Monday, August 30, 2010

Hiking 14ers, Mount Lincoln and Cameron; Alma Colorado

Rock outcropping near top of Mt. Lincoln and Mtns beyond
Each year my family comes from Michigan to Colorado to visit us and and every year we hike a 14er with my father, who loves hiking and adventure.  My dad is nearly 60 years old, but somehow manages to muscle himself up the mountains, in high altitude, with little oxygen, and he makes the hike look easy.   This year we planned on hiking Mt. Lincoln via the Kite Lake Route over the top of Mount Cameron (which is over 14,000 feet but isn't considered a "14er" due to the length of the saddle between Lincoln and Cameron, click here for more info).  
Also hiking with us were my sister and her new husband Cody also hiked with us along with my father's friend Bob.  My sister hiked Mount Evans with us two years ago, but this was Cody's first trip to Colorado and he bravely completed the hike.  I am always a little concerned for anyone who comes from sea level to hike at 14,000 feet, but the Michigan crew completed the hike and made it to the top without much of a problem! 

Getting there:   From the mountain town of Breckenridge Colorado, drive south on Hwy 9 to the town of Alma; in the center of the small town turn east or right onto CR 8/Buckskin Road/Kite Lake Road for 6 miles until the road dead ends at the trailhead.  Our map titled the road as County Road (CR) 8, however, we found the road because the brown road sign with white letters said "Kite Lake-->," we noticed the dirt road at the last minute, making a quick turn right.  Follow the well marked road signs up the bumpy dirt road to dead end at Kite Lake trailhead and campground.   This drive is best for a truck or SUV, but a car can make the journey during the summer months, my brother-in-law navigated the 6 miles or 25 minutes in his rental car this week and made it without a problem.  Click here for google map.
Route to Mt. Cameron, Lincoln not visable from Kite Lake
Specs: There is a $3 parking fee to park at the trailhead, there is a pit toilet and small parking lot; there is also a campground which costs $10 and is pack it in/pack it out only, but boasts campsites with incredible views of the surrounding 14ers on Kite Lake.   The distance to Mt. Lincoln is 5.25 miles round trip, and it took us 7 hours to complete, however this was with lots of stopping and resting for the sea level hikers. 

The Journey:  We left our rented condo in Breckenridge at 6am, and arrived at the trailhead at 6:45 and we were hiking by 7am.  It was 36 degrees at the well marked trailhead and the sun hadn't peeked over the mountains yet as we started up the trail.  We hiked slowly to make sure all the hikers in our group who live at sea level didn't get sick and we stopped often for lots of water, snack and rest breaks.  The trail is pretty steep in the early sections then there are switchbacks making the hiking a little easier when you start on the rocks, there is a final steep section to reach the saddle between Democrat and Cameron.  From here, we turned right and continued up Mt. Cameron which has several very steep sections and false peaks that are quite deceiving, at one point I shouted excitedly that we were near the top only to find out we had a long climb still ahead of us.  The wind on the north side of the mountain was cold and fierce, and we found a rock outcropping at the false peak that sheltered us from the chilly wind as we ate our lunch and regained our strength for the remainder of the hike. 
Looking at the trail to Lincoln from Cameron.
From the false peak, it actually isn't very far to the summit, and it took us maybe 25 more minutes before we reached the top of Cameron.  There is some exposure near the top of Cameron, with a 3 foot path to walk on and then sheer drop offs on either side; not for the faint of heart or those with fears of heights.  While I do not have this fear, looking down the dropoff gave me slight vertigo and I had to continue walking for fear of falling. 
The top of Cameron is not like the top of most mountains I have stood on, it's wide and gravely and there is a lot of space up there, which makes for little fanfare when you reach the summit.  Since Cameron is not a ranked peak, many hikers just pass over it on their way to Lincoln, which was our plan as well.  The only time you can see Mt. Lincoln on the hike is after you reach the top of Mount Cameron, Lincoln is hidden behind Cameron from the Kite Lake trailhead side.   Lincoln looks craggy and it has a sharp peak; in the distance we could see hikers standing on the summit as we started down the trail toward Lincoln. 
Final push to top of Lincoln, steep, class 2 hiking
It took us just about 40 minutes from the top of Cameron to descend into the saddle, then regain the elevation hiking up Lincoln.  Near the top of Lincoln there is some Class 2 climbing with a very steep incline, but its short lived and then you are standing on the top!  Mt. Lincoln's summit is much smaller than Camerons and there is a capsule for you to add your name and hiking date because it's a ranked peak, as well as the 14er marker.  It took us 4 hours to reach the top of Lincoln from the start of the hike with lots of stopping and resting along the way.  The weather was holding out and we took numerous photos, made our victory phone calls and we suprisingly had the peak to ourselves on a Friday afternoon before we started back down the trail.  Again, we climbed over Mt. Cameron before descending toward Kite Lake and the trailhead.  We reached our car at 2pm, again, after lots of stopping and resting along the way.   Overall I thought it was a pretty easy hike aside from some steep and difficult terrain along the way; my sister and father thought Mt. Evans was an easier hike than this one, but Josh and I disagreed.  We were all tired and ready for a beer and a nap as we reached the car.  I was glad to finally cross Mt. Lincoln off my 14er list; I have climbed 8 different 14ers, and climbed Mt. Cameron twice (once this trip, once in 2008 summiting Bross and Democrat as well).  We hope to reach the top of one more 14er before the snow sets in for the winter; I am not sure which will be our next adventure, but I am excited to find out. 
Here are some of my favorite photos from the hike, in random order below. 
From Lt - Rt.  Me, Josh, B-O-B (dad), Laura, Cody
Mt. Lincoln Survey Marker. Its official!
Kite Lake near the end of the hike.  "Hey, doesn't that lake look like a Kite?"
Mount Democrat behind Dad and Josh as they hike up steep Mt. Cameron
Laura and Cody hiking toward the craggy peak of Mt. Lincoln

The crew starting up the steep part early in the hike.
Josh and I on top of our 9th 14er!  (8 different mountains, Cameron twice)
Trying to take a good panoramic photo. 

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