Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  07/31/2020
Date Climbed:   07/30/2020
Author:  SpringsDuke
Additional Members:   HikesInGeologicTime
 #56 Failed Attempt at Capitol Peak   

#56 Failed Attempt at Capitol Peak

Hiking to the campsites. Capitol in view.

Cows are everywhere and on the trails a lot. I would walk around them or if they had calf let them move out of my way.

Hiking up the slope to the saddle of Capitol and Daley. Deer looking at me from near the rock.

Round the saddle and see this view. You will down climb here to the talus field.

Looking up the talus field some snow fields to cross. Use microspikes.

K2 in view no more snow.

K2 up and over is easy. Takes me less than 5 minutes to go up and down K2 myself.

Capitol view from K2

Down climbing K2

Down climbing K2

Down climbing K2

Down climbing K2

Ridge after K2 and less than a few minutes till knife edge.

Knife edge. I run across it on all fours like a dog. Takes me about a minute is all.

Most people straddle the knife edge and take it slow and easy. Still only takes about 5 minutes to complete.


Capitol view after the skinny part of the ridge. Now it opens up and appears to have multiple ways up.


Still climbing no problems. Following cairns with orange tape and this climber was the last one down that we saw on the day so we saw a little of his down climb here.

Cairns in the next photos appear to be bad cairns and this is why the summit was a failed attempt.

We are on clear cairns with the orange tape still but Im pretty sure after the failure that the last 8 or so cairns we followed took us too low on the ridge.

A large prominent cairn took me here. It was so prominent and with the orange tape I had to believe it was taking me up. From that cairn I climbed straight up rock, nothing. I climbed straight across this loose gully to check out the notches and see if they were the notch to cross the east ridge, nothing. I tried climbing the gully, no other cairns and no visible track from others, again I got nothing. I search this area for another cairn or a line I could take up but found none. I decided to go back to the ridge itself and do the ridge direct. I turned to go up the ridge direct but my energy had already been burnt out on the area I could not route find. Ruined a perfect bluebird day and had to go back home with tail tucked between legs feeling very disappointed. Out of 20 climbers of all ages, shapes, and sizes I may have been the only one not to summit on this perfect day so it hurts pretty bad right now. I should have left earlier so I could have watch them and/or followed them. Route finding was my bad. Oh well another day soon I hope although now Im not feeling so motivated.

The bad cairns took us too low. We should be much higher here Im pretty sure.

The next three pics show the cairns that just ended in this bad gully.

I could not find any other cairns past this one and Im pretty sure we are about 500 feet below the true notch that I thought these cairns were taking me right too.
I really do not know why this cairn is here at a dead end. Either crazy people climb the gully from this low and other cairns are not there. Or my thoughts was it may be there for down climbers who go to far down and this is their chance to dip out the gully safely and get back to the ridge? Either way someone let the orange tape guy know I got some words for him lol.

I could not safely find a way to the route from the low cairns this was as close as I got. Wasted over an hour of time and energy and on this hike that was enough to drain me of any other attempt to summit and safely go back down.

Feeling pretty depressed on this hike out but it is Capitol and I am safe so another day I guess. Still hope to finish this season but am prepared not too if thats how it goes.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

So close
07/31/2020 06:43
You were very close to summit. You have to cross that gully and go up. And yes, it is easier if you are higher on the ridge. This gully/ledge area has some extreme exposure. To be out on a 14er is still way way better than most of America, or lazy people in whatever country. You still got over knife edge twice! That's a accomplishment


But it is Capitol
07/31/2020 08:52
...but it is Capitol and I am safe so another day... Thanks for your write up here. You are correct that you seemed to stay too low, but you now have this experience and beta to guide you better next time. September is great for bluebird days as you probably know. Sounds like you had to make a tough decision, but sounds for sure like you made a responsible and good one. Thanks again, this should help others as well. You did very well in the big picture of it all.

Capitol summit
07/31/2020 10:54
Sucks you couldn't summit but when you're not feeling it, it's always the right call to turn around back so that you can safely summit another day. Props for getting out there though! I may be doing Capitol in a couple weeks here so I'll be sure to avoid that tape! Hope you can get out there and summit soon.


Next time
07/31/2020 12:35
At least now we have a better idea. I know Iâm motivated for revenge...!


Good decisions
07/31/2020 15:03
I think if you aren't 100% sure on the route, it's a good call to turn around on Capitol. It's been 3 years, but I seem to recall following a cairned line that was a bit lower than I expected. It worked, but I wondered if there might be a better line higher (other than ridge proper). I tried to look at your pictures compared to mine, but can't quite tell if I took the same line or not.

07/31/2020 17:51
I know you felt disappointed but if those cairns were not were they needed to be,and with all the history behind Capitol accidents, they just dead ended;I am glad you turned around where you did and like HikesInGeologicalTimes says, you both will make it another time. Like we say in spanish ¡Ánimo!.


Showing maturity
07/31/2020 19:28
Well, I'm sure sorry you couldn't tag Capitol on this day. But seriously, how many people are smart and mature enough to recognize when they've had enough, and turn back? All too many over the years have plunged ahead, slavering for a summit, and died as a result.

Cairns can be a curse. I just did Maroon>traverse>North Maroon on July 29, and Roach notes of Maroon, "Trust your judgment, not some stranger's pile of rocks."

BTW, when I did Capitol in 2014, I found that using the Knife Edge as a super-solid handhold and working my feet below on the (south, I think?) side was so much more efficient than "scooting" across. Anyone who can sprint across as you did ... kudos.

Better luck next time. It's a good mountain, and honestly, to me, the Knife Edge and K2 aren't the most difficult parts. Rather, it's that last gully and the final pitches to the summit.


Bad Cairns
07/31/2020 20:53
Been misled by those a few times. I had a similar experience on North Maroon but was close to the summit and made it. Really sketchy. The orange tape would seem more official. Strange it would be that far off. You'll get back. Wise to do that peak at full strength and not be dragging.


thank you
07/31/2020 21:02
Iâm so sorry you turned back but you should applaud yourself for making the smart decision. It is so easy to have summit fever - especially when you were so close. I have no doubt youâll go back
for it and succeed.

Thank you so so much for sharing this experience. It would be easy to just have not written a report & kept the experience to yourself - but so many others can learn from your day... just as you did. Kudos all around.


Good effort
08/01/2020 19:07
And good decision making. Pick another day in early-mid September. Took me three times to make it to the summit getting turned around by thunderstorms once and bad snow conditions another. I also remember there were cairns leading everywhere sort of like on the Bells.

Dead Cairns
08/02/2020 15:34
I hate dead cairns. I wish they could be taken down. I had a very hard time with the final push after the cat walk on Eolus because of that. Every time we came to a dead end, I was sure we were going to get ourselves stuck somewhere on a cliff. When you do it again and see the right line, let us know how to avoid the lower line. Hope to do this one this year or next. Great job, great decisions.

Dead Cairns
08/02/2020 15:37
I hate dead cairns. I wish they could be taken down. I had a very hard time with the final push after the cat walk on Eolus because of that. Every time we came to a dead end, I was sure we were going to get ourselves stuck somewhere on a cliff. When you do it again and see the right line, let us know how to avoid the lower line. Hope to do this one this year or next. Great job, great decisions.

09/04/2020 00:34
Thanks everyone. My successful trip report can now be seen here

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