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From some angles, Mount Bross Massive just looks like one huge hill. At 14,172 feet, Bross is the 22nd highest mountain in Colorado. The nearby peaks of Mount Democrat (El. 14,148 ft), Mount Lincoln (El. 14,286), and Mount Cameron (El. 14,238 ft, but not an official 14'er because it only rises 157 feet above the connecting saddle with Lincoln) form a high massive which cradles Kite Lake, the location of the most popular trailhead. Some people (who I will call the 'peak baggers' bag all four peaks in a day (a feat known as 'The Decalibron') and call it good. Others (who I will call the 'purists', but others might call 'anal retentive'), in their quest to enjoy all of Colorado's 14'ers to the max, insist of getting at least 3000 feet of vertical ascent for a peak before they consider it climbed. I fall into the latter class of people, so this was my third visit to this mountain group -- I climbed Democrat in the summer of 2003, while I hit Lincoln's summit earlier in the year while training for the Pikes Peak Marathon. I'll probably go back and hit Cameron at some point, but since it's not an official 14'er and I've already been to the summit, this is not high on my priority list.
The weather on Labor Day was less than conducive for a 14'er climb -- the 2nd or 3rd snow of the season had blitzed the high peaks overnight, and as the storm departed the coldest air in the middle atmosphere (called a 'trough' because of the shape made by the constant-pressure surfaces on a map) was passing overhead, bringing clouds, fog, and strong winds to the high country. We left Fort Collins relatively early, and drove down I-25 and then up I-70 to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Some snow had fallen above about 10,000 feet, and the roads were a little slushy/slick, especially on the other side of the tunnel. We passed through the lovely resort town of Breckenridge and up over Fremont Pass (El.
My ascent started about 3 miles south of Kite Lake. As I was driving up the road, I carefully checked my altimeter to determine my starting point. I had calibrated it at Fremont Pass to ensure accuracy, since it would be a shame to go to all the extra effort only to find that I was 100 feet short of my 3000 feet quest. At 11,155 feet, I said something to the effect of 'well, this is where I get out', hopped out of the car and grabbed my backpack. I handed the keys over to Todd and gave careful instructions on where to meet and what to do if the road became too rough for my Pontiac Bonneville. Laughing, he spun out in a cloud of gravel, leaving me beside the road. I watched my beautiful car disappear into the distance for perhaps the last time. (Okay, the last two sentences were over dramatized, but it was a bit traumatic handing over the keys to my car). I soon had greater worries to ponder as I set out in a jog up towards Kite Lake. Strong gusts and frequent wind of perhaps 35-50 mph buffeted me as I ascended above treeline. The temperature was 30 deg F, so the wind chill was quite cold. I grew paranoid as I began to think of what might happen if Todd, Ali, and Igor didn't wait for me and took the keys with them. My heavy shell jacket, gloves, face mask, and hat were all in the car, so if they locked the car doors and left before I arrived, I would be out in the elements in only my fleece jacket, light pants, and thin gloves. I would either have to hide in the outhouse for 3 hours or hoof it back to Alma and seek shelter there. This unhappy prospect put some spunk in my steps and I ran/walked the 3 miles and 900 vertical feet up to Kite Lake in about 31 minutes.
Conditions were even less pleasant at Kite Lake: a foggy whiteout with blowing snow, fog, and wind gusts to about 40 mph. We spent about 15 minutes prepping at Kite Lake, then started off on the trail at 12:02 pm. This was a rather late start for a 14'er hike, but since the upper trough axis was passing overhead at the time, I suspected that conditions would start improving as the afternoon wore on so we were not in a great hurry (the National Weather Forecast called for skies becoming partly cloudy by about noon).
At Kite Lake (12,000 feet), it was 28 degrees when we started up the mountain at Noon, winds were still very gusty, visibility was decreased due to blowing fog and clouds, and there was an inch or two of snow on the ground (windblown)
Due to the severity of the conditions, we only spent about 10 minutes on the summit -- just long enough to snap some pictures, eat a snack, and take some meteorological observations.
To get the full immersive experience, I've prepared a 360 degree panorama:
W N E S
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From left to right, the main features are:
1. blah blah valley
[ Group Photo]
[ Crazy shot ]
[ Views of other peaks ]
I took a couple video clips which may be viewed using Windows Media Player. If using a modem, the broadband version will take very long, so a reduced-quality dial-up version is available:
Clip 1: Broadband [size Mb] or Dial-up [size Kb]
These files are in Windows Media Player format, so they should load automatically if you're on a Windows computer. There is no sound (in case you were expecting some).
Denver sounding at 12Z that morning showed 43 kt winds at 600 mb and 0 deg C. There was no question that this was going to be a cold hike.
I started hiking at about 11:20 AM at 11,155 feet -- very windy, gusts 30-50 mph, about 30 degrees
Ascending, it became very windy in the gully we were going up -- blowing upslope (overall winds were westerly and northwesterly)
At the top at 2 pm, it was 22.5 deg F, winds were blowing 30-40 mph with a gust to at least 45 mph. The wind chill (old scale) was -18 deg F! Visibility was down to 100 yards or less at times. The sun began to break out just as started descending.
We got down to Kite Lake at about 4 PM. The temperature was 36-38 deg F with lighter winds and mostly sunny skies.
Total mileage: 6.5 miles
It took a total of 2h34m to reach the top. We spent about 10m on top -- just long enough to grab a few pictures and perhaps eat an energy bar. The descent took 1h45m, for a total time of 4h29m. Our overall average speed was 1.3 mph. My total vertical climb was 3100 feet.
|Ran from 11,155 feet up to just below Kite Lake in 31 min, left Kite Lake at 12:02, reached summit about 2 PM, finished at 4 PM. 28 degrees at Kite Lake at Noon, wind gusting 30-40 mph. 22.5 deg on top, winds 30-40 mph, gusts to 45 mph, wind chill -22.5 deg, visibility as low as 100 yards or less at times, then clearing and sunny by end, 36 at Kite Lake at 4 pm.|
Option sections - history of peak, wildlife, route info and alternates, map, gear, food
Might try to include feelings, sounds, smells - other thoughts about life and mountains, goals, etc.
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