Mount Democrat

Access Update: Summer 2012 Access to Mounts Lincoln and Democrat has officially been granted. This opening is conditional, however, and is contingent upon hiker’s compliance with the regulations set fourth.  Here are the details, please be sure that you are aware and familiar with these rules and regulations as following (or not following) will determine the future access to these peaks:

  • The approved route is the Kite Lake route.
  • ONLY Mts Lincoln and Democrat are open.  The true summit of Mt Bross remains closed at this time, due to inability to get contact with all of the land owners (100% consensus is needed by all landowners in order to open access.)  Hikers can do the full loop (up Democrat, over Cameron, to Lincoln, then around the summit of Bross), but are not granted access to the Bross summit.
  • It is very important that hikers respect the needs of private landowners by 1) staying on the trail at all times (the trail has been signed and clearly delineated), and 2) not approaching or entering ANY mining structures in the area.  If this is violated, the landowners have indicated that they will reinstate the closure.
  • Part of the conditional opening is that CFI have Peak Steward volunteers present at the Kite Lake trailhead on busy summer weekends.  Volunteers are needed – contact for details on getting involved!

Recent History of Mounts Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross land use Unless climbers use the approved trail, these mountains have the potential for extreme danger. Due to extensive mining on the peaks of these Fourteeners, the ground is riddled with partially collapsing mining prospect holes, shafts, and tunnels (stopes) that run underground. Some of these hazards are located only inches from the surface and pose a danger to anyone crossing over them, particularly in loose or unstable surfaces. Due to liability concerns about potentially collapsing stopes, open mine shafts, and recurring vandalism to their property, landowners decided to close public access to Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross in the summer of 2005, thus sparking a number of efforts made to re-gain access.

Working Toward a Solution House Bill 1049, signed into law in March 2006, extends liability protections of Colorado’s Recreational Use Statute to owners of private land where “attractive nuisances” such as abandoned mines exist. In August 2006, the neighboring town of Alma leased 3,900 acres of private land from the landowners to provide further protection under the town’s governmental immunity. These efforts helped greatly, but on-the-ground work remained in order to re-open access by completing a single sustainable trail. Multiple side trails and shortcuts have been closed, and various signs have been installed to keep hikers on one established route. A single route was also necessary to address resource damage and help protect several populations of rare or endangered plants that can be trampled by off-trail hikers.

What Has CFI Done So Far? Planning and design efforts on the Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross loop were initiated by the Forest Service and CFI after the 2005 closure and were completed in 2007. In 2007, CFI seasonal staff installed most of the required signs along the designated trail. The National Forest Foundation awarded CFI a “Friends of the Forest” grant to sponsor a volunteer project on September 8th. The 31 volunteers included groups from the Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative (MRHI)and MWH Engineering in addition to other CFIvolunteers, and a substantial amount of valuable trail and restoration projects was completed. MRHI and MWH Engineering also worked with CFI’s Adopt-a-Peak program on these peaks during the summer and continued their involvement in 2008.  In 2009 the Wildlands Restoration Volunteers also teamed up with CFI and provided over 50 volunteers to perform a crucial re-route on Bross.  Check out some of their work:

How You Can Help 1.  Volunteer in 2012, Become a Peak Steward! Contact for details. 2.  Respect private landowner rights. Landowners have the right to restrict public access when they see recurring problems with vandalism and trespassing. Stay on established trails, educate yourself about private property issues, stay away from old mine shafts, and do not remove or damage anything (mine buildings, signs, etc). 3.  Donate to CFI. Your donations help CFI to fund trail crews, organize volunteer projects, and educate the public about Leave-No-Trace and alpine ecology – all core to our mission and greatly needed on the Lincoln, Democrat, and Bross effort. 4.  Be patient. We’re working hard on these three peaks, but large-scale trail projects take time and funding to complete. In the meantime, respect the private landowners’ needs by enjoying the wide array of other accessible Fourteeners and high peaks in Colorado!

Please Respect the Closure The many partners working on the trails are trying to keep access open to these Fourteeners. The Forest Service, CFI, Colorado Mountain Club, Mosquito Range Heritage Initiative, and other interested groups have invested considerable time and energy on this process. The involved parties are reminding members of the public to obey all signs and stay on designated trails once hiking is allowed. These peaks are private property and it is the right of the property owners and the town of Alma to close down access if the spirit of the agreement, which is to view access as a privilege rather than a right, is violated. By staying on the trails and respecting the historic structures and private property, the public may be able to continue to enjoy the adventure and views of these mountains.