Oct 30, 2020 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Illustration by Jubilee Rivera-Hernandez
Early on a Saturday morning in October, Lila Galinkin ’24, Ariana Viegas ’24 and I began the breathless climb up to the summit of Mount Democrat. It was early enough that the sun had not yet peeked out from behind the fourteeners, and as we climbed, the mountains to the west began to glow pink with the approaching sunlight.
The ridge in front of us split the bluing sky in half and we pointed, bewildered, at the cone-shaped peaks on the horizon. Mount Democrat, the first of four peaks, lingered directly to our left and the other fourteeners dotted the smoky ridge to our right.
The name Decalibron comes from the four 14,000-foot mountains that the trail summits — Mount Democrat, Mount Cameron, Mount Lincoln, and Mount Bross. In the span of about eight miles, the Decalibron trail climbs approximately 4,000 feet and follows a ridge above 13,000 feet from peak to peak.
The trail is a loop and can be hiked in either direction, but most people choose to summit Mount Democrat first and Mount Bross last. The descent from Mount Bross to the trailhead is definitely the most technical and steep part of the hike.
Mount Lincoln is the tallest of the four peaks at 14,295 feet, followed by Mount Cameron at 14,238 feet. Mount Democrat and Mount Bross, the first and last peaks on the Decalibron trail, are 14,154 feet and 14,177 feet, respectively.
The Decalibron is an astonishingly beautiful trail, consisting of mostly talus rocks. Because the trail is entirely above the tree line, the wind along the ridges is so strong that it evokes the feeling of weightlessness. Despite the cold temperatures and high wind speeds, the view of snowy mountains in every direction is definitely worth it.
Since the Decalibron trail is a loop, all four peaks face different directions, allowing for a full 360-degree view of various mountain ranges. From the very first step of this hike, the mountainous landscape views are simply incredible.
There were times along the ridge that I looked at the mountains surrounding me and couldn’t believe that what I was seeing was real. At the top of Mount Democrat, squinting from the sun’s reflection off of last season’s snow, I was taken aback by the sheer number of mountains in my vision.
The trailhead is located down a winding dirt road about five miles from the town of Alma, Colo. The drive from Colorado Springs takes about two hours and travels through both mountains and vast open fields. Driving west as the sun is rising is an experience in itself; the sunlight becomes a beautiful orange orb in the rearview mirror.
The hike takes about six hours, including breaks and picture stops at each summit. Mount Democrat is the most popular peak and will most likely have the busiest summit. Be prepared to experience extremely high wind speeds along the ridge! I would recommend starting early and bringing lots of layers, especially in the fall and winter.
There is something extraordinary about summiting four fourteeners in a single day. The Decalibron trail, though technical at some points, provides the perfect opportunity for a beautiful and challenging hike.