| A Capital Birthday
My friends, Cody, JD, Steve, Keller and I headed back to beautiful Colorado for our annual climb-fest, all coming from flat, incinerated Texas. Normally, we'd return in mid August to make the trip a "training" run for Steve and Keller, who usually participate in the Pikes Peak marathon. That week tends to fall on my wife's birthday and our anniversary, so there has been some, shall we say, less than enthusiastic attitudes displayed at missing them for some stupid mountain. Well, this year my friends decided not to do the marathon, freeing up a different week to climb. My sweetheart was delighted.
Our original plan was to climb Capital, do Massive Mania (which we mostly did), then a new route up Castle/Conundrum from the hot springs (which we didn't do), and a "stealth" climb to Culebra from the north, via Mt. Maxwell (which we also didn't do, so relax). We had to alter our plans due to a number of things, but mostly due to a newbie (JD) getting foot blisters and another (Steve) really disliking long backpacks. So, we started with Capital, did Massive the long way, and finished with Pikes Peak from Crag's, with a few off-days in-between. Yes, taking a newbie up Capital seems dumb, but we warned/prepared him as best we could before our trip, and he was OK with it. So, the trip:
It's difficult to prepare one's self for the first sighting of Capital from the Ditch trail. Simply awe-inspiring. My dear friends, Keller and Steve were supposed to meet the rest of us at the trailhead at around 1:00 pm, but didn't show until 4:00 since they had decided to run up the Incline that morning in Manitou Springs for a little "warm-up". Bless their little hearts. So, just as it's getting dark, we arrived at the designated campsites, which are difficult to tell if they're occupied without walking up into each one. We found a nice, elevated one in the second group that allowed for a few tents. The plan: wake up before first light and head up the Daly saddle.
Sun is pretty high already, isn't it?
The reality: Steve's watch alarm is so quiet, no one heard it go off. So we head out well after first light. In fact the Sun was already up. Well, at least the weather forecast was good. We then proceeded across and the down a gully, which was pretty loose, to the floor of the basin, turned right and climbed up the boulder field.
Then, up K2
I went straight up the ridge to the summit of K2, while the others went around the summit to the right, along obvious paths. K2 is a remarkable summit, with outstanding views of Capital. In fact, it was enough for Steve, Keller, and JD, who stopped right there. Cody and I forged on, however. I had gotten to this spot several years before, only to be turned back because of a snow cornice atop K2, and deep snow down the right side, forcing us to the Pierre Lakes side of K2. This is NOT a good place to be Then, the knife-edge!
OK, here we go!
It comes in 3 parts, I found. The first is easy, since there's a nice little ledge to shuffle across while holding on to the edge. Then, a broken-top portion you just scramble on, and then finally, a long, true knife edge that has NO footholds whatsoever. Here, you just either scoot across or spider-walk, or both, which I did.
On, and on...
I may need new hiking pants...
I found it awkward and taxing, with occasional cramping of my thighs due to the odd position. The exposure is definately a factor, but that's a head-game. Nevertheless, it does add adrenaline to the climb. Afterward, we did the ascending traverse toward an upper notch in the far ridge, which then carries you around to the far side and up to the summit.
Yours truly savouring the summit
There are several paths across the face, and one must decide which looks more doable as you go. A lot of that area past the knife-edge is sketchy, loose, exposed and in some ways more frightening than the infamous edge. Our chosen path worked fine, but I'm not certain we descended the exact way. A look back toward the saddle:
We gotta get back over there
Once we returned to camp, we made the backpack out to the car. A long, awe-inspiring day. It was my 48th 14er, and my 57th birthday! Opinion: I'd say Capital is the most difficult and fearsome of all the summits so far, and that includes Pyramid, Maroon, the Crestones, and Little Bear (although we did the SW ridge avoiding the hourglass). There, I said it.
A final look back
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):