Amid concern about the future of the popular 'Decalibron' fourteener route – which summits four peaks on a single loop (well, technically three... maybe just two... more on that below) – Colorado Mountain Club (CMC) has a plan in place that should keep the route open for the summer of 2022.
According to the group, 300 to 400 climbers travel the route on any given Saturday in the summer. Obviously, that means a lot of wear and tear on the route itself, along with a lot of chaos when it comes to parking logistics in a fragile, remote, and rugged backcountry space. This has resulted in the demand for a solution that will keep the route accessible while also protecting the route for the future.
That solution might actually be pretty simple – allocating fees associated with parking at the site in a way that encompasses a wider range of the needs that exist.
The nearby Town of Alma has long managed an access permit with the US Forest Service that requires those parking at the Kite Lake trailhead to pay a small fee – $5. In the past, that fee has covered the cost of bathroom facilities, road maintenance, "and more."
Now, due to a new agreement between the Town of Alma and CMC, the funding that comes from that fee will also be used to help cover costs of trail maintenance, sign installation, visitor use tracking, and water quality monitoring. Not only will this allow for better maintenance of the route, it will help environmental experts better understand and mitigate the impacts of recreation in the area.
In addition to some of those fees being reallocated, CMC plans to host trailhead ambassadors at Kite Lake this summer as part of their effort to help promote responsible recreation through education.
Colorado Mountain Club also hopes that an effort to better monitor vehicles in the area and track trail usage will provide information to the US Forest Service that can improve their understanding of needs that exist, including those related to future capacity issues.
While the trail is set to stay open, there's one big caveat – hikers still aren't legally allowed to reach the technical summit of Mount Bross.
“It is important to note that the summit of Mount Bross remains closed to the public due to fractional private ownership,” says CMC Conservation Coordinator Kendall Chastain. “We ask that climbers please respect the closure of Mount Bross and stay on the authorized trail so that we can maintain good relationships with the private landowners and ensure the peaks remain open.”
It's worth noting that breaking rules or irresponsible use could lead to restrictions, as it has in the past.
So there you have it – a popular route that seems to be under constant threat of closure will likely stay open through the peak season of 2022 thanks to the new plan that's in place.
At 7.5 miles and with 3,700 feet of gain, the Decalibron loop can be a great option for athletic hikers looking to dip their toes into fourteener climbing. It offers rock scrambling, stunning views, and the chance for hikers to claim they've 'summited four fourteeners in a single day.' While hikers don't technically hit the summit of Bross and Cameron Peak isn't considered a separate fourteener in some circles, tackling this hike can be a great experience.
Remember – no fourteener hike is without risk. It's crucial to monitor weather conditions and to be aware of your own abilities prior to leaving the trailhead. Always let someone know where you're headed and when you'll be back. Don't leave the '10 essentials' behind.
Note from the author: It's unclear if the wider range of issues set to be addressed by the fee will mean a fee increase. This is a decision that's made by the town, not CMC. More information may become available and we'll update this when possible. You never know, but I wouldn't anticipate this fee increase much – at least not to the level of the parking fees associated with hiking Quandary Peak.