Mt. Democrat, Mt. Cameron, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Bross. Known by Coloradans as the DeCaLiBron. Sounds intimidating right? On September 11, 2022, three of my friends and I decided it was time to conquer the DeCaLiBron. None of us had experience other than hiking one fourteener, making us not very qualified to conquer this feat. Yet, this only gave us all the more reason to complete it. At 6:30 am, we were on the trail filled with energy from our 4:30 am stop at Mcdonalds. Would we later regret this stop? Yes, yes we most certainly would. But our hunger and need for food had won out that chilly morning. Completing the first fourteener, Mt. Democrat, was easier than expected and I felt energized standing on its peak. The sun had risen, warming my toes and nose. The surrounding mountains glowed making for a remarkable mental picture. iPhone pictures never show the true beauty of God’s workmanship causing me to only settle for a few. Soon it was time to make the journey towards the next peak, Mt. Cameron. The steep path up proved to be difficult and my friends and I took frequent breaks. As the fatigue began to take over me I was somewhat discouraged at thinking of the next two peaks that awaited me. However, as I reached the top of Mt. Cameron, I was filled with a new wave of adrenaline and energy. The third peak, Mt. Lincoln, was my favorite view and by far the easiest to ascend in terms of physical exertion, but the narrow path at 14,000 feet of elevation caused my fear of heights to awaken. I forced myself to overcome this fear and knocked out the third fourteener in the loop in a blur. The final trail towards the last peak proved to be difficult. With little energy and enthusiasm, we slowly made our way to Mt. Bross.
The trail up the last fourteener was fairly easy, however, we were not prepared for what came next. We were overjoyed to have made it up the last peak and were ready to quickly make our way down. We all decided that our goal was to make it down in forty-five minutes. We would soon find that those forty-five minutes were not realistic. The descent down Mt. Bross was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. After hiking four fourteeners, I did not have the motivation or strength that was needed to make it down easily. The trail was next to a steep ledge down the mountain and was filled with rocks that made every step a warry feat. This trail down felt like literal miles and seemed to never end. However, after an hour and a half, my friends and I finally made it back to the car. Once again, we agreed that we would never hike a fourteener again. Yet, on our drive, we planned our next one, Mt. Sherman. We told ourselves it was to see the mountain goats but I think we are just plain crazy.
If you are considering hiking the Decalibron you should be aware that there are two starting points. Is there a better part of the trail to start on? I do not know. But I will tell you what I learned from my experience. I was briefly given the advice to start on the path leading towards Mt. Democrat. With my lack of research, I took this advice without question and would not regret it. At least I think I don’t regret it. Here’s the problem: both parts of the trails would be difficult to end the hike on. In other words, it’s a lose-lose situation. The path leading to the left goes up Mt. Democrat which is one of the harder fourteeners on the trail with its false summit. However, the trail to the right is the steep and slippery slope that my friends and I used for our descent. It would be nice to start that trail with fresh energy, however, it would quickly discourage you for the rest of your journey. The choice is yours as both trailheads come with their own difficulties.
When packing for this hike, keep in mind the colder temperature that you will be starting out in. Wear comfortable layers that you can easily shed when the sun rises and instantly warms the air. Gloves and hats are a must to at least keep on hand during the long hike. Additionally, food is vital! Pack lots of healthy snacks and a lunch for your journey. Although I wasn’t very hungry at any point of the hike, I rewarded myself with food at each peak in order to further motivate myself and ensure that my body was energized to continue on. Protein bars, a sandwich, a peach, and graham crackers were my hiking essentials on this trip. Likewise, water and electrolyte drinks are necessary for your body on a hike like the DeCaLiBron. You know what they say, hydrate or dietrate! Finally, another essential on this hike is good and durable hiking boots. Tennis shoes, even good ones, will not be your friend as they lack the firm grip needed to make the trek up and down the fourteeners.
If you’re looking for breathtaking views of God’s creation, this is the hike for you. At each peak, the views are certainly a 10/10 and Instagram-worthy. You also can’t pass up the benefit of checking off four fourteeners on one trail. When fourteener season comes around again, you know what to add to your bucket list.