| Capitol Peak: 14er Finisher! (Northeast Ridge)- Capitol Creek TH
Date: August 18-19, 2007
Summit Team: USAKeller, Triple M, KirkT, comin2getcha, J.D. (Josh), Chris P., Mots010, and Daniel (Triple M's brother)
Route: Northeast Ridge from Capitol Lake
Total mileage: ~17 miles (5,300ft. of elevation gain) from Capitol Creek TH
Partners MIA: Rockymtnhigh69, Mark Milburn, sdkeil, Skasgaard, lordhelmut, Jcwhite, BillMiddlebrook, and my dad
When I first started climbing the Fourteeners, I never thought it was possible I would be able to finish them. As my experience increased and as time went on, that day came when I would finish- August 19, 2007. I chose that day because it was the same day last year when David (TalusMonkey) finished the Fourteeners with Mt. Elbert. To me, it was one more way I felt I could honor him. Triple M (Alyson), a girl I met a few months ago, would also be finishing with me.
We all met in Basalt on Saturday afternoon for a bite to eat, and drove up the Capitol Creek road to the large parking area. We packed our backpacks and hit the trail at 5:50pm.
Our crew at the parking lot. Left to right: USAKeller, Triple M, J.D., Daniel, comin2getcha, KirkT, Mots010, and Chris P. with Capitol Peak behind:
We hiked up just over 6 miles (3 hours) and ~2,800ft. of elevation gain to treeline to where we found a large campsite just off of the main trail (N39deg 10m4.8s, W107deg 04m51.2s), and watched as Capitol Peak grew bigger and bigger. KirkT entertained us by chasing the cows, using his hat to "shoe them off" of the trail – a 900lb. cow versus a 130lb. KirkT: hmmmm…? They were scared of him! One important trail junction is the crossing from the Ditch Trail back over to the Capitol Creel Trail (N39deg 11m56.2s, W107deg 05m16.0s). The easiest way across is to continue up the creek about 50-60 yards where there is a log bridge to cross. This junction could easily be missed in the dark.
We were supposed to meet guitmo223 and his friend, Scott, up at the lake, but weren't sure how much space was available for all of our tents, so we camped below them. After we set up camp, we talked for awhile and went to sleep.
KirkT chasing the cows off of the trail:
The infamous shot of Capitol Peak from the Ditch Trail:
The alarms woke us up at 4:30am (Triple M and I were excited!) and we headed up the trail towards Capitol Lake at 5:15am. Just below the lake, we took a left at a trail junction (N39deg 09m55.9s, W107deg 04m51.3s) heading southeast up a steep, switchback trail towards the Capitol–Daly saddle, where we met guitmo223 and Scott.
The trail leading up to the Capitol–Daly saddle:
From here, there are two options to climb up towards "K2" (Point 13,664): #1: descend slightly into the large basin towards Clark Peak (13,580ft.) and cross an easier, cairned boulder field before heading west up to K2, or #2: traversing along the southeast side of the ridge (also well-cairned) directly below large cliff bands for some fun, class 3 and 4 scrambling. We opted to stay high for the traverse (#2) – see photo below. We would then drop down and take the easier route on the way back.
Taken from below in the boulder field, this photo shows the route traversing below the cliff bands towards K2:
Once clear of the cliffs, we followed the cairns up a talus slope towards K2. Here, we met 14ers.com member, Rex, and his friends, who climbed with us to the summit. You can bypass the summit of K2 by climbing along the right (north and west sides) of this point. However, we wanted to take the extra few minutes and climb it. With a few class 4 moves directly up the east side of K2, we were staring at the classic Northeast (Knife-Edge) Ridge.
On top of "K2." Left to right: USAKeller, Triple M, J.D., comin2getcha, Daniel; Chris P. and KirkT on the bottom, with Capitol Peak behind:
Downclimbing the north side of K2 from the summit is steep and requires some solid class 4 moves (the photo looks directly down):
We dropped down into a notch at the start of the Knife-Edge. Two short sections along this ridge appear to be true, sharp "knife-edges"- some of our party members found it easier to straddle and scoot across them, while others walked across. It's fun climbing on solid rock with nice exposure!
A few shots of our group crossing the Knife-Edge Ridge:
After crossing the ridge, the summit is only a short distance away (all class 3 and 4 climbing), but it takes a decent amount of time to route-find; it seems as if the actual climbing starts after the ridge. Initially, we stayed on the ridge, and the cairns then took us along the left side below the ridge crest.
The standard route drops below the ridge crest and climbs around the left side of the mountain up to the summit (taken from 13,750ft.):
It took KirkT, Lance, and myself 4 hours to summit from camp (at 9:15am), with the rest of the group summiting at 9:00am. I don't think there has ever been a bigger smile on my face walking up to the summit of Capitol, and meeting Triple M there- having another female to finish the 14ers with was such an awesome and special feeling! There were about 20 people on the summit that day. Chris P. brought up a few bottles of whipped cream, and KirkT and comin2getcha each hauled up a celebratory bottle of champagne for Triple M and I to open- we only took a sip and passed the rest to the boys, not wanting to make the climb back over the Knife-Edge any more interesting that what was to come…
Lance gave Triple M and I commemorative 14er-finisher t-shirts on the summit too. This was also Daniel's 5th Fourteener and the first since last year- he did an awesome job.
The Fourteener Finishers! Triple M and USAKeller with Snowmass Mountain behind:
Opening the champagne and taking a sip:
The group on the summit of Capitol Peak. Left to right: Chris P., comin2getcha, Mots010, USAKeller, KirkT, Triple M, J.D., and Daniel:
Our celebration was short-lived when we saw dark clouds rolling in fast – we knew we had to get down quickly and safely to avoid weather issues on the ridge. We left the summit at 9:50am; the storm held out for 40 minutes until rain and hail (accompanied by thunder directly overhead) hit us as we started back across the Knife-Edge. The present weather conditions provided for extremely interesting climbing- we had to devote perhaps the most attention throughout the climb during this time. There was no need to go back over K2, so we stayed on the climber's left side (the easy way to bypass the top of K2) until we were safely back at the top of the boulder field again. The rain stopped and the sun was back out. We all thought it was quite coincidental that the only weather problem we encountered during the trip was along the Knife-Edge Ridge…
We chose to drop down into the basin between Mt. Daly and Clark Peak (option #1 from above) and take the easier, and what seemed to be never-ending way back to the Capitol–Daly saddle. It took us 3 hours to return to camp from the summit (at 12:50pm). After a snack and quickly packing up camp, we left at 1:40pm and hiked back out enjoying more good laughs and conversations, reaching the trailhead at 3:50pm. That day was a special way to honor David by finishing the 14ers with Triple M, and having wonderful friends there to share this experience with. Climbing Capitol Peak was also a neat and challenging way to finish the Fourteeners! I'm looking forward to many more with you guys!
A week post-climb, we had an end-of-the-summer/celebration BBQ with family and friends- here are a few pictures of some 14ers.com members who came:
Top photo, left to right: sdkeil, J.D., Triple M, USAKeller, comin2getcha, Jcwhite, and Mark Milburn; KirkT and Tim in front
Bottom left photo: Triple M, Mots010, USAKeller, and comin2getcha; KirkT in front
Bottom right photo: The boys – Mots010, J.D., KirkT, and comin2getcha
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):