Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  08/19/2006
Date Climbed:   08/18/2006
Author:  TalusMonkey
 Capitol Peak - Ditch Trail to Capitol Lake  

Date: Friday, August 18, 2006
Team: TalusMonkey, swturner
TH: Capitol Creek/Ditch Trail TH

Last weekend swturner and I had started this hike as a day hike at 0209 but were rained out at 0330. We returned this week planning to increase our success probability by backpacking to Capitol Lake on Thursday night. We found the trailhead easy to follow. However, the final mile is kinda rough. I wouldn't take a 2WD passenger car up there, but we saw Honda Civics both days were were there.

We started up the Ditch Trail at 1830 hoping to arrive at Capitol Lake shortly after dark. Over the years, apparently, the Ditch Trail has become the preferable trail to reach Capitol Lake - it avoids loosing several hundred feet of elevation when dropping from the parking area directly to the Capitol Creek Trail. A sign indicates that the Capitol Creek bridge is out and the Ditch Trail should be used:


For those contemplating a day hike of Capitol with a pre-alpine start, there are a few important junctions that are easy to miss in the dark. The Ditch Trail is so named because it follows the left side of an irrigation ditch that may or may not have water in it. However, the trail crosses the ditch and heads up a hill into the woods at N39deg 13m27.9s, W107deg 05m37.7s. If you miss this turn, you will dead end where a small waterfall is diverted to fill the ditch. Then you must hike a short but steep and narrow trail to regain the proper trail higher up.

Following the Ditch Trail through the woods and across several high meadows, you will need to cross Capitol Creek about 2.5-3 miles in to rejoin the Capitol Creek trail. The crossing is easy to miss. The Ditch Trail runs down to the creek at a fording area, but the bridge seems to be missing. Continue up the creek perhaps 50 yards or so to a log bridge with a slanted handrail. (N39deg 11m56.2s, W107deg 05m16.0s).

As we continued along the Capitol Creek trail we took this photo of Capitol in the fading light:


We selected our campsite below the lake at about 2100 and quickly pitched tents and went to bed. Since we had backpacked in and had a short hike to Capitol the next morning, we decided to sleep in and just start when we woke.

We both woke about 0530 and were on trail at 0600. Backtrack to the intersection for the camping areas and start up toward the Daly/K2 saddle. The trail junction is at N39deg 09m55.9s, W107deg 04m51.3s. The climb to the saddle is on a good, well switchbacked, class 1 trail.

From the Daly saddle, most routes recommend dropping in the huge basin on the other side. However, swturner and I stayed on the ridge toward K2 and followed a well cairned route traversing along the SE side of the ridge cliffs. This route was very good for swturner and I, but requires some steep class 3 and a limited class 4 scrambling under the cliffs. Once you get beyond the cliffs the cairns continue up a talus and boulder field toward K2. From K2 we followed the standard route along the knife edge to Capitol.

swturner and I on K2 with Capitol in the background:


After dropping off of K2, we came to the knife edge:


During the week I had messaged with Bill Middlebrook and it turned out that we had both planned to do Capitol on Friday. I didn't know if Bill was ahead of us or behind us, but we summited Capitol at 0915 - perhaps 10 minutes or so after Bill. Since the weather was holding, we introduced each other and enjoyed a long summit break talking with Bill. It was particularly appropriate for me to meet Bill on my second to last summit - since Bill's route descriptions had helped me reach many summits.

TalusMonkey, Bill Middlebrook and swturner on Capitol:


We left the summit about 0947 and back at the knife edge Scott showed his Karate Kid Crane Style technique:


We returned to camp at 1155, packed up and were heading back down toward the TH at 1218.

Feeling bad about my recent offensive disrespect of the 14ers, I stopped to pay homage, revere and worship the mighty goddess Capitol.

"Mighty Capitol, forgive the blasphemous ravings of this infidel. Please look graciously upon your unworthy and lowly 14er hikers, as we worship and praise you and the other 14er gods.":


We returned to the parking area quite tired at 1445. My GPS was showing a total trip length of about 18.5 miles.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

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