Success isn't the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire. – Arnold H. Glasow.
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Capitol Peak - 4 and 5 Sept 2010 - Weather was near perfect. High 70's at the trail head. No precipitation and no bugs. Hiked in on the 4th. Sumitted on 5 Sept 2010. Weather at the peak was probably low 50's with 25 – 30 mph winds.
What an awesome experience! I'm fortunate to hike with two very experienced climbers, Mark and Chance, they were excellent in route finding when we'd inevitably loose the carins.
Mark and Chance getting unpacked and ready
Chance and me
Mark says "We're going right there!"
The hike from the trailhead starts out way too easy. Lulls you to sleep really for the first ¾ to 1 mile. Walking along the ditch and just admiring Capitol peak the whole way.
Lulled to sleep by the early part of Capitol Ditch Trail
Capitol in view the whole way - I'm thinking "That's a real mountain!"
The steep hits the fan once you cross the stream and merge with the Snowmass trail. Our climb time to the camp site was roughly 3 ¾ hrs.
The campsites were full and we had to improvise but we found two suitable spots and had a gourmet meal of Salmon with Angel Hair pasta and chocolate cookies (I forget the French) combined with a Chub beer for each – maybe the best meal I ever had.
Should send this pic to Chub - get in a commercial
Sunday 5 Sept 2010 – 4am - a knock on my tent – Wake up- Wake up! Oh god – my back is stiff and sore from the hike – Who's ideas was this anyway?
Couple of packs of bloatmeal, 200mg of caffeine goo and a banana and off we go.
The trail to the saddle is steep right off the bat.
Step, step, step, and Chance and Mark are storming up the trail. We reach the saddle and don the brain buckets.
These guys are part mountain goat!
gotta get the calories up
The trail leads low on the other side of the ridge. We tried to maintain as much elevation as we could. But staying high leads to a couple of cliffs and walking the ridge exposes the climber to a lot of wind for a long time. So we opt for a slightly lower route but not quite all the way down to the boulder field.
Eventually, we get to the spot to where we can make an aggressive move for K2. This required some sporty class 4 moves but nothing that required more than 2 or 3 combinations before you're standing up again. We did have one instance where some climbers ahead of us kicked some rocks and one guy almost took one in the melon. At this point we slowed down a little and let the climbers above clear before we made any move.
The summit of K2 was sporty by itself, but totally worth it. I'm glad we didn't bypass it. There was a pair of climbers putting on harnesses and roping in for the rappel down to the trail. I guess that was extra safe but the down climb was VERY grippy and easy if you faced the mountain.
View from K2 - knife edge and Capitol Peak
Next up – the Knife Edge! I can't really tell you how long it took us to get to the knife edge because I was in the zone! I was first to cross. - Plenty of very positive foot and hand holds on the left side of the knife edge. Wind in our face. About 2/3 of the way across the foot holds fade and I shuffle over to the right side for about 5 feet. Jump back over to the left – big juggy holds and then done! Viola!
It was technical and the climber has to stay focused but very, very doable. I actually felt better about the crossing on the ascent then the descent. It's probably due to being tired and less adrenaline.
After the knife edges there's still some good work left to do with some sporty exposed climbing in the mix
The summit was probably another 30 to 45 minutes away from the knife edge.
Mandatory sumitt photos here
Here I have an editorial comment. As a rule I'm a live and let live kind of guy. BUT – on the way to K2 on the descent we passed a guy with 2 kids, a boy and a girl no more than 8 to 10 years old. They were not wearing helmets and on their way to the knife edge and summit. No one on the trail could believe it. And we did hear that the little girl froze up on the knife edge, I hope everything turned out safely.
To the father of those kids, if you're subscriber to 14ers.com, please, please reconsider taking your kids on a technical climb like Capitol. And if you do, then double up on the safety, make them wear a helmet. Cross first with a rope and anchor in, have someone on the other end anchor in and then put the kid in a harness and secure them with a locking biner. Then, maybe I could buy into having kids on a summit like Capitol. OK done with the editorial.
The descent is the descent – long the boulder field was full of VW size boulders (bounce from boulder to boulder.) Couple of minor tricky down climbs but for the most part just trying not to lose elevation as we make our way to the saddle.
We finally made it to the saddle and start to delayer for the descent to camp. We spotted some mountain goats on Mt Daly and as I turned to look a kicked my helmet all the way down the wrong side of the saddle! DAMN IT! I say let it go – Mark says – I'm going after it - ~200 ft down. And there he goes. ( I bought him a beer afterwards - he's 2/3 mountain goat I guess – that guy can climb like crazy)
Down the saddle we took some awesome shots of Capitol again, break camp and start slogging to the car.
Funny how exhaustion and lack of adrenaline adds miles to a return hike.
All in all – Truly a life experience.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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