Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
"K2"  -  13,664 feet
Date Posted:  07/18/2012
Date Climbed:   07/15/2012
Author:  dmccool
Additional Members:   dillonsarnelli, MountainMedic, RJansen77, Fisching, SurfNTurf, MonGoose, Gueza
 Capitol One - The Finale  

"To finish the moment, to find the journey's end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom"
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Team: Jeff, Rob, Greg, Dillon, Eric, Tyler, Nick, and Dan
Base Camp: Approx. mile below Capitol Lake
Approach to Camp: 3hrs 30min
Camp to Summit: 4hrs 40min

Colorado 14er Summit #58

**Captions on top of photos**
**All photos by dmccool, RJansen77, SurfNTurf, dillonsarnelli**

So I woke up early Saturday morning to see that the weather forecast for the weekend had gotten worse (if that was even possible) and fought the urge to bail out and call the whole trip off. Instead, I got some encouragement from Rob and we decided to at least give it a go. So at 8:30am, I picked up Eric and we headed off to Aspen.

We all arrived at our meeting spot - the Aspen City Market - around the same time. After buying a few last-minute overpriced items (thank you for the $7.00 can of OFF Insect Repellant), we hit the road for the Capitol Creek Trailhead under overcast skies.

Arriving at Capitol Creek TH...Rain

We opted not to take the Ditch Trail and immediately began descending down toward the creek.
Aspen Forest after the creek crossing

Cows - I know they were plotting something. Just look at their faces. Look at them.

Jeff using defensive moves he learned during his combat training in Elk country

On and off (but mostly on) rain

Almost to camp, Jeff making his case to be the face of a new Gear Company we might start

Being the resident veteran of the group (he's 18, by the way), Eric had been on Capitol twice. Given the weather and upcoming landscape near the Lake, Eric suggested we camp a little lower in the trees. There was plenty of space for all of our tents and a decent overhang for shelter and to hang food.

Tyler at camp - eating Mahon (obviously pronounced "man") Cheese

It rained just about the entire evening and long into the night. After some hot meals and optimistic conversation about the following day, we hit the tents around 8:00am. Even as the rain fell and despite the poor forecast for the next day, the guys were really encouraging about the possibility of getting the summit the next day. I have to admit, as I lay in the tent and listened to the rain and high winds, I had serious doubts.

Home, wet home.

We agreed that if we wanted to have a chance at the summit, we would need to get past the easier terrain in the dark and arrive at the start of the technical difficulties at first light. Group consensus was to set alarms for 1:30am and hit the trail by 2:00am.

I couldn't sleep much. I remember being apprehensive about the relentless rain which finally stopped around 10:30pm. I woke up around midnight and awoke for good from then until my alarm went off at 1:15am. I know Jeff really appreciated my early morning excitement when we could see stars in the night sky. Sorry buddy.

Gearing up in high spirits just before 2:00am

There isn't much to show about the route in the early morning since it was all done by headlamp. We did miss the standard descent down the gully into the large boulder field and ended up doing a couple ridiculous 3rd and 4th Class downclimbs. Once we saw what the area looked like later in the day, it's very obvious where we went wrong. Nonetheless, we made it to the K2/Mt. Daly saddle right about first light and were standing on K2 as the sun was rising.

From here, tough decisions had to be made. I arrived at K2 to hear a discussion I was dreading: We might have to turn back due to the weather up ahead. Being just shy of 5:00am, I wasn't convinced that the day was over. Greg and Eric suggested we make a few small goals moving forward as we keep an eye on the condition of the rock (wetness) while watching what the clouds were doing up ahead.

At this point, Jeff and Nick decided to call it a day. They re-ascended K2 to watch the sunrise. The rest of us pressed on toward the start of the Knife Edge. I lost some confidence knowing such a trusted partner made the call to turn back, but I still firmly believed we had a shot.

Low clouds ahead

At the Knife Edge, our now group of 6 decided that the cloud cover might be improving - at least well enough to head across. From there, we could make a final call whether or not to continue toward the summit.

Eric loving life on "The Edge" Oh, to be 18 again...


Tyler on the Knife Edge. Jeff and Nick can be seen on K2's summit in the distance

While I'm not meteorologist, I firmly believed that the dark clouds up ahead were little more than a low hanging fog layer that hadn't been lit up by the sun yet. And once the sun rose, we would see that layer burn off some and expose the clear sky above. We had a 6-man discussion at this point as it was our last "safe" point. If we continued on from here, Capitol would block us from our western view and prevent us from monitoring weather for the next 2+ hours. Eric gave us a great time frame, saying it would take us roughly 3 total hours to summit and return to this very point. It was 5:40am. I was confident. Eric - having already stood on Capitol's summit - decided to turn back.

From the descent off of K2 up until now, I felt that conditions were safe enough to continue. The look in Dillon's and Greg's eyes told me they felt the same. Rob and Tyler agreed that they felt confident as well and we decided to make a move toward the summit.

Rob in hyper-drive high on Capitol

As we ascended higher, we entered the low fog layer that was evident all morning. The rock was solid and reasonably dry. The route was amazingly well-cairned. We were moving faster than we had all day through endless 3rd Class and occasional 4th Class moves. It was well within reach.

I swear this rock was solid...

Rob and Dillon eventually overtook me and led the final 250 feet toward the summit. After what ended up being the final 4th Class move on the ascent, I found both Rob and Dillon waiting for me. They graciously stepped aside and gave me the final approach to the summit alone. It was a classy gesture by two amazingly considerate and humble partners. It was a great moment.

Cautious relief

About a minute later, Rob and Dillon arrived at the summit.

Who wouldn't want to share their finisher with this guy? What an awesome partner to have.

We heard voices in the distance - Greg and Tyler had taken the ridge proper (4th Class - typical Greg!) and were making their way to the summit.

Group shot

Our weather prediction began to come true. While we were still in the fog on the summit, we could see that the clouds were beginning to break and the fog was burning off.

Pierre Lakes Basin and the Capitol-Snowmass Traverse

Let the downclimb begin. I was fairly quiet as we began our descent. Even though we got our summit, we had a long way to go until we were at a "safe point". We still had to descend rough terrain with no way to check possible weather coming in. The celebration was on hold...for now.

On the descent

Back at the Knife Edge, the mood was already joyful. I'm just gonna say it now: The Knife Edge sucks. It's not technically difficult (as long as you can handle certain death on either side). It's just not a fun thing to do. I'm sure those who didn't scoot along it like a hesitant slug would disagree with me though.

Expert moves on the Knife Edge...

More expert moves on the Knife Edge...

"Old man" moves on the Knife Edge.

Stylish, Greg.

"A funny thing happened on the way back across the Knife Edge..." Tyler crossing the Knife Edge after some "finished business". I'm sure he'll tell the story someday.

Back below K2, it was a foregone conclusion. We did it. The weather held and we were now on what Rob calls "Terra Mas Firma".

That's cool

The descent through the boulderfield was long and monotonous, but our spirits were high enough to drown out any negative thoughts.

We found the correct ascent route back to the saddle and quickly descended down toward Capitol Lake.

Once back at camp, we were greeted and congratulated by Jeff, Eric, and Nick.

Rob with his post summit rituals...

...and me with mine.

Final Thoughts - Part One
I can't say this has been some decades-long journey and that it is some kind of bucket-list event in my life. However, I want to be clear: It's a big deal to me. I climbed Mt. Elbert while on vacation with my wife 4 years ago. 2 months later we moved to Colorado. In that short amount of time since 2008, I have been so blessed to find some of the most trustworthy, experienced, humble, and adventurous climbing partners and friends that a guy could imagine. The men in this report are superstars - both on the mountain and off it. Get to know them if you can. Ask their opinions. Heck, even "follow" Jeff on Twitter! They always put their partners first and their personal ambitions second. Gentlemen, I thank you.

Final Thoughts - Part Two
Since moving here in 2008, my wife, Katie, and I have been given the gift of our two boys: Miles (2 yrs) and Max (2 months). My family has put up with me being gone many days and nights to finally achieve this goal of mine. They are so good to me - I can never repay them for allowing me to experience the joy of these amazing mountains. If we can ever stop having children, I know my wife will be an amazing climbing partner. I love you all and I truly couldn't have done it without your love and support.

Max, Katie, Miles, and Dan - July 2012

Now, about those 13ers...

 Comments or Questions

Bravo Dan!
07/18/2012 23:38
The last pic is my favorite, but they're all great! What a day to be on that mountain, in those clouds... quite impressive and a hearty congratulations to you sir!


07/18/2012 23:47
Amazing accomplishment. What are you going to do now? Shasta, Denali, Hood? Congrats and great job


Happy to have shared it
07/18/2012 23:54
There's something to be said about a person who is so positive and enthusiastic, who has such spirit and character you can't help but smile and be happy when they're around. Dan is one of these people. It's been unforgettable to climb with you bud, and I hope we and this group are able to share many more memories. Here's to success both in and out of the mountains, and many more memories. See you soon, and congratulations again. You are one suitable climbing partner!


Sweet Report Dan!
07/18/2012 23:59
Congratulations to you on finishing, the team for helping you get there and summiting with you! Classic peak for 58.


never in doubt
07/19/2012 00:20
I liked this report so much that I just read it 6 times. Watching you walk to that summit is a moment that will stick with me for a long long time Dan. It was an honor to be out there with you for this. When we got back I told you that I wished I could have been along for more of your journey to which you said ”the sky is the freaking limit now”. Its that attitude and excitement that make you the great person you are. You deserve all the praise you've been receiving buddy. Can't say enough about how much I enjoyed this trip and how sweet this group we climb with is. You can be my wingman anytime. PS - That picture of me? really?!? haha - well done.


A heart congrats, Dan!
07/19/2012 00:08
My wife and I were pleased to meet ya last year up on Eolus. Well done man.


Finn McCool would be proud
07/19/2012 00:28
Way to persevere!


Yet another inspirational story
07/19/2012 00:34
to help me on my own personal journey. Every time I read a report of one the pucker factor mountains I get freaked but then when I get to some like this, it just edges me that much further to complete them, thanks for sharing! Love the pic of your family!


What's next?
09/24/2012 15:44
Seeing that you have now finished the 14ers, maybe it's time to start volunteering more and giving back to the community.


07/19/2012 00:40
Congratulations Dan! I'm glad everything worked out for you guys. I'm so glad to be out of that hurricane we hit on the way back to the cars.


07/19/2012 01:13
Congrats! It was an honor getting to watch you summit your last 14er. Just remember that this is only the beginning! I hope to be out there with you again soon...and next time you bring the cheese (or a product from your new outdoor gear lineup).!

Shawnee Bob

That's how ya do it
07/19/2012 01:45
Great, great job. And a fantastic report. Inspires me to one day tackle this bad boy. Excellent job and a heck of an accomplishment!

Doctor No

Well done!
07/19/2012 02:17
A great report for a great finish - way to do it in style.


07/19/2012 03:30
I've gotta admit, looking at the photos with all the clouds and fog, I thought to myself, ”wouldn't want to be up there in that!” Then I saw how the clouds broke up and it turned out to be a decent-looking day. Very glad the weather gods cut you some slack for your finisher!

What a lovely tribute to your family at the end, too... the kiddies are adorable.


Way to go, Dan!
07/19/2012 04:17
Congrats on the finish - doesn't it feel great? Now you can move on to the really tough 13ers. I love Capitol - definitely in my Top 5 14ers - and this was a great report. I can't believe you called the rock after the knife edge ”solid” though; I remember precious little of that and my hiking partner had to dodge melon-sized rocks from more careless hikers!


No mention of The Suit?
07/19/2012 04:36
How can you spend an entire TR about your finisher without mentioning your trademark? THE SUIT! It's been a pleasure getting to you know McCool (we all know what your real name is). I am very much looking forward to our expedition next summer...

I'd say it's a shame your report is already slightly buried, but the newer ones have better pictures.


07/19/2012 05:41
Good one, Greg.

Congrats on your finisher, DMC! Sounds like a hell of a time with a group of highly skilled and fun-loving climbers. A great read. Best of luck on those 13ers!


Capitoltastic job!
07/19/2012 06:00
Congrats on your finish, and on getting Cappy with such ominous-looking weather. That peak was scary enough with blue skies! Here's hoping your last 14er isn't just an end, but a new beginning...

Craig Cook

07/19/2012 06:27
Amazing trip report for what had to have been an amazing climb.

Maybe your next goal can be doing all 58 again with your sons!


Congrats again!
07/19/2012 06:28
Looks like you guys had a great group and a great time. Nice finisher report!


Congrats, Dan!
07/19/2012 08:08
A great write up. Enjoyed the TR and the photos but the last 2 photos were the best. The end is always the sweetest when shared with family, friends and good times. Well done.

I fall a lot

Congrats and great report!
07/19/2012 12:54
I was getting sketched out by the pictures but nice call on the weather finally breaking. And you're absolutely right, cheers to your wife!

Strong work, I hope to meet you on a mountain one day.


Congrats man!
07/19/2012 14:47
You are an inspiration to other dads who have this dream! 13/58!

James Scott

Great report-
07/19/2012 15:23
You did a great job of taking me back to when I did Capital- I am still in awe of that mountain-, and the feeling on the summit of a finisher when you still can't quite relaxed and you're thrilled but keeping it in check until you reach that safer trail. I really enjoyed reading your story! Thanks for sharing!


Same situation
07/19/2012 15:35
Congrats! 8) Support of a loving wife to climb these peaks sure is important. I'm in the same situation as you. 2 Boys: 2yrs and 4.5yrs old. Looking forward to doing these peaks with them! My wife is kind enough to let me get away every other week or so to climb peaks.


Nice job!
07/19/2012 17:14
Congrats on your finish! That's a pretty good peak to close em out on too.


07/19/2012 18:31
I imagine I'll be a few more years before I get to this one. Nice report. Great to have good climbing partners!


To Dan the Man - Inspiring
07/19/2012 20:12
This might have been said already and for those who don't know Dan he truly is a very humble and talented hiker/climber. He has an absolute passion for not only the mountains but climbing with and enjoying the mountains with good company. Cheers to many more my friend.

Oh yea . . . . so whats the big plan next summer?


Very Nice
07/21/2012 19:46
But I gave you a thumbs down just to keep you humble man!!!

Very happy for you Dan and envious of the great crew you assembled. Way to get it done!

Nice looking family! And yes, they make huge sacrifices on our behalf.

All the best.


Big Congrats!
07/22/2012 04:39
Dan, very nice indeed.

The early am shots look almost like a moody winter day.

What a fine peak to finish on! (I know... ; )

Well... now that you've graduated, what's next?


Nice title! What's in your wallet?
07/23/2012 04:08
Your 14er finisher card!!

Glad you've finally reached this goal. Way to persevere...especially hiking up into the clouds on your finisher!

Dan, your a wonderful, upbeat personality. I enjoyed the times we had together and hope we can link up again for more peaks.

Nice tribute to your family. Yes...they do sacrifice for us and to show your appreciation for their sacrifice is pure character.


Beat me by one!
07/23/2012 15:07
Not that it was a race but I have only Huron left. We have crossed paths several times in the past few years but never have grabbed a peak together. Perhaps a centennial in the near future? Big Congrats!


A most heartfelt congratulations!
08/05/2012 14:28
Must have missed this when I was in CO. Super report on a super finisher! Love that mountain! Beautiful family too! Wishing you all the best for more good climbs!


Beautiful trip report....
08/22/2012 01:30
I haven't met you before but I was touched by the emotion that came through your report. Your picture at the end though is by far the highlight of the report, you have a beautiful family.

Belated Congratulations!

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