Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2010
Date Climbed:   07/04/2010
Author:  doggler
 Capitol on July 4th - NE Ridge  

Capitol Peak - 14,130' Northeast Ridge (ridge from saddle to summit variation)
Date Climbed - 7/04/2010
Climbers - doggler
RT milage - 17 miles
RT gain - 5,300'
RT time - 8h 57min

How many of you, upon achieving a goal, go back and think about what it was like before you first conceived of the idea of achieving that goal? From the time I was first made aware of these things called "14ers", I always have held Capitol Peak in a sense of awe. It was the one peak that was so beautiful yet so bad-ass, it had me convinced that for me, at least, some peaks were simply to be unclimbable. Over the years, my competentcy had grown to a point where I felt I could safely handle a peak such as Capitol. Yesterday, I achieved that goal and enjoyed every second of it!

This peak has it all - an imposing face, a long approach, and sustained exposed scrambling. I've done harder moves on other peaks, but this one required many hours of class 3 and 4 without no real break. For comparison, peaks such as Wetterhorn and Sunlight require mere minutes of difficulty.

1:00AM - alarm goes off at my hotel in Avon. Pack all my gear, drink a ton of coffee.
1:45 - depart for Capitol Creek TH. This would be my second trip to the Capitol Creek TH, as I had scouted it out in May when I did Snowmass with the large group.

3:30 - arrive Capitol Creek TH. There are a good 15 cars at the Trailhead, which meant I won't be alone. Sweet!

3:45 - depart TH for peak. I had in mind that I would take the ridge upon reaching the Daly-Capitol saddle, so I leave the axe, points, boots, and gaiters behind in favor of some great trail shoes. I know time will be my enemy with a day trip approach, so I break out into a trot for most of the trip to the lake. I choose to go shoeless for the creek crossing, which I hit at about 4:30. Off in the distance, many miles in the distance still, I see a few headlamps bobbing back and forth as their owners make the ascent to the Daly/Capitol saddle.
Looking northeast down the Capitol Creek valley

Near the camping sights at Capitol Lake. This is one of the few summits that remains visible for nearly the entirety of the climb.

5:45 - Capitol Lake. I shift from run to hike mode here and have a snack.
Panorama of Mt. Daly(left) and Capitol Peak(right)

Gaining the ridge connecting Capitol and Daly

6:30 - Daly/Capitol saddle. The rise from the lake to the saddle is pretty steep, but there is a clearly defined trail. I raced yesterday, and my legs are definitely still feeling it.
once on the saddle, I followed the red line. The standard route crosses the snowfield on the left. Climbers are circled.

By leaving my winter equip in the car, I had committed to either hit the ridge to K2 or turn around for the day. Good choice! The ridge to K2 is exposed. I find the rock to be solid, but little of it angled out well, so using all limbs is a must. Very sporty and one of the highlights of the day.




I ran into a great group of guys just as I came down from K2.
Looking back at the guys on the knife edge. K2 in the background

the summit as viewed from the knife edge.

Another look back at the guys and K2.

The view to the south is astounding - Pyramid, the Maroons, and Snowmass are all clearly visible on this beautiful day. The further away I get from K2, the more impressive it looks.
I contemplate whether to take the direct ridge all the way to the summit, but decide to stick to the standard slippery route.
I much prefer exposed yet solid rock to this stuff.

a little windy

8:50 - Summit. I meet John, Jen, and Scott(?), along with the US flag. Nap time and then the group of guys shows up. Along the way, runner-climbers Steve and Andy show up. When asked if Steve is a runner, he responds, "Yeah, kinda I guess. I've done a few marathons."
That a took?

Cave Dog did that.

9:50 - depart summit.
One of the few cairns on the upper route

Halfway between K2 and the Daly/Capitol saddle, I decide I'm done with the ridge and I descend south to rejoin the standard route. I do this just before it gets too hairy, and it turns out to be the most technical climbing I've done all day.
The view up from the base of the ridge.

I meet up with the runner Steve, but then he waits for his friend. I venture ahead and take a few fun shots.
Capitol Lake.

11:25 - Capitol Lake. Shortly thereafter, Steve catches up with me and asks if I want to run with him. Why not, I ask?
View of the Peak from below the lake.

Upon running the last stretch noticbly faster than I normally would, I begin to realize taht Steve is no "average" runner. Runners don't just show up and run fouteeners, especially techincal ones like Capitol.
This dude is fast!

Turns out Steve is far from an average runner. Here he is, some guy who just climbed 7 of Colorado's badass peaks in 7 days, and he's flying down this trail while I suck wind. I pry a little bit and get him to admit the truth: He ran about 2:20 in each of his three marathons. Folks, Olympic Qualifying standard is 2:19. This cat is legit!
View of the Peak from the TH.

12:42 - arrive Capitol Creek TH. Steve and his buddy offer me a beer and I gladly accept after a big day.
I think that if Lindsey's class 4 variation of the class 2+ standard is considered a route, the direct ridge route up Capitol certainly deserves the same treatment. I was apart from the "standard" route for well over an hour, when most of the time it's just a matter of minutes.
This was great "practice" for running ridges next week. And this may have been the most rewarding trip up a mountain I have ever known!

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

07/06/2010 11:25
You are blazing! Nice TR.


07/06/2010 11:32
Amazing, Sean, amazing.


07/06/2010 13:03
Great job, you are ready for your traversefest A group of us did basically the same route last weekend and loved it! Although our time was MUCH slower. Great work!


What a Day!
07/06/2010 13:09
I met you at the knife edge. It was an outstanding day although we were a little slower than you. Send me a PM with your email, I‘ve got a couple of great shots of you crossing. I talked to the runners at the summit. Pretty impressive.


great job
07/06/2010 13:15
You were amazing to look at on the way up. Good job on the summit and good luck on the next traverses. I also have some pics of you traversing the knife edge, so let me know and I will send them to you.


Nicely done!
07/06/2010 14:20
To answer the question in your first paragraph - I often do that, deliberately or otherwise; that sense of transformation and growth is incredible. Good job!


I am Jealous
07/06/2010 14:28
Car to car in 8.5 hours. I wish I had your legs, or Steve‘s I guess!!! This is a three day trip for me.


Still awaiting mine
07/06/2010 16:02
Your trip report is exactly how my ”moment” wants to be - great, challenging, and rewarding at the end. I‘ll miss the opportunity this year, but looking forward to Capitol next season! And I, too, don‘t plan on a RT in under 1 day. I want to camp and soak in what the hell I just did after the summit!

Thanks for the report!


4th Capitol
07/06/2010 16:10
Incredible - simply incredible! Thanks for allowing us to live this vicariously through your adventure!


Thanks for the company
07/06/2010 18:49
Hey doggler, glad I ran into you! Really enjoyed your company on the descent. Great trip report as well!

We‘re back in Missouri now, but already talking about next year‘s trip plan. Might do 14ers that we can run up, and incorporate your idea of finishing with the Pike‘s Peak Ascent. Let me know if you‘re interested.



07/06/2010 20:26
I‘m exhausted just reading your report. Hey, those are some nice photos there, doggler. Thanks for posting. Happy trails!


07/06/2010 23:26
nice work and fantastic pictures. the early one of the wildflowers in the early light is superb


Nice work
07/07/2010 05:01
Way good, Sean. Keep up the great pace and can‘t wait to see your report on the Four Traverses.


Single Syllabic
07/08/2010 21:55
Hey Sean - It was a pleasure meeting you at the summit. Jenn and I appreciate the thoughts you shared on the Sneffels ridge route, which we did the next day. It WAS a much more fun than the scree mess of the standard route, which was fun to ”ski” down.
Steve was our bearded buddy who took your summit flag rockin‘ picture.
Hope to run into you again in the mountains.


07/08/2010 22:53
Jason and Keith, you guys should hook up for Capitol!

ksegaser, I got a lot of beta from micah‘s TR. Awesome.

Steve, you‘re an animal. I‘d definitely be in on that kind of thing; there are plenty of runnable mountains out here.

John and others, great meeting you all at the summit. Glad you enjoyed Sneffels‘ ridge!


Yearning for Younger days
08/14/2010 23:25
Sean, great report. Wish I had that energy and stamina still. Our 12 hours on the peak was just climbing from the lake and back. Sigh.

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