Climbing Mount Bross in Colorado

Route Description for 14,177-foot Mount Bross

Mount Bross is covered with old roads and mines from Colorado's historic mining period.
Mount Bross, one of Colorado's easiest fourteeners to climb, towers above Hoosier Pass in central Colorado. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
  • Peak: Mount Bross
  • Elevation: 14,178 feet (4,321 meters)
  • Prominence: 312 feet (95 meters).
  • Location: Central Colorado. Northwest of Fairplay and east of Leadville. Located in Park County.
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • GPS Coordinates: 39°20′07″ N / 106°06′27″ W
  • Difficulty: Class 2. Hiking and scrambling over boulders.
  • Trailhead Elevation: 12,000 feet at Kite Lake.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,250 feet from Kite Lake (rough 4-wheel-drive access). 2,780 feet from 11,400 feet (end of 2-wheel-drive access).
  • Round-Trip Distance: 4.0 miles from Kite Lake.
  • Maps: USGS Quads: Climax, Alma; Trails Illustrated: #109; Pike National Forest map.
  • Camping: Camping at Kite Lake.
  • Lodging: Hotels and motels are in Fairplay to the southeast.

Mount Bross: 22nd Highest Colorado Mountain

Mount Bross, the 22nd highest mountain in Colorado, is a 14,178-foot-high mountain that lies on a ridge just south of 14,286-foot Mount Lincoln and unranked 14,239-foot Mount Cameron at the northern end of the Mosquito Range in central Colorado. The Mosquitos are a long alpine ridge studded with many high peaks, including four 14,000-foot mountains-Mount Lincoln, Mount Bross, Mount Democrat, and Mount Sherman. The range runs south from the Continental Divide just west of Hoosier Pass to the twin Buffalo Peaks, which anchor the end of the range above Buena Vista.

Easy Day Trip from Front Range Cities

Mount Bross is considered one of the easiest of Colorado's 54 or 55 Fourteeners (depending on which criteria you use to decide what is a Fourteener).

The Class II ascent mostly follows a trail with some boulder scrambling and talus slopes to Mount Cameron, before strolling south on easy slopes to Mount Bross. The peak is usually combined on a 7.25-mile-long loop hike with ascents of Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross -- dubbed DeCaLiBron by peak baggers -- for a four-Fourteener day.

Climb on Weekdays to Avoid Crowds

Alone, Mount Bross is a fun climb for novices and children as well as by mountaineers coming up from lower elevations for acclimatization. It's also easy to climb as a day-trip from Denver and Colorado Springs. The flip side of this easy access is popularity. It can be busy on these peaks, especially on weekends. Try to plan your ascent on weekdays to avoid the crowds.

Climb All Three Fourteeners

It's a quick hike if you want to only climb Mount Bross, although the best thing is to combine it at least with an ascent of Mount Lincoln, the high point of the Mosquito Range. Better yet to just do all three ranked 14ers as well as unranked Cameron, which lacks the requisite 300-foot drop between it and Lincoln to be a ranked peak. To climb Bross alone is a one-way 2.8-mile hike with 2,250 feet of elevation gain from Kite Lake to the west. Descent off Mount Bross is usually down steep loose scree slopes on the west side of the mountain.

Six Routes up Mount Bross

The Standard Route up Mount Bross is combined with ascents of Mount Cameron and Mount Lincoln, and usually Mount Democrat, for a 7.25-mile round-trip hike on good trails with minimal scrambling and exposure.

Five other routes also ascend Mount Bross.

  • West Slopes: Ascend steep slopes and a blunt ridge directly east of Kite Lake to the summit. 2,250 feet of elevation gain and 3.25 miles round trip.
  • S Gully: Good snow climb in spring. Climb easy snow in a gully, with crampons and ice axe, up the northwest side of the mountain above Kite Lake. 2,250 feet of elevation gain and 5 miles round trip.
  • East Slopes: Begin at Mineral Park Mine at 11,200 feet on the east side of the mountain. Hike up slopes to the summit. A good alternative to the Standard Route. 2,950 feet of elevation gain and 5 miles round trip.
  • Dolly Varden Gully: Fun spring snow climb up southeast side of Bross when there is enough snowfall. Named for the Dolly Varden Mine. Begin above Mineral Park at the Bristlecone Pine Scenic Area. Climb up steep Dolly Varden Gully to the summit. 2,900 feet elevation gain and 4 miles round trip.
  • East Slope Road: Follows old mining roads up the east slopes of Bross from Mineral Park Mine. 2,900 feet of elevation gain and 5 miles round trip.

Summit is Private Property

Mount Bross is covered with old mining roads and claims, part of Colorado's historic mining legacy, so there are property issues to consider when hiking up the mountain. The summit of Bross is private property and the land owners have not consented to allow climbers to reach the actual high point. The best alternative is to follow a narrow strip of marked public land that reaches a point about 25 feet from the highest point. Stay on the designated trail to appease the land owner and to avoid having the area closed down as it was in 2005. The summit of Mount Bross is, however, a big flat area that's large enough to have a Denver Broncos football game on, so the current legal summit (about a foot shorter) than the actual summit is so close in elevation that you really can't tell the difference.

Best Season is Summer

The best season to climb Mount Bross is in summer from early June through September. Snow slopes may be encountered on the mountain in June so bring an ice axe. The route is free of snow by early July and stays that way until the snow flies, usually in October. Mount Bross also makes a great winter climb, although it requires skiing or snowshoeing up the road to Kite Lake from Alma. The route is free from avalanche danger.

Watch for Thunderstorms and Lightning

Even though Mount Bross is an easy ascent, the mountain can be dangerous.

Thunderstorms flare up almost every afternoon and quickly move onto the peak. Get an early start and plan to be off the summit by noon to avoid thunderstorms and lightning. Carry rain gear and extra clothes to avoid hypothermia as well as carry The Ten Essentials.

DIRECTIONS TO TRAILHEAD

From Fairplay on the northwest edge of South Park, drive north from US 285 for eight miles on CO 9 to the small town of Alma. Alma is also reached by driving south from I-70 through Breckenridge and over Hoosier Pass. In Alma, turn west on Buckskin Creek Road (Park County 8) and follow it seven miles to Kite Lake. The last mile of the road can be very rough but can usually be negotiated in a two-wheel-drive vehicle. If the road is too rough for your taste, there are pullouts along the way where you can park and hike to Kite Lake.

MOUNT BROSS STANDARD ROUTE DESCRIPTION

The trailhead to climb Mount Bross begins at 12,000 feet at Kite Lake in a broad cirque west of the bulky mountain. An easy-to-follow trail ascends Democrat's southeast slope to a saddle between Democrat to the west and Mount Cameron, an unranked Fourteener, to the east. It then climbs the east ridge to a final gentle grade to the summit. Allow three to four hours to reach the summit and another two to descend back to Kite Lake. A fast hiker can do it in half that time.

Begin by hiking north on the trail up a long gradual slope to steeper slopes on the lower east face of Mount Democrat. Follow the trail which switchbacks up the steep slopes to the obvious saddle between Democrat and Cameron at about 13,400 feet.

At the saddle, turn east on the trail and follow it along the south edge of Mount Cameron's west ridge until at 13,500 feet the trail climbs onto the airy ridge. Follow the ridge to Cameron's summit, although at about 14,000 feet you can contour across the mountain's southwest slope and avoid climbing to its top. From the Cameron summit, descend south and pick up a good trail to the Cameron-Bross saddle at 13,850 feet. Follow the trail around the west side of Mount Bross's summit to avoid private property. The trail passes the top of S Gully and then switchbacks up left to the designated legal summit.

DESCENT FROM SUMMIT

To descend, follow the trail back to the top of S Gully. Look southwest and locate a blunt ridge-the West Slopes Route. Follow an obvious trail down the ridge to 13,300 feet. Exit left off the ridge and descend a trail across a gully. Continue down the steep trail on talus and scree slopes to grassy slopes which lead to Kite Lake and the parking area.