| A Beautiful Finisher on Capitol Peak
(An oldie, but goodie ...)
After finishing our 14ers in 1991 with the Bells Traverse, our friend Ron wanted to make sure that he picked a "quality" final peak for his finisher. He decided upon Capitol Peak. We had not done Capitol Peak since the late 1980's and were looking forward to seeing how things had changed since our last visit.
My husband and I decided to meet Ron at the lower parking area, and just take one truck up to the trailhead. We found a great camping spot not too far from the trailhead, just as the sun was setting, and put up our tent (Ron slept in the back of his truck). The next morning brought great weather and we took our time having breakfast, packing up and driving to the main parking area.
We chose the ditch route for backpacking in (which was a change for us from the last visit as the standard route descended down to the valley floor at the time). The ditch trail was very nice and provided us great views on the way in. We had an occasional encounter with cows (and their ever prevalent by-products ), and soon came to the nice log-alternative creek crossing complete with handrail.
It was a warm day and progress was steady with us eventually reaching the splendor that is the basin home to Capitol Lake. Last time we were here, we camped very near the lake … but, times have changed. The impact of many visitors has created established camping areas, of which we selected one that was very far away from other people (or so we thought) … we had to hike a bit for water, but the initial solitude was worth it.
We enjoyed dinner and the changing colors of Capitol Peak as the sun set for the day. An early start the next day ensured that we reached the Capitol/Daly saddle just as the sun came up. As we made our way along the backside of the ridge, we crossed patches of snow here and there, and soon clambered our way to the top of K2. I really didn't have much of a recollection of this part of the climb from before … many summits have been reached since then and they tend to blend together over time. The view of the route from K2 to Capitol, however, was seared into my memory.
We waited quite awhile as three people "played on the ridge" on their return to K2 from Capitol Peak … they had fun shooting video and taking pictures of various antics on the knife edge. Our journey to the summit was to be a celebratory one and we didn't mind taking our time so we could have the top to ourselves. My husband, being the rock monkey that he is, went first with Ron and I following behind. The exposure on the knife edge was just as I remembered and I didn't have any qualms with my poor form in crossing (no "10" on the scorecard from the judges for me).
Making our way up the remaining portion of the climb went without incident, and we were pleased when a party of three descending told us we would have the summit to ourselves (there was no one coming up behind us). And, what great views were granted to us from the summit! We spent over an hour hanging out looking at the scenery, signing the register, munching on food, giving Ron his "congratulations" card, and popping the cork on a bottle of champagne we had secretly packed to the top for this special occasion.
The return to camp was uneventful, and we purposely took many, many breaks on the way back as we were enjoying the day and relishing the success that had been allotted to us. We were rather pleased that we lollygagged our way down because our return to camp bestowed upon us crowded conditions … tents set up everywhere … we must have seen at least 40 people gathered in various areas, that the day before, would not have seemed like campsites to us. Oh well, we were satisfied and tired, and truly thankful to have been able to share this special day with such a good friend. Happy trails!
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