Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  08/10/2009
Date Climbed:   08/09/2009
Author:  CincyBearcats

 early rise on Capitol  

Peaks: Capitol Peak
Route: Northeast ridge (standard) via the Ditch Trail approach
Date Climbed: August 9, 2009
Elevation Gained: ~5,800-ft
Roundtrip Mileage: ~17-miles
Time: 12-hr
Group: Andy & Sarah
Timetable: 01:45 Capitol Creek TH
04:00 Capitol Lake
06:30 summit of "K2"
08:00 summit of Capitol Peak
09:15 summit of "K2"
11:00 Capitol Lake (break until 12:00)
14:00 Capitol Creek TH

Sarah and I climbed Capitol Peak via the standard route under impeccable skies. While I do not have much information to add in terms of the actual route finding, I thought others might find it useful to see a detailed breakdown of our travel times. When we decided to try climbing Capitol Peak in a single day, we had difficulty planning our timing because of the lack of reliable beta. Of course, there are plenty of trip reports by super fast rock stars, but knowing, for example, that Jordan White can climb Capitol in less than 8-hours does not help a mere mortal like myself. We took 50% more time to climb this peak than him. Talk about humbling!

Sarah and I are far from the quickest climbers in town, so our above timetable is intentionally detailed to give fellow "slow" climbers something to use. The approach to Capitol Lake went very smoothly for us. The Ditch Trail has relatively little elevation gain given its length, and the logs for the creek crossing were pretty simple to find in the dark. The climb up to the Mount Daly saddle is steep, but the trail is easy to follow and makes ample switchbacks. Getting from the saddle to "K2" is the part of the climb that caused us the most trouble. In fact, getting directly off the saddle and down to the talus fields below was the crux of the entire day for us. We found ourselves doing a few sketchy moves on seemingly blank slabs for a 30-ft traverse above a steep gully. Also, the remaining snow in the valley was rock hard before sunrise during our ascent, and we avoided the steep sections (>20-deg) as much as possible. We had very little difficulty traversing around the north side of "K2," a section that worried us the most before the climb. The knife edge is exactly that for about 30-ft. We were both wearing approach shoes with somewhat sticky rubber soles, so it was not too difficult to smear our feet on the north side of the ridge while clinging the to top with our hands. There were a couple loose handholds along the way, so be careful to check things before committing to them. The route finding while ascending the final summit pitch was a bit tricky, similar to that encountered on Pyramid Peak. On the ascent, we lost the cairns roughly 100-ft below the summit and ended up finishing on the ridge direct route. From the summit, we were able to spot our intended route and had very little difficulty following the cairns all the way back to the knife edge, saving quite a bit of time in the process.

Even if you are not as super fast as others and if, like us, slow and steady is more your game, climbing Capitol in a day is not an impossible endeavor. If you get an early start and are patient enough to catch a rare, clear forecast, then this approach to the climb is doable by mere mortals like us. Also, a bright moon goes a long way for boosting morale in the wee hours of the morning. Capitol Peak relishes the pale, colorless lighting of night.

(broad view of the Capitol Creek basin from the parking area)

(Snowmass Mountain dowsed in early morning alpenglow)

(Andy standing atop "K2" at sunrise)

(Andy negotiating a section of the infamous knife edge)

(the summit ridge line reaching toward the moon)

(Andy perched just below the summit with Pierre Lakes more than 3,000-ft below)

(Snowmass Mountain makes for a stunning backdrop on Capitol's summit)

(wildflowers abound on the grassy slopes below the Mount Daly saddle)

(absorbing the neck-straining view of Capitol Peak from Capitol Lake)

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

I was there the same day!
02/05/2011 00:22
I think I remember seeing you but you were going so fast I‘m not sure!

Either way, congratulations on a great climb!


11/30/2010 17:28
Andy and Sarah, Congratulations on a great summer of climbing! I'm really happy for both of you -- your journey is almost complete. That short drive, eh, hike, up Pikes Peak will be sweet...


almost finished!
08/11/2009 13:54
you shouldn‘t sandbag people like that, 12 hours is a good car-to-car time for Capitol! Pikes with autumn colors should be sweet for your finisher.


Good job!
01/14/2014 13:11
You guys are almost there! Unbelievable job this summer! Hard to imagine that just a few years ago you were heading up to Harvard in ”pinky” for your first. Just one more to go!


Saw you two also.
08/11/2009 20:10
Hiked with zeekzilch and company. Talked with you guys as you were coming down. Nice job and only Pikes Peak left?


awesome pictures
08/11/2009 21:24
trip reports like this make me miss colorado even more, hopefully i weill end up there again someday. great job and have fun finishing your quest.


Nice work guys
08/12/2009 17:48
You keep ticking them off! Have fun with that last one. So tell me...Did you like it in a day?


Thanks everyone!
08/12/2009 19:37
We really appreciate the comments from you guys. We never thought we would get this far, so the feeling is pretty incredible.

zeekzilch, piper14er - It was nice to run into you guys. From your TR, it sounds like you also had a great day up there.

Scott - Of anyone else, you and Amy know just how slow we are, especially when the route gets technical. I remember you guys reaching the summit of Wilson Peak (with our pooch) a long time before we got there.

Jordan - We were really happy to do the day hike. The approach by moonlight was relaxing, and we were thankful to be sans overnight packs on the way back to the car. BTW, did you run from the car to K2? I still cannot fathom knocking 4-hours off of our time. When we reached the summit, I remember Sarah saying, ”Geez, Jordan would be half way back to the car by now!”


You two never get tired, do you?
08/13/2009 04:02
Another awesome job and TR. Congrats. Tks for your helpful comments on the LB to B / Bells traverse‘s comparison. It helps a total sub rock star like myself a great deal. Planning on the hourglass route, so you have bolstered my confidence. Tks much.


08/13/2009 05:25
No, but we didn‘t waste much time after leaving the summit. I think our timeline was something along the lines of this...
245 am leave the car, 445 am at the lake, 7 am at the summit...745-8 am leave the summit...11 am at the car. But all of this is really nothing compared to Sid hayes doing it Round trip in 5 hours...

But again nice work guys. Especially when you don‘t even live in the state!


Good info, thanks
08/20/2009 18:09
I‘m a campin‘ weenie and was putting this one off because I thought a one-dayer would be a (cough) death march.

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