Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  08/18/2006
Modified:  12/17/2009
Date Climbed:   08/17/2006
Author:  benners
 Capitol Peak, Airbags, and Cows  

Date Climbed: August 17, 2006
Group: Ryan and Myself
Goal: Summit Capitol Peak via the NW Ridge

Ryan, a friend of mine, and I have set off to climb Capitol about 4 times without success. Each one of our attempts have been plagued with bizarre occurences which has kept us from even getting to the trailhead 3 times as well as having to turn back from Capitol Lake once. So it was no suprise that when the idea of another attempt entered our minds this time, we really didn't believe it was going to happen.
Anyway we left Boulder at 11:00pm and headed for Aspen. Near Idaho Springs we came around a blind turn on I-70 and ran over a huge metal bar that had detached from a semi truck, deploying the passenger side airbag and scaring the hell out of us (see what I mean by bizarre). We then had to file a report with the police and confirm the car was still safe to drive, wasting about an hour. We pressed on, almost just to spite the situation, and made it to the trailhead at 4:00am. We decided on the Ditch Trail approach, remembering how miserable it was having to ascend 600 feet to get back to the car. About 4 miles into the hike we came across a large obstacle.

A massive cow in the middle of the trail near Capitol Lake

We made it to the lake at 6:30am and quickly ascended the saddle between Mt. Daly and K2. From the lake to the saddle is a Class 2 hike.

The Daly/K2 Saddle with Mt. Daly in the backround

Here we made a mistake thinking K2 was closer than it actually was and decided to head straight for it (or what we though to be it) across a Class 4 ridge which is apparently a variation of the standard route described in Roach's book.

Ryan traversing across the Class 4 ridge with K2 in the backround

The ridge, as we would soon find out, was more exposed than the Knife Edge and we quickly realized we were not on the standard route which I had read was not supposed to be harder than Class 3 prior to reaching K2.

Another look at the ridge we traversed

We made it to the summit of K2 around 9:00am and took a look at what we still had to climb. The weather was fine so we consolidated our stuff into one pack(leaving the other on K2) and headed for Capitol. A word of advice: Be careful when descending K2 to head for Capitol. The southwest side of K2 (the side facing Capitol) has a 1,000 foot drop (that we jokingly named "The Grand Canyon") which is not easily seen from K2's summit.

Capitol from the summit of K2

We scrambled across the ridge between K2 and Capitol and began the final ascent to the summit. The ridge is really not that bad except for a few places, all of the rock is stable.

The Knife Edge

The final pitch to the summit is Class 3 and 4 but the rock was very stable.

The final pitch with the summit in sight

We made the summit at 10:30am. Because of the clear day we could see Grays and Torreys, most of the Sawatch, and the San Juans to the south. We could almost see all the way to the car as well. The connecting ridge from Capitol to Snowmass looks insane.

The entire approach from the trailhead leading up to Capitol Lake

Now all we needed to do was get back to the car. Wonderful. We descended to Capitol Lake and took a nap on the "beach" before heading down the valley.

What a view

On the way down . . .

One last look at Capitol and its cows

We made it back to the car at 6:00pm making the entire trip 14 hours. We then headed to Aspen for a few margaritas. Many mountains can be driven to and climbed all in one shot but in hindsight I would not recommend this with Capitol. We were so tired we had to sleep in the car before heading back to Boulder, an airbag still hanging out of the passenger seat.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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