Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
"K2"  -  13,664 feet
Date Posted:  08/14/2010
Date Climbed:   08/07/2010
Author:  OldManWinter

 Capitol Challenge  

When Bill and I decided we wanted to do Capitol, we had a hard decision to make. Neither of us are climbers, though I have climbed in the past. Our wives really like having us around and we did not want to straddle and scoot the knife ridge--to me that is not climbing. So, we decided to use a guide. Bill hiked in a day early to get a little acclimated. He's from Atlanta and there are no mountains around (at least by Colorado standards). I hiked in late in the afternoon and got my first view from the trail of Capitol.Image
The Goal

It looked as imposing as all the trip reports make it out to be. I got to the campsites after a three hour hike in and found the red bandana, a way of finding camp we've used for years. Bill, Steve, and Danny were there having dinner and they'd made enough for me.Image
From camp
We visited, talked about the climb, decided on a wake-up and climbing time and hit the bags.

We were on the trail at 4:30, gaining the Daily/Capitol saddle at 5:15. We took the high trail, directly to the right of the saddle between the ridge and a trail that headed down.Image
Sunrise from the ledges
We had some ledge work to get around, Image
Looking back toward Daley
but eventually we ended in the boulder field and headed toward K2. Image
In the boulder field
Sunrise on the ridge
On reaching the shoulder of K2, we ran into a party that tried to go around K2 and hit a gully that is really nasty. No holds, no footing, and no good rock. We went higher up toward the summit, and then down climbed to the south west of the gully. The other group after getting to the knife ridge, turned around and headed back down.

We worked our way over to the knife edge, took a look, got our equipment on and headed across after waiting for a solo climber to come back. Image
Watching this person was watching poetry in motion. We learned later that this was his 54th 14er.
We had watched him from below as he climbed the ridge from the saddle. He was true poetry in motion and gave us a good idea how it should be done. Image
Getting ready to cross the knife edge
The ropes and anchors gave us the confidence to do the ridge with hands over the edge, which is really strong, and our feet below us. Some of the rock is sheer and no footholds, but good positions of hands and feet made it possible. The handholds are always good. It was exhilarating to be able to look down 2000 feet and knowing we were safe, not because of the ropes, but because we were doing it right in our minds.

As we pushed toward the summit going around to the left and then up the final pitch, we realized that that part of the climb was actually more difficult than the knife ridge. The rock was loose underfoot, a little scree, and still a lot of exposure. We were getting close to our turn-around time and had just a few more minutes left and really had to dig deep to push ourselves to the top. I'm a trail runner so I'm in good shape, but I don't bend as easily as I did 40 years ago, and it was hard work. Bill really had to dig deep, but he too as we say in our family "sucked it up, Toots" and summited just a couple minutes before turnaround. Image
On the summit--happy climbers
We spent a brief time on the summit celebrating and immediately headed down. It took us 6 hours and 15 minutes to make the summit. We would never have been able to do it without the guides, not because of the ropes, belays, and route finding, but because of their encouragement. AAG is a quality operation.

We essentially took the same route back, and the knife ridge was almost easy and much more enjoyable. Weather was setting in so we kept moving. We got a little rain in the boulder field, making the rocks slippery but fortunately no lightning. Back at the Daley/Capitol saddle we took a brief photo breakImage
Steve, me, Bill, and Danny back at the saddle
and headed back down the trail to camp. We were 6 hours going down since going downhill is one of Bill's least favorite activities. Knees, feet, ankles, and toes all hurt more going down and so it takes us longer. Image
The knife ridge as seen from the trail to saddle

We got back to camp at 5:00 rested a bit, got water pumped, fixed dinner as the rain moved in with serious intention of drowning us. Image
Rain moving in shortly after getting back to camp.
We hit the bags at 7:00 Image
No roof has ever looked better.
and listened to the rain all night glad we were in tents and not still on the mountain. We slept in the next morning, but heard our neighbors heading up at 4:30. We heard them come back sometime later and when we talked to them later they reported the rocks, trails, ground was so wet that it made climbing impossible.

On reflection the next morning we talked about what we learned on the trip. First and foremost, even with guides, we still have to do the same amount of work. They did not pull us up the mountain.

Bill wrote to me a day later and shared this with me. I think it is worth putting in this report:

++ get to the lake early and enjoy the view. I.e. be rested!

++ depending on the weather and the time of year leave camp about 1.5 hours before first light. Because by first light you will be on rock that is somewhat tough to walk on by head lamp.

++ Realistically I think most normal people (Are there any "normal people" on that mountain?) would need 4 hours (or maybe a little more) from the base of K2, up and over, across the knife edge, across the east face, and up the last summit climb (not scramble, but climb) and back down all of this to the base of K2. This is the very long crux of Capitol's "danger-zone" If there is a risk of rain or lightning at any point in this long "danger-zone," the climb could be lethal.

++ What this means in terms of normal people: If the mantra: "off the top by noon" is something that you believe in, then realistically you need to be at the base of K2 by about 8 or so when going up. And remember that the approach to K2, after the saddle, requires crossing a very LONG boulder field.

++ Therefore the best recommendation that I would have for anyone planning to climb Capitol is to be with friends who care about each other, who are good climbers, and who all stay together at the same (and hopefully fast) pace. Be sure you are in the best physical condition that you can possibly achieve. Go as fast as you possibly can go and still be safe. Make the decision to turn around early and often.

++ And enjoy the experience! That may be the only take-away for the day--other than looking at a distant mountain top.

The hike out was enjoyable. Everything is so green, the flowers were beautiful, and the trail is in great shape. Image
Trail-work for crossings was exceptional
As I got close to the car, I looked back Image
When will I do this again?
and thought about the incredible experience of climbing this peak and wondering when I'll do it again.

We have talked and written and agree that this may have been our best and favorite mountain. It was Bill's 66th fourteener including some repeats (51st Colorado peak) and my 25th. I can't imagine any climb being better than Capitol for the sheer beauty, the difficulty, the company, and the personal challenge.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):

 Comments or Questions

08/15/2010 04:12
Great report, your summary of Capitol is spot on.


Attaboy Phil!
08/15/2010 05:25
Good to see you got after it! Captitol is no joke; you passed with flying colors. Tell your MAT's about that one.

Brian C

08/23/2010 14:48
Capitol is an accomplishment for sure. Glad you made it.


08/15/2010 17:46
Most people (myself included) leave Capitol for near the end of their 14ers. Nice job on getting it, and thanks for the TR with good photos!

Exiled Michigander

Hats off!
08/15/2010 18:34
I had so much fun just reading this report that I can't imagine how amazing it must have been to have actually lived the experience. Thanks for the great advice about departure times and the amount of time needed between K2 and the summit. Capitol is probably at least a year away for me, but you've really whet my appetite with your summary and photos. Congrats and happy trails.


Thanks All
08/16/2010 03:15
I've been a teacher too long not to try and teach from everything I do. I've loved writing TRs with a twist or hint, or just plain advice. Glad you enjoyed it.


here here!!!
08/16/2010 03:45
We plan to do capitol next summer.... my son and I have done 41 peaks together... only one of the Elks... this is a very helpful and realistic account.... with appreciation of and praise for your accomplishment.


excellent report!
08/16/2010 14:30
I am really happy that you guys got this one done, and I dug reading the report. Its not as good as hanging out with you guys on the mountain


08/16/2010 23:27
Capitol is a difficult summit. Love your report and the details are spot on.
Attempted Capitol this past Friday and am collecting myself for a rematch soon!
Well done - the climb, photos and report!


Freaking Awesome!
08/17/2010 01:16
I am humbled! Maybe it's time I go out and climb this peak next! Nice TR.


Very enjoyable report
08/17/2010 19:59
Attempting this peak for teh second time this weekend.. This is a great report..


Good luck
08/19/2010 03:32
Rockymtnhigh69--have a great climb. The weather for the Pikes Peak Marathon this weekend is supposed to be perfect. Hope you have the same good weather.

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