| Squeezing through the window in the weather...
Since my personal 14er project centers around snow, I don't usually post TRs for my summer exploits, but I make exceptions for particularly special days or if I think I have valuable beta to offer. This climb afforded both. I had also noticed that no one has posted a TR about Capitol since Micah's highly entertaining writeup a few weeks ago. Edit: Oops! I mean, I hadn't read anyone's TR since Micah's...
Crew: Gerlinde (telerina13), Tracee (traceem), Shaine, Matt (pioletski)
Stats: 5300' climbed (2500' from camp), 17 miles RT (~5 from camp)
(For those of you who don't care to scroll through the entire TR looking for the one important sentence): If Capitol's weather looks threatening in the morning - as long as you're not in the middle of an actual thunderstorm - start hiking anyway, and make your go/no go decision somewhere around K2 (exactly as Bill recommends in his route description). The upper part is slow going, and if you wait for the clouds to "burn off," it will be too late by the time you get moving.
Shaine and I had been promising one another a climb of Capitol for about a year. We planned to make it as enjoyable as possible, by taking 3 days to do it: one afternoon to hike to Capitol Lake and camp, climb the second day, then relax and hike out on the 3rd day. It didn't quite work out that way, as is so often the case, but it was a fabulous trip nonetheless.
Joined by Tracee and Gerlinde, we left the Capitol Creek trailhead at about 12:30 Monday afternoon:
We chose the Capitol Creek trail for the approach. The hike to Capitol Lake involves wading through endless fields of wildflowers:
After a relatively unhurried 3-1/2 hours we arrived at the lake and set up camp...
... where we entertained one another until the afternoon thunderstorm began.
As expected, the weather cleared during the evening. Unexpectedly, it socked in again in the wee hours of the morning, and we awoke to the peals and cannonades of a full-bore thunderstorm. We boldly burrowed back into our bedrolls, and emerged a couple of hours later in a thick fog.
Thinking it unwise to continue (even though the actual thunder had ceased by about 6:30 am), we strolled around the lake and up to the pass overlooking the Avalanche Creek drainage. By this time the weather was clearing:
A few hikers had started off between 7:00 and 7:30. Around 9:00 we could see them inching along the Knife Ridge while the clouds were breaking up. They ended up having a fine day on the mountain. Meanwhile we hiked here and there, killing time, and decided to give it a go the following morning. Shaine didn't expect the weather to cooperate, so he waved goodbye...
... and left us with a mountain of food to eat, as well as a mountain of rock to climb:
Rain and thunder rocked and rolled for most of Tuesday night, but had ceased by the time we awoke at 5:00 am. We set off under heavy clouds. Because of the overnight rain, we expected that the weather would change fairly slowly over the course of the day. Here the first light sneaks under the eastern apron of cloud and hits Capitol at about 6:00:
The day gradually brightened as we crossed the saddle...
... and continued to do so as we negotiated the Knife Ridge...
and climbed onto the summit pyramid:
We summited at 9:00. (Congratulations to Tracee, who had crossed the Knife Ridge 3 times before, only to be rebuffed.)
Gerlinde swears that there was fear in her eyes on the descent, but I couldn't see it - perhaps I was just dazzled by her smile:
Meanwhile Tracee descended with her eyes closed:
That might have added to the challenge, but she might have missed the flowers clinging to the face...
... or the view into Pierre Lakes Basin, complete with Snowmass, the Bells, and Pyramid:
I paused for a shot down the Secret Chute:
Gerlinde displayed fine style on the return across the Knife:
As we descended to Capitol Lake, the day had become bright and sunny...
... so we took our time breaking camp and having lunch. A couple of hours later, as we neared the trailhead, another thunderstorm was beginning.
Thanks for reading!
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):