I was joined by BethTrombone (14'ners) for a trip out to Capitol Peak last Weekend. Before leaving Saturday morning I checked the weather and trip reports for the area and was not excited about the results. One trip report described snow and freezing rain on Thursday night. The weather forecast I read had 40% chance of afternoon storms. I called Beth to make sure she was aware of the reports, she was still up for the trip even with the news. I added a couple pieces of gear to my pack and grabbed the leather boots. We were going to give it a good old college try.
Arriving at the trailhead about 3:00pm, the clouds above started drizzling on the windshield. Luckily it didn't last long and we quickly donned the boots and strapped on the packs. Leaving the car behind before we had an excuse to quit. It was an enjoyable and relatively easy walk through beautiful aspen groves and grassy hill sides heading towards the lake, the fall colors yet to show their brilliance. The skies cleared as evening progressed, a sprinkle here or there, but nothing to speak of. During our hike in we met 4 or 5 groups that reached the summit that day, this was welcome news and gave us encouragement for Sundays climb. An early view of Capitol while hiking in.
We camped in the pines just short of the stream crossing maybe a ¼ mile before the designated campsites begin. At 6:00pm. the wind was calm, about 60 degrees, a couple deer in the grassy gulch behind us moving about. The sky was blue with just scattered clouds. Starting about 8:30 the near full moon lit the valley walls as if darkness would not be allowed to take over. One note on camping near the pines, watch out for the eyes that glow in the dark, they are out there with a spooky glare.
We left the campsite at 6:00am. Sunday morning, someone overslept and it wasn’t Beth. Above us headlamps were already crossing Daly Saddle, nice to know other folks were out there. During the climb up the saddle it became evident that clouds now filled the sky. Darker than the previous night, the temperature was low 40’s with just a slight breeze.
Crossing the saddle we dropped down and followed occasional cairns over decent terrain. The route finding wasn’t that difficult at this point and travel was easy. Here is a view of the terrain making the turn up towards K2.
I was watching the weather during the hike up towards K2, I’m sure Beth was too. It didn’t look good, but an occasional blue patch kept us pushing forward. Here is Beth climbing up the last pitch to K2 which we reached about 8:20am.
On top of K2 we were greeted by three other climbers, none too excited about the weather. After a short break we decided to make a move for it. It was decent enough for a crossing of the Knife Edge, our energy level was good and spirits high. The rock was not wet or slick, it hadn’t rained so the route was still good.
Here is Beth starting the crossing of K2, halfway across is a lone traveler we respectfully called “Clint”. If you’re out there I apologize for not knowing your name. You are a tough soul and good climber.
With a good fear of heights, this was the hardest part of the climb for me. Short as it is, my heart was racing before I reached the far end. I stood up for a quick picture, but basically straddled the rock and skidded my way across the edge. You can see Jason and Stephen behind me patiently waiting their turn.
Not much of a view on the climb up from the Knife, the cloud cover was intermittent, but still no rain.
About 200’ from the summit a short burst of hail fell upon us. It didn’t materialize and wasn’t enough to create slippery footing, a lucky break for us. We reached the summit at 10:00am to enjoy 360 degrees of gray-board views. Here is the group (Stephen, Jason, and Beth) enjoying a short summit break, and something they called string cheese. I’m not sure what the kids are up to these days.
Here is my summit photo, for some reason they kept telling me to back up another step or two.
Clint made the summit within 15 minutes, we offered to walk down with him, but he assured us he was fine and would follow quickly behind us. The weather not improving so we carefully descended from the peak. As we made our way down the weather generally improved, here is the gang with all hands on deck.
By the time we reached the Daly Saddle(12:40pm) on the return trip, I was tired but feeling really satisfied. The sky was blue and easy walking trail down from there was a relief. Capitol was a tough and rewarding mountain. Beth and I hit camp, took a short break, packed up the tents and gear and were moving by 2:15pm heading towards the car. A last look up towards the saddle we saw Clint making his way through the switchbacks down towards the lake. Nice to know everyone was off the peak safely.
While the weather was not guaranteed, it did work out fine. I enjoyed the company, thanks folks for a great climb.
A last look back at the weekends travels.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):