Well before daybreak we slogged our way up the muddy ditch trail, rudely disturbing the beauty sleep of numerous cows. There was far more snow than expected and it soon became clear my decision to wear tennis shoes would result in suffering. After some post-holing to gain the Daly-K2 saddle, we decided to circle around the cliffs on the ridge. But we stayed too high and were soon sidehilling exposed class-3/4 rock on slushy snow. Inexplicably we didn't consult the GPS or our mistake would have been fairly obvious early on. Eventually we reached an impasse 400' above the standard route and decided to call it. Failure was everywhere symbolically evident on the hike out, and we retreated to the hot springs to soak in our misery.
This was our first attempt to day-trip Capitol Peak. We would return twice in the same week, finally summiting on the third attempt.
An exploratory probe revealed that bushwhacking up West Snowmass Creek in the dark is probably the least efficient way to bag Capitol in a day. We again retreated to the hot springs, where the sulfuric fumes convinced us to make a third attempt the next day.
Thursday, 14 October 2010
We put our game faces on and again assaulted the ditch trail, this time with a 2am start. Near Capitol Lake we encountered a guided team breaking camp to commence the day's lesson. We gained the Daly-K2 saddle at first light with the other team on our heels; however they decided to rope up for the talus field and we didn't see much of them after that. A brief 3rd-class variation and plenty of talus yielded the summit of "K2" and the crux--the downclimb off K2's west face on snow-covered class-4 slabs. Now several hours of route-finding over steep, exposed, snowy class-4 climbing and traversing stood between us and the summit. We skirted the Knife Edge and slowly picked our way across and up Capitol's east face, taking a direct line to the summit ridge. Battered and exhausted by our third day-trip siege on this mountain in a week, at long last we staggered onto the summit at 1pm to collapse, soaking up the warm sunshine and incredible views. On descent we contemplated rappelling some of the sketchier bits but found an easier way down the face. Our return over the ridge was punctuated only by the difficult climb back over K2. Unfortunately we survived all this and were thus forced to complete the hike. We cranked out endless painful miles, finally reaching the trailhead at 9:30pm to close out our 19.5-hour stint on Colorado's most belligerent 14er.
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