“It is not the mountains that we conquer but ourselves” – Sir Edmund Hillary
Standing at 14,150 ft., climbing Mt. Democrat in the winter is not an easy feat. But with the right gear, mindset, and preparation, it can be a very rewarding climb.
We arrived in Alma, Colorado at around 7:30AM on March 2, 2017. In Alma, you will need to get onto Buckskin Creek Road and follow that road until you reach Kite Lake Trail head. When we got to Buckskin Creek Road though, we were hit with some pretty bad snowdriftsand got stuck. Luckily, we were able to shovel our way through. About 6.5 km in, the snow got too unruly for our trusty Forester to continue, and so the hike began. At around 8:30AM at an elevation of around 11,000 ft., we were totally behind schedule.
We got our packs ready, put on our snowshoes and took off a layer. We were freezing and ready to go. (Be bold, start cold!) Before I could even get two steps away from the car, my snowshoe binding snapped. Great. As if we weren’t behind enough. Luckily, Sam let me use his snowshoes while he toughed it out with just his boots.
And so, the hike began… again.
On the day that we went, it was very windy, with wind speeds averaging around 40km/h. As we ascended, it only got worse. It took us about an hour and a half to reach the Kite Lake Trail head. Despite the crazy winds, there was one advantage to it. I was so focused on not toppling over from the winds, I didn’t even realize that we had made a 1000 ft. elevation gain!
At Kite Lake, there is an outhouse that is a great place to take a break. We couldn’t go inside because the building was filled with snow, but at least it helped break the wind. After taking a well-deserved break, Sam strapped on his ice cleats and we began our ascent.
We were unable to see any trail markings because of the snow, but we did have the Gaia GPS App that was super helpful in guiding us in the right direction. We pretty much just created our own trail as we saw fit.
As we got closer to the mountains, the wind died down a bit, but do not let it fool you, because once we got closer to the top, wind speeds increased to around 100km/h, with gust speeds of 140km/h. Here is where hiking poles really come in handy. There is a false summit, so don’t hold your breath when you think you see the top.
We reached the summit at around 1:00PM. (Exactly our turn-around time!) The winds did a very convincing job of turning us around ASAP, but not before we got a chance to enjoy the beautiful view.
By the end of the hike, my lips were bloody, I couldn’t feel the left side of my mouth, I had developed a wind-rash on my face, my bones were cold, and I was exhausted.
I had never felt better.
To see more of our adventures in Colorado, watch our video here!