Bootprints Hiking Guide: Mount Lincoln 14er, eastern slope approach
July 1, 2017
The trail up the east face of Mount Bross (14,178 feet), one of three 14ers bundled together in the Mosquito Range, is an old mining road that passes north to Windy Ridge and past a grove of ancient bristlecone pine trees. From the base of the rugged route (U.S. Forest Service Road 787) at 11,425 feet, the bristlecone pine stand is seven-tenths of a mile upslope at 11,750 feet. This grove of trees — some have been recorded to be 3,000 or more years old — justifies approaching Mount Bross and nearby Mount Lincoln (14,286 feet) from the east, rather than climbing up from the popular western approach at Kite Lake.
The wind-twisted trees on Windy Ridge are amazing monuments to the adaptability of trees, even in the hostile conditions of dry, rocky, alkaline slopes exposed to severe winters. No other trees compete with the bristlecone pines in this hostile microclimate.
Immediately below the approach ridge are more sheltered, fertile and wet gulches filled with firs and spruce — conditions that rot the roots and snuff out the lives of bristlecone seedlings. The greatest threats to these bristlecone trees are now human-borne in the form of campers seeking firewood, along with climate changes that could move more rapidly than the migration of these magnificent trees.
The slopes of Mount Bross are pocked with abandoned mine shafts. Among these are the ruins of the Dolly Varden Mine, three miles up the trail at 13,290 feet. The claims in the Dolly Varden area are marked only by twisted steel, a water tank, a rusting boiler tank and the broken wood frames of ore-processing buildings, plus a few miners' cabins.
However, the depths of Mount Bross surrendered more than a million dollars worth of silver from 1832 to 1876. Dolly Varden was one of 15 claims on a hundred acres of rocky slope located 1,000 feet above tree line.
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Onto Mount Lincoln
Passing several closed mines, the rough road completes several switchbacks and ends in a narrow pathway across the saddle from Mount Bross to the summit of Mount Lincoln.
Easily gained in three hours of hiking, the summit of Mount Lincoln allows views of the flat summit of Mount Bross a mile to the south, the rounded top of Mount Cameron (14,238 feet) to the southwest and the pyramid of Mount Democrat (14,155 feet) across the ridge to the west. Views of North Star Mountain (13,614 feet) on the Continental Divide and the half-dome of Quandary Peak (14,265 feet) dominate the northern horizon.
From the summit of Mount Lincoln, a path leads up the gravel slope to the top of Mount Cameron, located a half-mile to the southwest. Although rising to a crest of 14,238 feet, Mount Cameron is not officially considered a distinct and separate peak apart from Mount Lincoln, since the rounded top is only 138 feet above the saddle. Official standards require a knoll to have a prominence of 300 feet in order to be counted as a separate summit, and thus a fourth 14er in this relatively easy cluster.
Nonetheless, Mount Cameron provides a distinctive vantage point from which to view the surrounding slope, and the debate over prominence is undoubtedly disregarded by the mountain goats that wander among these summits.
Want more? Read on for author Kim Fenske's guide to Mount Antero, another 14er south of the Mount Lincoln grouping
The cluster of 14,000-foot peaks — Mount Lincoln (14,286 feet), Mount Cameron (14,238 feet) and Mount Bross (14,178 feet) — are located immediately east of Mount Democrat (14,155 feet). The group of four peaks can be climbed in a single full day of hiking.
The approach on the eastern face of Mount Bross is approximately 32 miles south of Frisco. After turning onto Highway 9 and continuing south through Breckenridge, pass Quandary Peak and continue over the Continental Divide at Hoosier Pass to the town of Alma. Entering Alma, turn right on Buckskin Street and proceed 3 miles west to a junction with Dolly Varden Road (U.S. Forest Service Road 415), across from the abandoned Paris Mill. Follow the rocky road east to wrap around the eastern face of Mount Bross.
This washed-out road becomes impassable for low-clearance vehicles a bit more than a mile before the steep jeep road that begins ascending north from the mining ruins at 11,425 feet. From here, the hike to the summits of Mount Lincoln, Mount Cameron and Mount Bross is 12 miles, or about six hours of steady walking on easy trails north of Dolly Varden Gulch.
Author Kim Fenske has written extensively on hiking trails in Colorado. His writings include, "Greatest Hikes in Central Colorado: Summit and Eagle Counties," and "Hiking Colorado: Holy Cross Wilderness," both available from Amazon Kindle books.