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Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
"K2"  -  13,664 feet
Post Date:  07/25/2007
Date Climbed:   07/22/2007
Posted By:  astrobassman

 Capitol Peak - Standard Route   

This is an account of my first difficult 14er. I did my first class 3 14er (Snowmass Mountain) the week before, and then I was invited to join several more experienced climbers on Capitol Peak the following week. I was very skeptical about attempting Capitol, but I figured with my solid conditioning, limited technical rock climbing experience, and guidance from more experienced climbers I would have a shot. I met Scot (14ers.com user name Floyd) at 1pm in Denver and we arrived at the Capitol Creek trailhead at 4pm. There we met Dave (14ers.com user name CODave) and Shawn (14ers.com user name sdkeil) and did the 7 mile hike to Capitol Lake. It's an interesting hike to the lake because there is a view of Capitol Peak for almost the entire way. At times clouds seemed to surround the peak providing an ominous effect. We ran into rain about 3/4 of the way up the trail and we all got soaked and complained for a little while. But out of sheer luck we ran into Ed (14ers.com user name fillae) as we searched for a suitable campsite. We set up camp quickly and I retired to my tent to consume a pound or two of beef jerky before I went to sleep.

We woke up at 4am and I immediately chugged a Starbucks double shot. That always gets me going. We hit the trail at 5am and within minutes met up with a solo hiker named Philip. I think he was pretty happy to join a group for this climb. I charged on up the hill and we made it up to the 12,500 foot Capitol/Daly saddle within 35 minutes. About this time the sun came up. Image We then lost a couple hundred feet and scrambled over boulders and snowfields for an hour or so before we reached K2. Crossing the snowfields was not always necessary, but Ed was nice enough to lend me one of his trekking poles when we did cross one. We arrived at K2 at about 7am. Some of us scrambled up K2 and others went to the right. I hadn't planned on summiting K2, but after 10 minutes Dave and I unexpectedly found our selves up on top of K2. We then down climbed some easy class 4 terrain and proceeded up the ridge. Here is a view of the remaining route after K2: Image There was some extreme exposure along the way, but surprisingly it didn't bother me that much. I think it was because I was with 5 other dudes who I'm sure didn't want to deal with some whining newbie, so I just went on and acted as if I normally scramble along ridges with thousand foot drop offs on each side. We arrived at the knife-edge shortly after. Scot took the lead and I followed. Scot made it over well before I did and took some stellar pictures of the 5 of us crossing. I'm the first one in the orange helmet; it looks like I'm falling in one, but I obviously didn't. Image Image It really didn't seem as hard as people made it out to be, I just surreptitiously scuffled along and the next thing I knew I had conquered the knife-edge. I would say there were at least 10 or 12 sections of the climb that were equal or greater in difficulty than the knife-edge. The next hour or so was filled with precarious ledge crossings; lose rock climbs, and exposure that will definitely give me some hair on my chest. Image We were talking afterwards and someone remarked that the exposure didn't even seem real...we just couldn't imagine falling off that ridge...the sheer vertical drop offs were unfathomable. At one point Scot went around a ledge and muttered "holy shiiiiit", we all asked what was up and then we rounded the ridge and no further explanation was necessary. We had to climb a 30 foot extremely steep ridge with several thousand foot drop offs on 3 sides. I would say that was probably the crux of the climb for us. After that section we shortly arrived at the summit ridge. On the summit ridge I made one move where I swung around a rock and my ass hung 2000+ feet above Capitol Lake...I wish I had a picture of that! While on the summit I really didn't say much. Here is a group picture of us. Image I was extremely nervous about down climbing everything I just went up. I took my customary summit swig of Jack Daniels...well it was more of a tiny tongue taste than a swig...I wanted my entire concentration on the task at hand. We were able to avoid that exposed 30 foot ridge on the way down, and the down climb turned out to be rather uneventful. We made it back to the knife-edge and Scot decided to stop half way across and stand there for a bit while someone fumbled around attempting to get the perfect photo of him. Meanwhile Dave and I were waiting a few feet behind about to shit our pants. We told him to move his ass and he promptly did so. But I'm sure that photo will be a good one. After returning over the knife-edge I thought the hard part was over, but that wasn't true. Going around K2 turned out to be more of a challenge than the knife-edge itself. Lose rock on class 4 terrain down and up a steep gully scares me more than a solid edge. I actually found it easier to summit K2 than to go around it.

Once I was safely past K2, I thoroughly rejoiced. I had never felt so accomplished and happy on a climb. I consider myself a pragmatic person, but I was very superstitious that morning on Capitol Peak for some reason. I had a rock in my shoe but I was feeling more and more comfortable with it there so I didn't take it out, and I was getting hotter and hotter as the sun came up, but I felt my long sleeve under armor shirt was necessary to keep myself in the flow of the climb, so I didn't want to remove that either. But after K2 I removed the rock, replaced the under armor with a short sleeve shirt, and of course we all chugged our different liquors of choice (Captain and Jack). Here's a happy Colin with Snowmass, The Bells, and Pyramid in the background. Image We made it back to camp at 1:30, took some pictures and backpacked out and arrived at the truck at about 4:30. The wildflowers were beautiful. Image On the way back I think all of us were still feeling the adrenalin rush of such a magnificent climb. When I got back to the truck my only thought was how am I going to beat the guy I just made a Taco Bell challenge to that used to weigh 345 pounds as an NFL lineman? In Glenwood springs I spent a measly $11 at the Bell while Scot trounced me with a solid $18...

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

  • Comments or Questions

For the record...     02/05/2011 00:22
I never wieghed a pound over 330 but we'll need to find a Dairy Queen after the next challenge. Nice trip report Colin. I'll see you next month for Little Bear and Co.


Good report!!     07/26/2007 09:14
was the knife that bad?


The Knife     11/30/2010 17:28
Catamount, the knife was very solid and I found it more fun than anything - and very short. It only takes a minute or two to get across. There are probably a dozen places on the mountain that I thought was tougher/more dangerous terrain. I think the knife is what everyone concentrates on because you have to go over it. The other stuff varies on the path you chose to take. That mountain was relentless with the exposure and hands down the most fun I've had on a 14er yet.


Hey Man, Nice Shot     11/30/2010 17:28
Do you feel different after getting some really insane exposure? That one's probably a season or two down the road for me. Congratulations on a REAL adventure.

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