhausted, so I made good time heading up. Most of the folks I encountered were on their way down, but I would soon start passing other folks that had similarly gotten a late start. The trail is in excellent shape, starting off through forest, then mixed with meadows, then around the 1/3 mark, above treeline. There were hundreds of folks on the trail - couples, families, friends, some with dogs. One of the descending parties commented that there was a mountain goat off the south side of the ridge. When I climbed a bit higher, I could see that there was, indeed, a white-haired mammal off in the rocks on that side. Then I heard a guy just ahead on the trail screaming out "Taylor!!" over and over again, for more than a minute. Seems it was his all-white dog that had gone rogue off the trail that had been mistaken for one of the alpine denizens. It went from being a touching Wilderness moment to an extremely annoying CO 14er episode in just seconds.

There is a short, flattish section about 2/3 of the way up, that makes for a relaxing respite before the final climb up the rocky ridge. Thank goodness for the trail, otherwise this would be a pretty tedious exercise. I reached the summit around 12:10p, just shy of two hours from the start. Like the other 14er summits, this one was pretty busy too, so I stayed only a few minutes before starting down. It would take about an hour and 20min to make my way back down the same trail and I was a little surprised to see folks still heading up even when I was nearing the trailhead. As it turned out, the sky mostly cleared in the late afternoon, so this would have been a good day for a late afternoon climb, unusually. The trailhead was busy upon my return, with faster folks waiting around for their slower companions. One large SUV was parked right at the trail's start with the doors open, perhaps to allow one of their party to take as few extra steps as needed after exiting the trail.

I drove a short distance up the road where things were quieter and found a place to shower before returning to Breckenridge for the afternoon. Five 14ers and done before 1:30p - pretty good numbers, but unlikely to be repeated on the rest of this trip...

David A comments on 08/26/19:
CO 14ers in the summmer are a magnet for silly people. Next time check out some 13ers, they are always empty!

Candace comments on 05/02/21:
While they're certainly a better option than the 14ers, it's so crowded in the Rockies any more that solitude on 13ers is far from assured. I climbed Marble Mountain in the Sangres, off the South Colony Lakes Road, on a Wednesday in June 2017. Three other people showed up on the summit while I was there! I remember climbing Sawatch 14ers on weekends 20+ years ago and there would only be a few other people. 14ers still had summit registers back then!
Jim P comments on 05/03/21:
I remember climbing Marble Mtn on June 28th 2017. I think I bugged you to look at Bob's website at the time but you already knew about it.
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For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Democrat - Mt. Cameron - Mt. Lincoln - Mt. Bross

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