Mounts Democrat, Lincoln, Bross
excerpts from the book
Colorado's
Incredible Backcountry Trails 
by David Day

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Colorado's
Incredible Backcountry Trails
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  • access info for 120 trailheads
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  • 305 full color photographs
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    Distance: 8.2 miles (loop)

    Walking time:  6 1/2 hours

    Elevations
    : 3,470 ft. gain/loss
       Kite Lake Trailhead (start): 12,020 ft
       Mount Democrat: 14,148 ft. 
       Mount Lincoln: 14,286 ft.
       Mount Bross: 14,172 ft.

    Trail: The route down from Mount Bross involves a 0.7 mile descent over a very steep trail with loose rock. It is not particularly dangerous if you are careful, but be sure you have good boots and long pants. The last 0.9 mile of the ascent up Mount Democrat is also very rocky.

    Season: Midsummer through mid-fall. The trail is covered with snow from mid-November through June.

    Vicinity: near Breckenridge and Fairplay

    Mount DemocratMount Lincoln

     

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    In Colorado you canít really call yourself a serious outdoorsman until you have climbed at least a few of the stateís 55 fourteen-thousand-foot peaks. This trail is a peak-baggers delight, because it will allow you to ascend to the tops of no fewer than three fourteeners within the space of a single day. The trailhead is located in the bottom of a high alpine basin that lies just south of Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. The elevation of the basin is only 2,270 feet below the highest peak, and the summits are all connected by a high rocky ridge that circles the north side of the basin.

    One thing that stands out along this trail is the abundance of mining activity. These mountains are full of precious mineral deposits, and prospectors have been combing them in search of wealth for the past 150 years. Miners have never been known for their tidiness, and on this hike you will seldom be out of site of their refuse. There are old mine shafts and fallen-down shacks everywhere-even near the peaks themselves. The peaks were named by miners shortly after the Civil War. Mount Lincoln, or course, for Abraham Lincoln, and Mount Bross for a miner named William Bross. No one really knows who named Mount Democrat, but it is easy to assume it was a southerner who didnít like Lincoln and his Republican Party.

    Begin by following the trail north from the Kite Lake Campground, along the bottom of the basin. Directly ahead you can see a low spot on the ridge between Mount Democrat, on the left, and Mount Cameron, on the right. This saddle is your first goal. Below the pass you can also see an old abandoned wooden building standing beside the trail, a remnant of the mining fever that once swept the valley. The trail climbs at a steady rate of 1,200 feet per mile until it reaches the saddle.

    When you reach the saddle turn left for the climb up the eastern side of Mount Democrat. You only have 770 feet of climbing left, but you will soon discover that the going is harder in the thin air. Also, the good trail is now behind you. Still, there is a primitive trail all the way to the top, and you will find the climb less strenuous if you try to stay on it. Democrat is the lowest of the four peaks featured on this hike, but it is probably the most interesting of the four. There are no jeep roads on the mountain and, consequently it seems more pristine. On a clear day at least ten of the area's other fourteeners are visible from the top. To the north you can also look down on the worldís largest molybdenum mine at Climax, just 1.8 miles away on the north side of the Continental Divide.

    From the top of Mount Democrat you will have to retrace your steps back to the saddle in order to begin the 860-foot climb up Mount Cameron. This time the climb is somewhat easier because the trail is better and not as steep. The peak does not have a steep, well defined summit like Mount Democrat, but is more of a rounded knob on the top of the ridge. Itís summit is only 140 feet higher than the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln. For this reason Mount Cameron is not officially included in the list of Coloradoís 14,000-foot peaks, but few people climb Democrat and Lincoln without including Mount Cameron in their itinerary.

    As you can see from this prospective, once you reach the top of Mount Cameron it is an easy 20-minute walk to get to the summit of Mount Lincoln. The terrain is much less rocky here and the elevation gain is modest. Unfortunately there are dozens of old mines around the summit of Lincoln, including one that is less that 200 yards from its peak. There is also a jeep road that passes only 0.3 mile east of the summit. All of the human activity definitely detracts from the experience, but Mount Lincoln is still an interesting peak. Unlike the other peaks on this hike it has a very distinctive outcropping of rock at the summit that rises a short distance above the talus slopes.

    To reach Mount Bross, the last peak on this hike, you must walk back to the eastern side of Mount Cameron then turn south and walk across the wide, flat ridge that connects it with Bross. About half way along the ridge you will come upon a jeep road that continues all the way to the summit. I would like to think this road is not used very often, but I have seen at least one 4WD vehicle on this road, probably owned by someone who has a claim on this mountain.

    The top of Bross is so flat it is hard to determine where the actual summit is. There are several monuments on the top, but the true summit is on the northwest side in the vicinity of a rock shelter that someone has built.

    Stand at the highest point on Mount Bross and look southwest. About a hundred yards away you will see a steep, talus-filled gully that drops off the west side of the mountain into the Kite Lake Basin below. There is a vague trail in the bottom of the gully, and this is the route you must follow to complete the loop back to the trailhead. The trail is very steep, but if you are going down and not up it isnít too bad. Just proceed with care and be prepared to slip here and there on the loose rocks. Hopefully you are wearing boots and long pants for this part of the hike, so you will have some protection against twisted ankles and scratched legs. After 0.7 mile and 1,500 feet of elevation loss the gully reaches the side of the basin, and from there a more inviting trail crosses the alpine tundra for the last 0.7 mile back to the trailhead.

     
    The book includes more text, more photographs, and trail maps.

    IIf you are interested in a supplemental map of the Mounts Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross trail
    we recommend:
    Breckenridge-Tennessee Pass  (Trails Illustrated, map #109)

    Click here for DISCOUNTED MAP ORDERS

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