Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  08/02/2010
Modified:  08/06/2010
Date Climbed:   07/23/2010
Author:  MtnHub
 Capitol, Graupel-tol! A Thwarted Attempt  

Capitol, Graupel-tol! A Thwarted Attempt

July 22-23, 2010

Capitol Peak (14,130'); K2 (13,644')
Trailhead Name: Capitol Creek (9,450')
Climbers: MtnHub, Alan Arnette, Robert L

(captions are above each image)

This past March, I reached a major life milestone, attaining threescore years. And while I've thankfully been very blessed with good health and have had a fairly injury-free life, realistically I know that with each passing year, my heavy-duty hiking days are waning. As they say, the mountains will always be there. Unfortunately, I won't be.

Since I live in Iowa and have few close friends or partners who share my love of the mountains, I usually spend most of my time vacationing in CO climbing solo. This of course, has its benefits, as I can hike at my own pace and I do enjoy the solitude and oneness with nature. But in the last few years I've been expanding my horizons, traversing in more remote areas, frequenting more off-trail routes. This makes my loving wife of 38 years ever more anxious, fearing for my safety.

I've also wanted to increase my level of climbing and attempt some class 4 peaks before my body forces me to "retire" from climbing. For many years I've dreamed of climbing either the Grand Teton or Mt. Rainier. But since becoming a member a few years back, Capitol has also ranked high on climbs I'd love to attempt. And since my budget and allotted vacation time is somewhat limited, Capitol seemed to be one of the most attainable to me at this time.

So this past winter I began actively contacting other forum members, soliciting partners who might be interested in climbing Capitol with me. I was very fortunate in discovering Alan Arnette, an extremely experienced mountaineer who graciously agreed to have me along when he and a buddy planned to climb it.

We arrive at the Capitol Creek TH around 5:15 pm. Our goal is seen in the distance like a carrot on a stick. We are eager to begin our journey.

The surrounding area is lush and beautiful. This part of the state has seen a lot of recent rains and a low pressure system continues to have its grip on the weather. We pray for the best.

As we walk along the slippery Ditch Trail, we occasionally see the Peak towering above the horizon urging us onward.

We pass among the black bovine natives who stare at us and wonder who we are and why we are invading their territory. We pass the time by making terrible, trite puns ("This is the shittiest part of the entire trail." "Well, that's no bull!" "Please mooove it, Bessy!")

The trail offers a few rises and falls, but steadily leads us ever upward. I marvel at the beauty of our Creator's handiwork! Clouds continue to thicken.

We reach a campsite just below Capitol Lake. I capture a couple of shots just before the sun sets, and then it starts to rain lightly as we set up our tents.

Having a long history of back issues, I usually have considerable trouble sleeping on the ground, which is why I much prefer to take day hikes. But surprisingly, I'm quite comfortable inside my tent and sleeping bag. I'm not even anxious about the climb in the morning, and yet I cannot fall asleep. I lie awake the entire night.

3:30 takes a long time to arrive. I gather my gear together, eat a quick breakfast, and prepare for our 4:30 starting time. Some clouds are visible in the sky overhead, but at least its not raining. Alan leads us up the trail to the saddle. We skirt the cliffs and begin the arduous climb over the talus and boulders. Mt Daly looms in the distance.

Soon the rocks become larger and more difficult to negotiate.

We reach the ridge at the base of K2 at 7:30 and discover clouds beginning to obscure the Peak. It starts to rain and hail on us.

Looking down at Capitol Lake, the ceiling is very low above us.

We hunker down for about half an hour to see if conditions will improve. The clouds continue to pour in and become snagged on our mountain. We are not anxious to attempt the Knife Edge if it remains wet, and route finding up the final push to the summit and back down would not be an easy task with such poor visibility. We finally decide to bag K2 as a consolation and head down early.

We are all comfortable with our decision. Things do not appear that they will improve in the near future.

We head back down the trail to our campsite on the slightly wooded knoll just to the right (N) of the Lake.

I'm continually amazed at the beauty of this area.

The wildflowers above the Lake are also in their prime.

The Indian paintbrush have such gorgeous hues of various pinks and rose, interspersed with bistort and yellow sunflowers and cinquefoil, all framed by tall lupine and chiming bells. No one can compete with our Lord's horticulture!

It is about 10:30 when we reach our camp. I take a picture of my climbing partners, Alan and Robert, with my tent in the foreground.

A closer shot of my compatriots; Alan's tent in the background.

We leisurely break camp and return back down the trail. Again, the flower displays we traverse are amazingly beautiful.

Am I disappointed in not making the summit? I would be lying if I said no. I badly wanted to experience some class 4 climbing and see how it would affect me and if I would be up to the challenge. But I honestly can't say I regret anything. I feel very blessed in finding some new "partners in climb" and the entire experience of visiting this beautiful new area to me. God willing, I will still be healthy and ready to try it again next year.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions
James Scott

Well done
08/03/2010 05:47
”You take what the mountain gives.” I tell myself this at the beginning of every climb. A successful climb is not reaching the summit, but returning to the car. You made a wise choice, and even with the disappointment, what a great day you must have had. Beautiful pictures. Thanks!


Very Nice, Doug!
08/03/2010 15:06
Great trip report ... beautiful photos ... wonderful company ... nice camp spot ... cherised memories! Can't ask for more than that ... thanks so much for posting. Happy trails!

Jon Frohlich

Nice report...
08/03/2010 15:58
I think we ran into you guys on Friday as you were hiking out. We thought we might run into similar weather but Saturday turned out to be much nicer. It sounds like you made the wise decision to turn around. It's a beautiful place and I wouldn't mind visiting again even without the peak.


Look at all those flowers...
08/03/2010 17:46
Sorry to hear you didn't succeed on Capitol. But from your pics, it appears just being up in the basin would be a real pleasure, esp with good company. I hoped to get to the Elks this summer (and Holy Cross, as you may remember) but time is just running out. Indian Peaks and the Park are providing too much of a distraction. So for now, I have absolutely no problem living vicariously, especially when I can read fine trip reports like this one. Thanks for posting!


Not a bad place to visit twice!
08/03/2010 19:42
Capitol is a fun hike, but I found the hike into camp and the scenery around the lake to be some of the most spectacular. I was thinking how I could spend a good bit of time there just enjoying. Good call on waiting for another day, I wouldn't want to be out between K2 and Capitol in iffy weather.


Despite the weather......
08/03/2010 20:16
It really looked like a great trip. How lush and green those fields looked with those wild flowers. I can't wait to attempt Capital one of these summers. I need to get some experience first before trying that beast.

Alan Arnette

Good Job
08/04/2010 02:38
Doug, nice TR. It was great meeting and climbing with you. Anytime. Alan


Thanks for the trip!
08/04/2010 14:51
Felt like I got to go along - excellent photos and TR!
x 1 on what James Scott says above - bummer you didn't get the summit, but you're safe and all is well that ends well.

Hoping to climb Cap in a few weeks if the weather settles down.
Appreciate the beta.
Climb on!!


08/04/2010 15:07
Thanks for all your kind and encouraging comments people! Yes, I agree, you take what the mountain (and the Lord) gives you, and I'm not complaining at all. It would be a little easier to take if I lived out there and I could just plan it again for next week. But I had a wonderful trip and experience there, and I'm very thankful!

I did do a considerable amount of planning and training for this trip however, and the thought of doing it all again exhausts me just thinking about it. But... yes, I've already started for next year!! Climb on indeed!!


Great TR!
08/05/2010 03:08
Doug - it was a pleasure meeting and hiking with you to K2 and Capitol. Next year, the mountain will be ours. All the best and keep in touch! Robert


08/11/2010 21:41
Just got a chance to look at this today. I will be heading up there tomorrow so this TR gives me an idea of what it is like. Thanks for sharing and good decision. Nice to meet you recently too. Maybe next year we'll get one in.

Looks like the flowers are beautiful right now, btw.

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