Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
"K2"  -  13,664 feet
Date Posted:  07/31/2008
Modified:  08/14/2008
Date Climbed:   07/26/2008
Author:  Always_Wear_Sunscreen
 A Capitol Experience!!!!  

A Capitol Experience!!!

Participants: Ben, Brett, Randy (me), Rob (didn't climb), Josh, and Drew

Stats (as reported by after uploading my track logs):
Backpack into camp: 6.4 miles, 3:57, elevation gain 2875'
Ascend Capitol Peak from camp: 2.6 miles, 3:59, elevation gain 3440'
Descend Capitol Peak to camp: 2.6 miles, 4:02 (took a lot of pics)
Backpack camp to TH: 6.25 miles, 2:45, elevation gain 450'

Elevation gain: 6765'
Mileage: 17.85 miles
Summits: 2 (K2, Capitol Peak)
Total time: 1 day 22 hrs 54 min

Friday, 7/25/08, 06:45: Ben is supposed to pick me up. ~07:00, Ben calls from the car to get directions into my subdivision and to my house. It's only 4 turns off the main road, but it feels like a maze. 07:02, Ben calls again -- he missed one of the turns. 07:03, he arrives in the driveway. Rob is with him. I throw my pack and hiking poles into the back of Ben's Bronco II and we're off to pick up Brett. 07:10, we stop for gas. ~7:25, we're at Brett's house and realize his pack won't fit into the back of the Bronco II. We take some time to carefully tie it to the roof and we're off for the weekend. Four guys in a Bronco II and we're headed over Independence Pass. We stop in the new gas station in Divide because Ben's morning coffee has run its course. Off we go again and surely that will be the last stop before we hit Aspen for lunch. Not to be, Brett purchased a 44oz gulp at the gas station and we needed to stop on our way down from Independence Pass at the porta-john on the side of the road.

Hwy 82 on the Aspen side of the pass is quite an adventurous drive and offers some beautiful scenery and some nice exposure. We stop in Aspen for lunch at some brew pub. As we headed out of Aspen, we were looking for Hwy 9 to take us to the trailhead. We missed it. Apparently, it's only called Hwy 9 on maps as we never saw a sign for it. It's also called Snowmass Creek Rd which was easily spotted coming from the North. We drove up the road and were curious as to the huge waterbars that a fellow 14er reported. There were some waterbars, but nothing that would injure most passenger cars (eg., we saw an Accord in the parking area at the trailhead).

13:38, we hit the ditch trail to backpack up to camp near Capitol Lake. The views along this trail are incredible and the wildflowers were in full bloom.

We were making pretty good time and the clouds started rolling in. About an hour into the hike, the light rain started falling and we decided to stop and put on our pack covers and rain gear. We were about 2.4 miles into the hike. The rain was steady and didn't quit. We reached a few camping spots and found a nice spot in the trees on a trail crossing the creek, but it was already occupied. There were a few other spots in the area. We couldn't find the signs sayting this was a designated camping area, so we went further up the trail. We were cold and wet as there was still a light rain falling. After about 30 minutes of scoping out the different areas, we settled on a beautiful spot in a small clump of trees just south of the lake (coordinates N39 10.040 W107 04.808 ). It was big enough for the 4 of us plus Drew and Josh who were coming up later. It was 5:35 PM and the temperature had dropped into the 40s from the cold mountain rain. After we set up our tents, we all tried to get into some drier clothes and get warm.

We ate dinner and kept an eye out for Drew and Josh. They arrived at the trail intersection leading to the other camping areas below about 8:30 PM and we yelled down to them. It all worked out great. We chatted a little and made plans to get up at 05:00 AM to start climbing by approximately 5:30.

Saturday, 05:15 AM. Brett was up and watching other climbers ascending the hillside up to Daly Pass. We all woke up and prepared for the day's climb. I was still grabbing my final pieces of gear, GPS receiver and camera, as the group headed up the trail. I started hiking at 05:48 AM a few minutes behind the others. We made good time ascending up to Daly Pass and reached it just as the sun was starting to come over the ridge and shine on the mountain on the West side of Capitol Lake.

The trail traversing the East side of the ridge. There still is a lot of snow on this side and we could see climbers crossing the snowfields

The snow was already quite soft and slippery. I was using trekking poles to help keep balance and to prevent slides. I lent my ice axe to Drew since it was just hanging on the back of my pack. We crossed the snow with no incidents and I don't feel special equipment was necessary. As we climbed up the last pitch toward K2, we reached the ridge and had a gorgeous view of the Pierre Lakes Basin so I took a few panoramas.

We took a short break and stashed our ice axes and trekking poles here since we wouldn't be needing them on the rest of the climb and figured they might get in the way stowed on our packs. The final pitch up K2.

And a shot on the top with Capitol and part of the NE ridge in the background.

A small knife edge after K2 and before the real knife edge. This one was easily walked on the left side while holding on to the crest.

And we were finally at the knife edge. Brett went first

got stuck about 10-12 feet out and turned back.

Josh and I went next. I stopped in the middle to take a short video.

The route after the knife edge was kind of random. Just find a route you're comfortable with and follow it. It seemed we had people on three different routes in this section: one high, one in the middle, and one lower. They all worked.

Once we were just about under the summit, we climbed almost straight up to reach the ridge.

And then scrambled along the ridge to reach the summit.

09:45 We all made it!

Ben and I decided to climb out on the small precarious point along a narrow precarious ridge

A summit panorama from SW to NE

The weather on the summit was beautiful with no wind. We took a bunch of pics and left about 30 minutes later. The route finding from above seemed much easier, but again there were multiple ways to descend.

After descending the first part, Ben and I decided to take the ridge down while the others were ahead of us on a lower trail. I figured we'd eventually be required to get off the ridge, but we never did and we climbed the ridge all the way back to the knife edge where we met the others. A shot of Drew and Josh on the other end of the knife edge with K2 behind.

Ben and Brett followed. Brett just passing the now dubbed Brett's Point (the spot he got stuck at on his first attempt) along the knife edge.

We collected our stashed gear and headed down. Ben and I decided to try glissading so we hiked further along the ridge to a fairly steep snow field, put on some extra protective clothing (snowboard pants and jacket), and went for it. I went first and got about 30 feet, started picking up speed as my ice axe seemed to just be sliding through the snow without effect. I put a little more weight on it and it grabbed so hard that it ripped the ace from my hands. I was sliding down the steepest section with no axe. Oh s***!!! I kept my legs out front and dug my heels into the soft snow as well as my gloveless hands (forgot the gloves in my tent). Luckily, the snow was very soft and I came to a stop about 50 feet below my axe. I called up to Ben, who I couldn't see because of the steepness of the slope, thinking he might be able to grab my axe on the way down. He was still putting on some gear. I decided it was probably not a good idea for Ben to try grabbing my axe as he came down the steepest part of this slope, so I kick-stepped my way back up to my axe, wrapped a makeshift strap through the axe and around my wrist, and was on my way glissading again. Ben came down a little slower and didn't have any troubles. We traversed a little to our right and did another glissade of a few hundred feet. Wow, that was fun!! Next time, remember the gloves and strap!

Ben and I took so long getting clothes on, glissading, and taking clothes back off, that the others had went ahead to camp. We figured that Drew and Josh wanted to get back because they were going to hike out today also. Ben and I crossed the rest of the snowfields together and then separated at Daly Pass because I was stopping to take a lot of pictures of the wildflowers that I didn't get on the way up. Here's a gully filled with them on the East side of the pass

Coming down from the pass back to camp, the wildflowers were everywhere and covered almost the entire hillside.

I made it back to camp by about 2:15. The others were probably easily back by 1:15. The weather was still beautiful and sunny, with just a few clouds above Capitol Peak. We lounged around camp, had some lunch, iced my knee with a ziploc bag full of snow, and just relaxed for the rest of the day reminiscing about the day's climb. We only had a short 5 minute of spitting rain today, but the clouds came in and prevented any good sunset shots of Capitol.

Sunday, July 27th, after another almost sleepless night, I crawled out of my tent to the best morning yet. We took our time packing up and were able to watch as the sun filled the basin. I took a few more shots of Capitol Peak with this bright sunlight and blue sky with some small wispy white clouds

We left camp on our way back to the trailhead about 9:45 AM. Since it was raining most of the trip in and today was gorgeous, we took the opportunity to take more photos as we hiked back to the TH. We arrived back at the TH about 12:30 PM. Here's the topo map with the track log on it

We were thinking of grabbing a mexican lunch in Buena Vista, but by the time we got down the rough road and back to Hwy 82, we decided to stop in Aspen for margaritas and mexican food.

Another great adventure and definitely the most fun 14er to climb so far! Gotta love that exposure!!!

And the rest of the pictures are at

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

My Jealousy...
01/05/2011 17:15
Awesome climb guys... and I loved the video! I wish I could have joined you. I was waving from Crestone Peak though. Maybe next summer Yosemite98 and I can tackle this one!


Great TR....
08/01/2008 20:49
pics & video. I remember you now, after seeing the pics. It was definitely a great day on a fun mountian!

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