September 21, 1998 - Normal Route from Kite Lake
(photos from mid January 2012)
Climbing Democrat, this time after a ten-year climbing drought, was a new type of climb, i.e. I drove to the trailhead from home. I had been to Kite Lake during an August blizzard years before so the route to the trailhead was familiar. I left Cheyenne at about 3:30 a.m. and arrived at Kite Lake at about seven. Even that early, there were a dozen cars at the road terminus and many folks ahead of me on the route. I added a loaner truck to the collection and gathered my pack and headed up the trail along with the growing numbers.
The trail headed first for the saddle between Mts. Cameron and Democrat, covering the flat ground along Kite Lake at first and then cutting up toward the saddle. I was not long from the east coast, so the 12,000 foot elevation of Kite Lake treated me well on this first 14'er since moving west. I climbed slowly, feeling the elevation a bit and at about the half way mark, passed old mine ruins that I remembered from a short visit to the area before. Once past the ruins, I climbed steadily along the well beaten trail, which cut back and forth and eventually made its way to the saddle proper.
I was Mt. Democrat bound, so I turned left to start up the flank of the peak. The trail cut along the ridge line proper for just a bit before working its way back out onto the talus covered face where it switched back and forth a number of times to gain the elevation needed to arrive at what appeared to be the summit cone. But that direct a summit was not to be and soon enough I found that I'd really just broken the crest of the shoulder and had to continue for another ten minutes or so to reach the now obvious summit. A bit of aflat and then a leisurely climb up the summit cone took me to the summit proper where I was not alone.
I took in the view, not really being able to pick out any peak in particular. The time would come years later when I would arrive on any given summit and be able to rattle off the names of peaks both near and far, 14'ers and lower Centennial included. However, that was not the result for my first 14'er after too long of a drought. I was just happy to be there and looking forward to climbing many more. Little did I know that gaining all 54, and then adding in the soft summits, would consume the next couple of years, lead to a snow school, new climbing partners and multiple trips to ever higher elevations well south in the Andes. At the time the joy was that I had just scored my first 14'er after moving west and I hoped that this would just be the first of many as I hoped to climb all 54.