How do you do four 14ers in one day? The DeCaLiBron Loop!
14er season is upon us! If you’re not familiar with the term “14er”, it refers to a mountain at least 14,000 feet above sea level. In Colorado alone, there are 58 of them, and many people make it a goal to summit as many as they can.
A few weeks ago, we knocked out four in one day. Democrat (14,148) , Cameron (14,238), Lincoln (14,286), and Bross (14,172) are all very close together so it makes it easy to traverse from one to the other over the saddles that connect them. The entire loop is 7.6 miles with 3,958 ft of elevation gain. Though there are no technical parts of the loop, most of the hike is above 13,000 feet so it could be challenging for someone who isn’t acclimated to the altitude. And there are large sections of the trail made up of lose rock, which can be tricky to navigate if you’re not used to it.
If I were to do this loop again, I think it would be better to camp out the night before at the trail head. There is a small campground around the lake at the base and there is a lot of dispersed camping around the parking lot. Instead, we woke up at 2:30 am to get out of the house by 3:00 am in order to arrive at the trailhead just before sunrise.
The first big push is to get to the saddle that connects Democrat and Cameron. We took a short break here to take in the views, hydrate, and grab a quick snack before making our way up the very rocky face of Democrat. There was one steep section with some loose/sliding rocks, and a false summit before you can see the actual summit.
After a few photos, snacks, and chatting with others on top of Democrat, we made our way back down to the saddle and took another break to apply sunscreen, hydrate, and of course, snack. I don’t remember the traverse to Cameron being difficult at all. It was a fairly gradual gain until we got to the wide open windy peak of Cameron.
Descending down the other side of Cameron was a dream compared to descending Democrat. It wasn’t very steep nor very rocky and was easy to just walk down. I remember looking at Lincoln from the top of Cameron and thinking “this ascent is going to suck – it looks so steep.” But as we started ascending, the trail actually wasn’t that bad. There were a few sections that were a bit rockier, but nothing like Democrat.
Lincoln definitely had the smallest peak – it felt like there were a lot of people crammed into a small space on top of that mountain – a polar opposite from Cameron. But we found a great spacious spot to sit down and have a beer on the side that faces Bross.
We descended Lincoln the way we came up for a short while until we intersected the trail that led us to Bross. Of all the connecting trails, this one was the longest. But that also meant the elevation gain in relation to distance was the least – so hardly any steep sections. About halfway to Bross I said “I feel like we’ve been on this trail for days.”
The summit of Bross, like Cameron, is broad and flat. Here, we enjoyed our last two beers and some snacks before starting the long descent down to the parking lot. Descending always kills my toes and knees but the views coming down were almost enough to take my mind off the pain.
One of the best feelings is getting back down to an elevation where plants can live – since it was dark when we started, it feels like walking into colorful Oz after spending the whole day in Mars-like rocky terrain.
There were no dog-friendly establishments in the nearby mountain towns, so instead we grabbed some coffee to tie us over until we got back to Boulder. We ordered Verde for carryout and feasted at home in the air conditioning. And I felt no guilt at all about spending the whole next day inside my pottery lab.
I’d definitely recommend this loop to someone starting out on their 14er quest. It was a great day, perfect weather, and a quick way to knock four off the list at once.
What 14ers are on your calendar this summer? Let me know in the comments below.
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