Sunrise from Mt. Bross
Sunrise from the Mt. Bross Bypass Trail, Mosquito Range, Colorado
Mt. Democrat, Mt. Lincoln, and Mt. Bross are a broad-shouldered triumvirate of peaks above the old mining town of Alma. In the frenzied search for gold and silver in the 1860s, miners explored every square foot of all three peaks. Some even staked claims on the very summit of Mt. Bross and tried valiantly to exploit their claims, digging a spider-web of mine tunnels and shafts, some of which pass just below the surface. Although no ore has been extracted from those mines in decades, the owners’ claims are still legally valid, which means the summit of Mt. Bross is actually private property. In 2005 the landowners closed access to all three peaks. They were fearful of liability if some careless hiker fell into an old mine shaft or if the thin roof of an old tunnel collapsed under a hiker’s weight, and they were angered by repeated vandalism of old mining structures. It took an act by the Colorado Legislature in 2006 that reduced the owners’ legal liability, plus the town of Alma’s leasing of 3,900 acres of land, to allow climbers access once again to Mt. Democrat and Mt. Lincoln. As of this writing, however, the summit of Mt. Bross remains closed to the public. The legal tangle may never be unraveled. One source told me that there may be as many as 200 full and partial owners who would have to sign off on any deal to open the summit to hikers. I asked one of the major owners for permission to photograph sunrise from the summit and offered to sign a liability waiver, but did not receive a response despite repeated requests. In an effort to complete my Sunrise from the Summit project as well as possible, I decided to shoot sunrise from as close to the summit as legally permissible. The Mt. Bross Bypass Trail, which skirts the southwest flank of the peak, tops out at 13,960 feet, less than 250 vertical feet below the summit. In June 2013 I drove to Kite Lake, at 12,020 feet the trailhead for all three Fourteeners, slept in my truck for a few hours, then hiked 2,000 vertical feet in two hours to the high point on the Mt. Bross Bypass Trail and shot sunrise light on Mt. Democrat and Mt. Buckskin.