Heights: Democrat 14,148 Ft; Cameron 14,238; Lincon 14,286; Bross 14,172
Roundtrip: 7.25 miles
Climbing one 14,000 foot mountain can be an all day and extremely strenuous task; climbing four 14ers seems like it would bury you. Every now and then a climber can get lucky enough to find a cluster of peaks close enough to bag a bunch without breaking their bodies in two. Colorado’s Mosquito Range has four peaks that can be bagged in just 7.25 miles, that is if you can manage to drive up a road that most tanks can’t penetrate. Luckily my 1998 Camry is half car, half amazing.
What makes this seemingly Herculean feat possible is the fact that the trailhead starts at 12,000 feet at Kite Lake. Don’t take too much comfort in this fact though, as you will most likely be immediately out of breath with your first steps on the trail. The hike is a perfect circle that you can feel free to start in either direction. We chose to start with all 14,148 feet of Mount Democrat.
Mount Democrat is a standing symbol of Colorado’s past and (thankfully) dying present. Democrat is littered with abandoned mines and the orange stained rocks of the mining operation’s toxic runoff. Passing the mines is eerie, but also quite sad once a full assessment of the damage has been made.
The climb to the saddle separating Democrat from Cameron is pretty quick as long as you stay on trail. Exploring the mines can get you a smidge lost if you don’t retrace your steps well. From the saddle swing a left and you’ll switchback and scramble a bit until you reach the summit, which will not disappoint.
A nice thing about this loop is that there’s very little backtracking, most of which is done while returning to the Democrat-Cameron saddle. Once there it’s a long class one walk to the flat and uninspiring summit of Cameron. Let’s talk about Cameron…
Cameron, in any meaningful sense, is not a mountain. It is a subsidiary of its closest parent peak, Lincoln. At times you will see the number of 14ers vary as either 53 or 58; Cameron is one of the five oddities. Since it does not have 300 feet of prominence (the distance between the summit and the next closest contour line) it is not a standalone mountain, but a bump on your way to the far more impressive Mount Lincoln.
The summit of Lincoln resembles something you would see in a Lord of the Ring’s film: creepy, menacing and beautiful. Lincoln is the real prize of the day.
Our last stop was the “closed” Mount Bross. The theme of this hike is that mines kill mountains. Bross’s summit was closed in 2005 due to concerns regarding the stability of the summit’s surface after years of tunnels and mine shafts riddled the peak with holes. Some of these tunnels are just below the surface of the trail, causing landowners to close the peak due to liability issues. Between me, you and internet, no one cares and the summit is not maned with a security force to take down hikers. Thousands have climbed the peak in the last 11 years.