Peak(s):  Mt. Democrat  -  14,148 feet
Mt. Cameron  -  14,238 feet
Mt. Lincoln  -  14,286 feet
Mt. Bross  -  14,172 feet
Date Posted:  09/26/2019
Modified:  09/30/2019
Date Climbed:   08/05/2019
Author:  Paul M
 Decalibron, early August   

After having a blast climbing Longs Peak two years prior, I finally was able to find my way back to Colorado to try a few more 14ers. On this trip I would also climb Quandary's west ridge (which I've already made a trip report about if anyone's interested), but I started with the phenomenal hike which packs the most 14ers in the shortest distance: the Decalibron.

Looking up at Mt. Democrat form the trailhead

Now, there's certainly no reason you can't go the other way around and start with Bross, but I think going up Democrat first is easiest. It gets the two long ascents out of the way first, and sends you down Bross' steep, slippery, scree-filled west slopes instead of up them.

For the Decalibron, you'll park at the Kite Lake trailhead near Alma, CO. The gravel / dirt road to the trailhead is rough for 2WD cars; my little compact rental car made it up just fine, but pay attention. I'll bet it would be quite a but tougher if the road was wet, muddy, or snowy. From Kite Lake, you can survey three of the four peaks: Democrat looms closest, above the lake to the left, Bross is off to the right, and Cameron is the rounded hump in the middle. Lincoln, though it's the highest of the four, is behind Cameron from here and not visible.

Starting up the path

The trail to the right leads to Bross, to the left leads to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron. I started up the left trail, which passes by Kite Lake. You'll appreciate its perfect kite-like shape better when you're higher up. One thing to note about the Decalibron route is that it's very difficult to get lost. For nearly the entire hike you'll be able to see Kite Lake, so you'll always know the way back to the trailhead. Just don't try to cut down to it where there isn't a trail; some of the terrain, especially Cameron's south face, is way too steep.

The tundra early in the hike
Mine tailings on Democrat's flanks
Nature is reclaiming this collapsed mine building
Looking back towards Kite Lake
The path gets more rugged approaching the saddle
Look, it's a pika!

The path becomes more rugged and a bit steeper as you approach the saddle between Democrat and Cameron. However, the path is quite clear. Soon, you'll reach the low point on the ridge connecting the two peaks. Democrat is up to the left, Cameron is to the right.

An old mine shaft at the lowest point of the Democrat - Cameron saddle, and a nice resting place.

The most direct route to Cameron and Lincoln is to the right, but to add Democrat you'll have to turn left. A faint but simple to follow class 2 trail leads up Democrat. Follow this up the ridge.

Outstanding views on the way to Democrat
On the way up to Democrat
A cloud is blowing across the summit
Another mine building, at about 14,000 feet, just under the summit.
Democrat's summit is the lowest of the four, but has the most impressive views in my opinion
On the summit!

Despite it being August, a frigid wind was blasting across the exposed, high parts of this route. Layers are a good idea any time of year. I had two thin base layers, a windbreaker, and a big winter jacket. Any less, and I would have been cold.

After taking in Democrat's astounding views and talking with the nice folks (and one nice dog) on the summit, I headed back down. To get to Cameron, you'll return to the low point in the saddle, then continue straight.

On the way down from Democrat, looking across the saddle at the slightly higher Cameron.
On the way up to Cameron

The ascent from the saddle to Cameron's summit is the second and final long, tiring ascent of this loop. Once you're on Cameron, there are only slight gains to the other two summits.

The trail winds up near Cameron's summit

The summit of Cameron is a flat gravelly area. From here you'll get your first clear view of Lincoln beyond. Cameron is in the middle of the four peaks: walking up from Democrat, Lincoln is in front of you and Bross is to your right. All are visible now.

On Cameron's summit, with Lincoln looming in the background.
Lincoln Peak from Cameron

You could head straight to Bross from here, but the side trip to Lincoln is very quick. It's only a half mile away, and the saddle between Cameron and Lincoln doesn't descend very far. In fact, Cameron is an unranked peak, officially a false summit of Lincoln, since Lincoln is higher and Cameron does not rise high enough from the saddle between them.

A little turret on the path over to Lincoln
The last bit of approach to Lincoln's summit. It's a class 2 scamper at the end.
Just under Lincoln's summit, looking over to Bross
On top of Lincoln - the highest elevation I have yet reached, barely edging out Quandary and Longs. I'm still breathing, so all in all a win!
View from Lincoln
Another unbelievable view from Lincoln

From the top of Lincoln, I returned to Cameron in order to make my way over to Bross. Note that you don't have to climb all the way back to Cameron's summit: look for a trail skirting around the left side of Cameron over towards Bross. This will save you some elevation gain.

On the path skirting Cameron

The saddle between Cameron and Bross is a stunningly beautiful walk, unlike anything you've seen yet on the climb. As with Lincoln, there is not too much elevation gain between the low point of the saddle and the summit of Bross, only a few hundred feet.

On the Cameron - Bross saddle, looking toward Bross
Nearing Bross, looking back at imposing Mt. Lincoln
Kite Lake and the basin from near Bross

The trail actually dodges Bross' summit, though not by much, and you'll have to scramble up there finding your own way or on faint social trails if you want to reach the summit. There's a big cairn on the summit, and behind it, hidden from view from the trail, is a log with the peak's name and elevation carved into it.

On the final summit of the day, Mt. Bross.
Near the summit, looking down the descent trail. Be sure to find the trail in the photo, since that is the one that goes back towards Kite Lake!

Return to the main trail, which skirts the south side of Bross' summit and continue away from Cameron. This is the trail that descends Bross' west slopes. The trail seems fairly straightforward at first, but it gets steeper and steeper and you get lower. Most of the way down, the trail seems to have been blazed by a mad genius. The descent is very steep and full of loose scree. While it's not as lung-bustingly tiring as it was to walk uphill to the summits, this path requires caution and going slowly is recommended. Some reports have said that if you slide, you'll slide for hundreds of yards, and that is a terrible exaggeration, at least by the conditions on the day I was there, but an unpleasant slide is very possible here. This is why I suggest going down this way, because I think it would be more difficult (though certainly doable!) going up.

The insane path down Bross' west slopes. The trail goes straight ahead from here, turns left for a steep descent down a gully, then emerges over on the left side of the photo much lower.

After a long, steep descent, the grade eases as you reenter the green alpine meadow near the trailhead.

A lovely waterfall, with Mt. Bross towering behind.

The Decalibron, like every 14er hike, is not to be taken lightly. You're very exposed for a long time once you're up high, and there's no quick way back for much of the hike. It can be cold and windy and you're above 13,000 feet for a long time.

Having said that, however, the Decalibron (or just a part of it: you can certainly climb just one or two of these peaks to shorten the trip) is a fantastic first 14er. The hiking is difficult but never goes over class 2 and involves no scrambling or climbing. The distance and elevation gain are not overwhelming. The route finding is easy, as there are trails all the way around, and since Kite Lake and/or the four peaks are visible for the whole hike, it's difficult to become seriously lost. This is a popular enough hike that there will be people around, especially on Mt. Democrat. (There were fewer around the rest of the trail when I was there.) The only serious route danger you may find is if you leave the trails and try to make up your own.

There's no better way to see lots of peaks on one hike! The Decalibron is a fantastic adventure.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
09/27/2019 07:02
Love the pictures, especially the one with the cloud blowing across the summit! Nice work!

Nice pics...
09/30/2019 09:36
and really useful info for anyone contemplating the hike.
Enjoyed the read.

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