| Capitol Peak
Capitol Peak (14,130)
via Capitol Ditch Trail
17 miles, 5,300 feet of elevation gain
Participants – Jen, Scott, and Noah
Even though there are many great trip reports on Capitol, I feel compelled to add one more because this trip felt like an immense accomplishment and I had great climbing partners. Also, Noah's pictures are pretty amazing and I want to show them off. Noah was unable to attend our Citadel to Pettingell traverse the week prior so Scott and I were glad he was able to make this trip. Noah's only previous 14er experience was Mt. Bierstadt and we felt his progression from 1st 14er to 2nd 14er was pretty spectacular (but not advised for most hikers.)
The three of us left Boulder on Saturday morning and made the drive to the Capitol Creek TH, starting down the Capitol Ditch TH around 11am.
View of Capitol early on.
I felt the backpack was successful as we were all adept at avoiding the numerous cow patties littering the trail. There was one run-in with an obstinate cow on the trail who would NOT move, but other than that the pack in was uneventful.
Once at the lake, we dropped our packs and started looking for a campsite. On a busy weekend, this isn't easy and we ended up in the rocks below the lake. It was fairly level and not too buggy, so I think we did okay.
Capitol from Camp – photos by Noah Ledford
We hadn't packed ice axes or crampons and were a bit concerned about what the snow conditions on the other side of the Capitol-Daly saddle would be. I'd seen recent pictures that didn't look too steep, but we didn't know how hard things would be in the morning. We were prepared to climb the ridge from the saddle if necessary, but were hoping the snow would work out since it would be faster. After dinner and a couple "backpacking margaritas," we retired to our new sleeping arrangements; to save weight, I packed my one-person tent while Scott and Noah slept under a fly. After dreams of airplane crashes (weird after reading Aubrey‘s report upon returning), we awoke and started up the trail to the Capitol-Daly saddle. This trail is fantastic and we made great time. After traversing around the side of the slope, we came to the snow and were pleased to find it in good condition – none of us felt we needed ice axes at any point.
Capitol-Daly saddle at sunrise.
Looking at the snow traverse under the ridge.
After the snow ended, we boulder hopped our way to the base of K2 where I stashed my poles under some large rocks. Hadn't seen any marmots yet, but I wasn't about to chance it
Noah looking up at K2.
It didn't look exceptionally fun to contour around K2, so we headed up for the summit. For the descent, Scott took a slabby, more difficult route down while Noah and I found a very reasonable class 3 descent. Once on the other side, we marveled at the exposure; the rock was a bit undercut and it was one of the more intimidating edges I've ever peeked over. As Roach often says, the introduction was indeed over, and the view to Capitol was commanding.
View of Capitol's ridge.
The initial portion of the ridge was easy and the knife edge came soon after. I employed different strategies of getting across, all of which were a lot of fun. Sometimes I'd walk on top, sometimes the scooching method, other times, I'd be on one side with my hands on top and frictioning my feet underneath. The rock was so solid that the exposure didn't bother me in the slightest.
The air beneath your rear.
The remainder of the route followed a cairned path below the ridge-crest that was loose and made for much slower going (at least for me.) After witnessing someone set off a nice rockslide down the face, I began to be more and more nervous.
On the face.
Some climbers we met on the route told us that the ridge crest itself, while much more exposed, offered more solid climbing, so we opted to bee-line about half way across the face on 4th class rock. The ridge was definitely more solid, but one move had me questioning why the hell I do this. It was before the final traverse to the summit and involved stepping out and around a section of rock on the ridge with 2500 feet of air beneath my arse on the Capitol Lake side. I think the only thing that made me keep going was the knowledge that downclimbing and finding another way around wasn't going to be any easier. In any case, after this move things calmed down and we topped out soon after. I don't know how long it took us to get from K2 to Capitol's summit, but it seemed like forever and was more tedious than I thought it would be. We had some weather coming in and only stayed long enough to take a few pictures and eat our summit fish (our traditional summit food, Swedish fish.)
We had some sprinkles on the way down and were relieved that the skies didn't open up on us before making it back across the knife edge. Noah used the panorama on his camera to capture the knife edge. Photos by Noah Ledford.
On the way back to K2, we went a bit too low and had to climb back up to regain the route; a very short section, but I was tired and it seemed like a huge detour. We were all a little dehydrated and needing a snack so we took an extended break below K2. Then the boot-skiing began! I am a bit challenged in this area, but it was fun to watch Scott and Noah go crazy on the way down the snow. It was nice to take in the scenery on the way down and "smell the flowers." We've been doing so much snow climbing that I've forgotten how beautiful these basins are when they are in bloom.
It was nice to be back at camp, but we still had the walk down to the TH to go. We could have packed up in a hurry, but we decided to take a dip in Capitol Lake before we left – brrrr! I proved my Scandinavian heritage by swimming a small section of the lake. Normally I have good form, but this was total doggy paddle style.
Although there was a bit of stressful climbing on this peak, we had a great deal of admiration for this mountain and a significant sense of accomplishment afterwards. It is a truly beautiful place and I felt privileged to have been able to make the climb.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):