| Capitol NE Ridge (direct variation) - Sep 2007 - part 1
I apologize for posting this report so late. Even though it is of no use to you for current route conditions, there are three reasons I'm posting it:
1. In a recent forum poll about "Favorite 14ers" I listed Capitol as our favorite because we had a wonderful backcountry trip and an awesome climb.
2. I read all previous TR's of Capitol, and it seemed most of them described tremendous one-day climbs from the trailhead and return. I wanted to show some of the beauty of slowing down and enjoying the backpacking aspects of this climb.
3. There were only a couple reports talking about the NE Ridge Direct Variation from the Capitol-Daly saddle (maybe from climbers who took the route accidentally); we climbed this long ridge because we were looking forward to more exposed scrambling… and it did not disappoint us!
I will not provide any times in this report because: that information is available in most other reports; we intentionally took it slow on this trip (three days, Sep 8-10); and after all these months I can't remember those details!
We (my wife- Ron, and I) parked at the Capitol Creek Trailhead, and as seems to be the norm now, we hiked in on the Ditch Trail (Roach's Variation 22.A1V). The hike was very pleasant and uneventful; we kept looking for the famous (infamous) cows but never saw any on the way in (but lots of evidence they had been in the area!).
We arrived in the gorgeous basin below Capitol and saw the "tree-covered knoll" but selected a nice spot a little north of there, just west of the trail. After clearing our campsite of "cow pies" we set up camp and relaxed with a great view of the next day's climb.
We still had lots of daylight, and strolled over to Capitol Lake for dinner. Note Thermarest chair kits (we won't leave home without them), Jetboil stove (MSR Reactor is faster, but we still like the features of Jetboil), and the Nalgene Cantene with wine between Ron's feet (can't enjoy dinner is this setting without some good wine!).
We had a great night's sleep and were up pre-dawn for the hike up to the Capitol-Daly saddle. We were there in time for sunrise, stashed our trekking poles, and took a look at the standard route over the east side of the saddle, and our intended route straight up the ridge.
The ridge looked great, and what a pure, simple line to follow up this beautiful mountain! Up we went. Someone else who climbed this ridge wrote it was at least as difficult as the more famous sections above K2. We thought the Knife Edge was the single most difficult part of the entire route, but this ridge presented many places where I told Ron "be careful here" or "be sure to test your holds here". The exposure was continuously dramatic (at the risk of over-exaggeration, we did recognize the "if you fall you die" aspect of this route), but route-finding was very simple (stay on top of the ridge… most of the time).
The ridge widened as we approached K2, and we saw other parties coming up the standard route from the left. We crossed over K2, and crossed the tremendous Knife Edge. A side note for those still considering whether they should attempt Capitol: we talked to a woman sitting at the east end of the Knife Edge; she and her friend (husband?) had climbed to this point the previous year, and both turned back at the Knife Edge; they were now here for their second attempt; this time he decided to cross, but she was still not ready for it, and was waiting for his return. Another note: we saw two parties on K2 or at the Knife Edge changing from their hiking boots to their rock climbing shoes.
Once across the Knife Edge, we started to follow the standard route ("long, ascending traverse across the south face of the northeast ridge on looser rock"), but soon realized the "looser rock" was not much fun, and the ridge above us to the right looked very nice, so we climbed directly up (low 5th class?) to regain the ridge, and great views down to Capitol Lake and our campsite.
We met a great guy from Aspen Mountain Rescue on the summit. He ran up (in his trail running shoes) the standard route from the trailhead that morning. We had a nice chat, and he took some summit shots of us (Snowmass Mountain in background).
We were descending the standard route, carefully using our hands along the way, when the guy from AMR came "jogging" down the route and right across the Knife Edge without even slowing down! Pretty impressive!
We re-crossed the Knife Edge, and I climbed up a bit to get a better view of it.
continued in part 2
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):