Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  09/02/2008
Date Climbed:   08/30/2008
Author:  MountainMatt

 Snowmass/Capitol - My first TR.  

Whew, what a trip!

2 days/26 miles/9800ft makes for a heck of a weekend.
Snowmass - 8/30/08 - West Ridge
Capitol - 8/31/08 - NE ridge (the entire ridge)

My cousin Ryan and I have been anticipating this trip for most of the summer. Unfortunately we ended up getting a late start on Friday due to work and didn't leave Denver for Snowmass until 8:00 pm. Excited to hit the road, we arrived in Marble around 12:00 am. Getting a little tired we bounced along the 4x4 road and 5.5/7.0/7.7/9.7/13 blah blah blah started getting confusing after a long day. Needless to say we missed the left turn on 315 and went straight when the road becomes REALLY bumpy. Well it ended up dead ending around 11,500ft. Now getting grumpy, we turned around and headed back down looking for the right turn. Finally we found it (in the daylight we would have had no problem seeing it, at night it wasn't as noticeable). Another 6 miles along bouncy roads and we arrived at the trailhead just before 3:00 am.

Not in any mood to set anything up I threw out a tarp and the spare bag and listened to the river until the alarm went off at 4:45am.


Not in the best mood, but in high spirits eager to start, I awoke Ryan, who wasn't interested leaving the cozy air mattress warm inside the Jeep. Knowing it was a losing battle trying to convince him to go, I let him sleep and quietly packed what I needed. I ended up hitting the trail around 5:20am.

Pretty uneventful and straight forward to the lake. It was beautiful and a perfect temp.

Views to the south just above the waterfall

Snowmass from Lake Geneva:

S-ridge on Snowmass

Somewhere I left the main trail and then missed the turn for Snowmass (which is at the campsite #4 sign when you go left). Backtracking a bit, I meet up with some great folks (Tom and his wife - forgot your name - sorry) and tagged along with them for the rest of the trip.

The trail is great until you hit the scree, and that's when the real fun begins. This climb is brutal. It's loose and non-stop all the way to the top.

Here's the route

The waterfall area was pretty mucky and needed a little extra special attention finding a good line up.

Looking up at the waterfall

This is about half way up the slope. About midway the rock is pretty good, it's near the top when it gets more loose.

Looking down

Looking up.

I went to the right where it splits off into a "Y" and here is the view to the south (S-ridge) where it meets the ridge.

From there is just a couple minutes to the top (just look for a big rock standing up). Made the summit around 11:00am.

Looking toward Capitol

I stayed about 10 minutes on the summit. Not really wanting to go down the way I came up, I started down the S-ridge for a bit. But not knowing when to turn off and not wanting to get cliffed out I turned back toward the gully I came up.

Looking down the S-ridge

From there it was just a long ride down. I stayed on the bigger rock on the ridge to the south and that seemed easier. It was also nice to be on big rock as there were people coming up the route and I wanted to try to avoid knocking the loose smaller rocks down as much as possible.

Made it back to the lake and met up the Ryan who was coming up. We then heading down to the trailhead knowing we still had more ahead.

Beautiful falls

Arrived at the Jeep around 1:30pm and then it was off to Capitol for the hike up to the lake.

After a quick stop in Carbondale, we made it to the Capitol Creek trailhead at about 5:30 pm. Still in high spirits we left for the lake at 6:00 pm.

We stayed on the high trail as someone at the parking lot said the lower trail was sloppy from the cows. The trail we took was great and straight forward.

My body didn't like the last couple miles with a 50lb pack and being up for two days, but we eventually rolled into the lake around 9:30 and searched for a spot to put the tent. Once we found a place, we got a bite to eat and crashed at 10:30pm.

Alarm went off at 5:00am and we were a little slow to get up. After getting some water/eating/and packing we hit the trail at 6:00 am.

Heading up the slope was great compared to what I did on Snowmass and we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise at the top.

From here we started up the ridge.
**WARNING - I would not take this route again as it was VERY exposed and the rock was much more loose than the standard route!!!***

From here we stayed on the top of the ridge until K2. There was never a class 5 move, but a couple class 4 moves. The worst was being on loose rock that was no more than a foot or two wide looking down 1000+ft each side. Did I mention VERY EXPOSED!

Starting up the ridge looking down.

A class 4 section.

Ryan standing atop one of the few points where you could stand.

Ryan working his way up.

About midway through, looking down at Capitol Lake

This section was an attention getter (as was the whole ridge). Not only was it exposed and loose, some of it was undercut. You couldn't really tell how bad it was until you looked back at it. Knowing what I know now, I would have stayed off of it/turned back.

Last part of the ridge looking from K2.

I was glad to be back on the standard route, even though we were just beginning Capital's ridge. Ryan was still having a blast and was excited to continue.

Ryan heading up the K2 pitch, he went left, I went right (they seemed about the same IMO).

From the top of K2 looking toward Capitol (notice 2 people on the knife edge).

Ryan cruising over the knife edge.

After the knife edge we stayed on the ridge until we started seeing cairns and then continued left.

The route we took.

From there it's pretty well marked going to the south side and then up. The weather was moving in slowly and we ended up staying about 15 min on top, summiting at 9:20am.

Ryan heading down the ridge.

We both agreed that heading down the knife edge was worse than going up. You tend to look down more.

To the right

To the middle

To the left

Going back up K2 you have to chose the best line that fits and there's really not a great way. We stayed on the north side and followed it around. Happy to be off the the ridge we continued down the standard route.

Here's Ryan enjoying the moment below the ridge we went up earlier.

And one more coming down into Capitol Lake. About here is when it started raining and we were glad to have the tent in sight. Back at the lake at 12:15pm.

After getting some food/water/sleep we packed up and hiked out stopping along the way. We were back at the parking lot at 7:00pm and rolled into Denver just before midnight.

After dropping of Ryan, I walked through my front door near 12:45am, went straight to my bed and I can't remember sleeping so good in my life.

What a intense weekend and one that I will never forget. Capitol deserves the hype and goes down as my favorite 14er!



 Comments or Questions

Nice TR
09/02/2008 19:12
I liked those shots on the knife edge. Congrats on getting these two bad boy‘s.


09/02/2008 23:24


Holy )&((*^
09/07/2008 00:47
You guys are crazy. That is extreeeem! I love it. I want to do it, but I‘m too scared. Thumbs up on that climb.


Nice Rookie Report
09/11/2008 01:58
Nice TR. You‘ve got quite a bit of energy and good knees to be doing those climbs so quickly. Great job and nice pics!


09/23/2008 06:15
Thanks again for the kind words. My body/mind was defiantly pushed that weekend!

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