| Capitol on July 4th - NE Ridge
Capitol Peak - 14,130' Northeast Ridge (ridge from saddle to summit variation)
Date Climbed - 7/04/2010
Climbers - doggler
RT milage - 17 miles
RT gain - 5,300'
RT time - 8h 57min
How many of you, upon achieving a goal, go back and think about what it was like before you first conceived of the idea of achieving that goal? From the time I was first made aware of these things called "14ers", I always have held Capitol Peak in a sense of awe. It was the one peak that was so beautiful yet so bad-ass, it had me convinced that for me, at least, some peaks were simply to be unclimbable. Over the years, my competentcy had grown to a point where I felt I could safely handle a peak such as Capitol. Yesterday, I achieved that goal and enjoyed every second of it!
This peak has it all - an imposing face, a long approach, and sustained exposed scrambling. I've done harder moves on other peaks, but this one required many hours of class 3 and 4 without no real break. For comparison, peaks such as Wetterhorn and Sunlight require mere minutes of difficulty.
1:00AM - alarm goes off at my hotel in Avon. Pack all my gear, drink a ton of coffee.
1:45 - depart for Capitol Creek TH. This would be my second trip to the Capitol Creek TH, as I had scouted it out in May when I did Snowmass with the large 14ers.com group.
3:30 - arrive Capitol Creek TH. There are a good 15 cars at the Trailhead, which meant I won't be alone. Sweet!
3:45 - depart TH for peak. I had in mind that I would take the ridge upon reaching the Daly-Capitol saddle, so I leave the axe, points, boots, and gaiters behind in favor of some great trail shoes. I know time will be my enemy with a day trip approach, so I break out into a trot for most of the trip to the lake. I choose to go shoeless for the creek crossing, which I hit at about 4:30. Off in the distance, many miles in the distance still, I see a few headlamps bobbing back and forth as their owners make the ascent to the Daly/Capitol saddle.
Looking northeast down the Capitol Creek valley
Near the camping sights at Capitol Lake. This is one of the few summits that remains visible for nearly the entirety of the climb.
5:45 - Capitol Lake. I shift from run to hike mode here and have a snack.
Panorama of Mt. Daly(left) and Capitol Peak(right)
Gaining the ridge connecting Capitol and Daly
6:30 - Daly/Capitol saddle. The rise from the lake to the saddle is pretty steep, but there is a clearly defined trail. I raced yesterday, and my legs are definitely still feeling it.
once on the saddle, I followed the red line. The standard route crosses the snowfield on the left. Climbers are circled.
By leaving my winter equip in the car, I had committed to either hit the ridge to K2 or turn around for the day. Good choice! The ridge to K2 is exposed. I find the rock to be solid, but little of it angled out well, so using all limbs is a must. Very sporty and one of the highlights of the day.
I ran into a great group of 14ers.com guys just as I came down from K2.
Looking back at the guys on the knife edge. K2 in the background
the summit as viewed from the knife edge.
Another look back at the guys and K2.
The view to the south is astounding - Pyramid, the Maroons, and Snowmass are all clearly visible on this beautiful day. The further away I get from K2, the more impressive it looks.
I contemplate whether to take the direct ridge all the way to the summit, but decide to stick to the standard slippery route.
I much prefer exposed yet solid rock to this stuff.
a little windy
8:50 - Summit. I meet John, Jen, and Scott(?), along with the US flag. Nap time and then the group of guys shows up. Along the way, runner-climbers Steve and Andy show up. When asked if Steve is a runner, he responds, "Yeah, kinda I guess. I've done a few marathons."
That a took?
Cave Dog did that.
9:50 - depart summit.
One of the few cairns on the upper route
Halfway between K2 and the Daly/Capitol saddle, I decide I'm done with the ridge and I descend south to rejoin the standard route. I do this just before it gets too hairy, and it turns out to be the most technical climbing I've done all day.
The view up from the base of the ridge.
I meet up with the runner Steve, but then he waits for his friend. I venture ahead and take a few fun shots.
11:25 - Capitol Lake. Shortly thereafter, Steve catches up with me and asks if I want to run with him. Why not, I ask?
View of the Peak from below the lake.
Upon running the last stretch noticbly faster than I normally would, I begin to realize taht Steve is no "average" runner. Runners don't just show up and run fouteeners, especially techincal ones like Capitol.
This dude is fast!
Turns out Steve is far from an average runner. Here he is, some guy who just climbed 7 of Colorado's badass peaks in 7 days, and he's flying down this trail while I suck wind. I pry a little bit and get him to admit the truth: He ran about 2:20 in each of his three marathons. Folks, Olympic Qualifying standard is 2:19. This cat is legit!
View of the Peak from the TH.
12:42 - arrive Capitol Creek TH. Steve and his buddy offer me a beer and I gladly accept after a big day.
I think that if Lindsey's class 4 variation of the class 2+ standard is considered a route, the direct ridge route up Capitol certainly deserves the same treatment. I was apart from the "standard" route for well over an hour, when most of the time it's just a matter of minutes.
This was great "practice" for running ridges next week. And this may have been the most rewarding trip up a mountain I have ever known!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):