With a week long vacation to Colorado, I was excited to get another 14er or two under my belt. Not like I’ve done many — just the two last year — but they are a lot of fun and quite a challenge. My friend Ben had to be in Leadville later in the day (to pace someone in the Leadville 100, but he still wanted to hike with us!), so we looked for a peak in that area. It also turned out that my other friends Mike and Ethan, with whom I often hike the AT, were in the area as well– Mike has moved out there for a year to teach and Ethan was there for work. Together we decided to hike “The Quad,” a series of four 14ers you can hit in one go — Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross.
As always, 14ers.com has the definitive guide with photos, routes, maps, and all kinds of other useful info here.
Ethan and I stayed at Mike’s house the night before. We awoke around 3:45 a.m. and hit the road so we could meet two guys guys in Colorado Springs, and head out to Kite Lake. Ben and Nicholas had left Highlands Ranch around 1:30 a.m. to go to the Leadville 100 race start at 4:00 a.m. He was to meet us at Kite Lake around 6:30, though he ended up not getting there until closer to 7. I had sent the other guys on as I figured we might catch them, since Ben would have to go fast to get back to the race.
There was quite a crowd at the Lake, and the route would be fairly crowded all day. I guess with the beautiful weather and the day being Saturday, lots of people were out.
I used the nifty RunKeeper app for the iPhone to track the route via GPS. I was out about 5 hours and this pretty much drained the battery, but it’s great to see the exact route taken and the profile/speed info.
And the profile:/speed info… That blip in speed around mile 5 is probably a mistake — RunKeeper has a GPS filter but sometimes things slip through. Either that or I decided to run a quater mile for fun. 🙂
From Kite Lake, Democrat doesn’t look too intimidating, but it was going to be quite a climb — 2000 feet in 2 miles:
Here is a view looking back towards the lake, after maybe the 1st 700-800 feet of elevation gain. If you look closely you can see a lot of cars in the parking area, but the road up to the lake was really full too. And you can see a lot of hikers on the trail below. There were probably twice that many above us already!
As Ben, Nicholas, and I were on the final approach to the summit of Democrat, we passed the other guys on the way down. The first shot shows how rocky the “trail” was, while the second shows the final climb.
The three of us on top:
I normally take a video on the top of each peak, and I did this time as well, but the peaks were all so crowded, with many folks on their cell phones and stuff like that, that it isn’t worth posting them.
After we descended to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron, Ben and Nicholas decided they better not push it and headed back to Leadville. With Ben having to pace someone later in the day, it was probably a wise decision, as the rest of the day was not easy.
This shot shows the long steady climb up Cameron… Towards the top of this, I was definitely feeling it! Though the rest of the day I felt pretty strong. I met the other guys at the top of Cameron.
Me on top of Cameron:
After Cameron it was a short hike down and up to Lincoln… The remaining 5 of us on top of Lincoln:
I was itching to keep moving (didn’t want to get cold) so I hiked up to the top of Bross by myself. It was really flat up there and again there were a lot of people. I started to hike back down as there was a split in the trail I could take to go back to the lake, but I met the other guys before that split, so hiked back up again, and then headed on down. There were sections of the downhill that were a bit hairy — super steep and mostly scree — so I took it pretty slowly in most places. The next few shots show the scree, steepness (though pictures never do justice!), and some old abandoned mines.
From the end of the trail, this is looking back the way we just descended:
RunKeeper shows it took me about 5 hours with an average pace of 1.5 miles per hour. While that seems slow, you have to remember how steep it is both on the way up and the way down, and that most of the hike is above 13,500. And I did take time at each peak to hang out (well, just for a few minutes).
It was a relatively easy way to bag four 14ers in one go, though no 14er is truly easy.