Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Snowmass Mountain  -  14,092 feet
Date Posted:  09/15/2010
Modified:  03/19/2011
Date Climbed:   09/11/2010
Author:  oldschool
 Capitol to Snowmass Traverse - Day 1   

(This is Part 2, in a way, of the Cap to Snowmass traverse TR. It is a bit redundant with Day 1/Part 1 written by Noah (winter8000). I apologize for this. This part contains more pictures and extends the information to the remainder of the traverse and to the place where we stopped.)

Climbers - Noah (Winter8000m), Mike (oldschool), Kiefer, Steve(sgladbach)

The following was written by Mike.......

The traverse as seen from Pyramid

The gang!

Got to the lake, found a camp, and set up. We were going to meet Steve over the Mt Daly saddle about 5am the next morning. Steve came in from the West Snowmass Creek trail and camped by Moon Lake on Fri night. We ate, chilled, and hit the bags for an early morning wake-up call.
Camp at Cap Lake

Noah and Kiefer

We met Steve as planned. As we got to the top of the saddle, which took us about 40 minutes or so to ascend, we saw a single, lonely headlamp down in the valley by Moon Lake....sure hope that's Steve! It began to move up the slope, so Noah, Kiefer, and I kept going on the "normal" route towards the basin and the hike up to K2. Steve was hauling he usually does......and met us in no time. We continued up to K2, ran into a bit of snow on the north side of it, but got around with no issues. The ridge between Cap and Snowmass was looking long, amazing, and sustained. We got to the summit of Cap at about 9 am. We took a breather, got our harnesses on, and set our minds to a long day on terrain that was going to demand all we had for many, many hours. We knew we were in for a day like none of us had ever had.
The goal for the day!

We started off the summit to the SW, and it looked scary and not at all the "right" way. Let the games begin!
Off the summit to the this the right way?

After a short way, maybe a few hundred yards, we saw the descent into a bowl and the ridge proper. We scrambled down to a place where the wall dropped away from us and we thought about down climbing, but then found a old piton and set up our rappel. Off we went down the cliff, damn glad we didn't downclimb it as it was a LOT longer than we thought.
The rappel

Up the other side....don't knock it over! Noah on his way up.

The rappel put us on a slope greasy with babyheads, loose as crap, and set the tone for the rest of the day! We went down the slope carefully, being aware of our partner's below us. The care we had to take all day long about trundling rocks onto others below us was always on our minds. At the bottom we ran across a knife-edge that makes the Cap knife edge on Cap look like a fricken freeway! I was like a Jenga game, knife edged, teetering rocks stacked oh so carefully, just waiting for some damn fools to come along and knock it all down. Tip-toe, tip-toe, careful, trying to be as light on our feet as possible we gently made it across this only to be faced with a vertical pile of slabs and large rocks we had to go up. Noah led the way...send the young guys first!
The "Jenga" edge! Steve heading across.

Up the ridge we went, sticking to it, following the ups and downs of it as we traveled.
The up's and downs of the day....

We had bomb views of the Pierre Lakes Basin, the Bells, Pyramid, and many miles in all directions.
Looking into Pierre Lakes Basin and the Bells and Pyramid

The quality of the rock was crap...loose, falling away at the slightest mis-touch, and all the boulders and scree we would walk on were wobbling, rocking, and needed to highest level of attention to stay balanced at all times.
The endless ridge...nice stuff.

Sticking to the ridge

The view to Snowmass........

This type of climbing continued for a LONG damn time.......seeming as though Cap never got further away and Snowmass never seemed to get any closer! That's not gonna work!
On we go....the scale is huge!

Endless slabs and loose rock

Looking back to Cap. The red circle is where we rappeled from much earlier in the day!

On we went, being so so careful to keep the amount of rocks being knocked off to a minimum, as it was not possible to keep then from cutting loose. I will say here that all 4 of us, IMO, did a damn good job of protecting the others from being hit by falling rocks. No matter what we did they came down, but none of us were hit by any. Thanks guys for your attention to this BIG issue on this route.
Large boulders to be sure..

The ridge continued this way for most of the day. We kept going, making progress. We kept to the apex of the ridge as we moved forward, now seeing Snowmass appearing to get closer!
The huge "White Boulder"

"Lord of the Rings" type of terrain.....

The true meaning of "Satan's Ridge"

One of the most impressive things to me during the day was the scale, the massiveness, of this place. Everything was huge, views were almost endless, distances were skewed by the size of our world up here.
Another look back at Cap...getting further away

Mike (oldschool) and Steve in out-of-this-world terrain

We finally got to a place where the terrain actually flattened out a bit. It gave us reason to cheer! We could walk a little easier, make some quick progress, and relax just a bit. It was a nice respite, taking into consideration the intense focus of the previous hours. Snowmass lay ahead.
Easier terrain ahead. Naoh and Kiefer

Making good progress

Pyramid and the Bells in the background. Noah ahead.

Noah chillin' on the edge

Ahead lay the spot that eventually stopped us.
Land of Scary Gendarmes

Land of Scary Gendarmes....part II

We tried to go over the top, staying directly on the ridge..not happening. We tried to find a spot to drop down into the gully that lay ahead. Rappel? Go around? We looked high and low and thought a rappel might be in order. Noah found a good spot. Kiefer and Steve went up high to check the ridge again to see if I missed a weakness. They agreed that we should try a different way. I did remember that in the Mountain Project beta we read said that "after negotiating a prominent sub-peak, the ridge becomes an absolute nightmare, with car sized teetering gendarmes and huge scalloping flakes on the walls below them..." The Mountain Project beta also said something about "drop down west via a nasty downclimb to the talus and walk 50 yards until you are beneath a huge rotten overhanging bowl in the ridge. Climb up diagonalling ramp/cracks to the right of the bowl on the north facing wall (5.5 very exposed) to gain a faint rib.."
The portion of the ridge that stalled us. We will return to complete!

At this point we had been going for over 12 hours, Steve was feeling less than fresh, as we all were, and we had technical roped climbing still ahead of us. We were at a critical point in our journey. What should we do? Steve informed us he was done, not feeling well and needed to go down. With the technical climbing still ahead, he decided it was safest for himself and the group if he excused himself and let the others finish without him. He felt that he would hold the group back too long and, possibly, increase the chances of someone else getting hurt. We all decided we would NOT allow Steve to descend by himself. All of us had gotten this far together and together is how we would continue. We all, as a Team, decided to also go down and return another day to finish this spectacular thing we happened upon.

We descended down to the talus and off to Geneva Lake to meet our rides. Stephanie (Kiefers' gf, and Brenda) were waiting for us to drive us out of there. Getting down to the trailhead took us longer than any of us anticipated. By the time we got to the trucks and the girls waiting for us, it was 9pm. LONG day to be sure.

For me this day was by far the most thrilling, most intense, and most satisfying day I have ever spent in the mountains, and that covers a time span of over 30 years, ascents up El Cap and Half Dome, and many others. Steve, Noah, and Kiefer...thanks so very much for being part of a super fine day! I have the utmost respect and confidence in each of you and would go climbing with any of you any time. A class 4 climb or hike of ANY kind will not scare me ever again!

I will finish this report by saying without reservations...this place is scary and dangerous! At one point, with Noah in front of me watching, I tripped up on a boulder, which caused me to loose my balance. I got tossed forward, my backpack, which didn't have a waist belt, fell over my head. I reached out to stop myself from going straight over the edge into Pierre Lakes Basin, 1000 ft below! I knocked a sh*tload of rocks and boulders off the edge, crashing into the Basin. The look on Noah's face.....I thought I was a dead man! The day was one not to be forgotten.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions
Congrats Again
09/15/2010 14:38
Hell of a job you guys. In case you want it, here is a pic of the ridge from Willoughby the day after you guys were on it:

09/15/2010 14:39
I do remember you knocking all those rocks down to PB. Not just a couple. A whole freaking avalanche!

That's another thing I forgot to mention. The rock avalanches. One took me sliding for quite a bit. I imagine the other guys had a couple too.

Out of this world ...
09/15/2010 15:36
FOR SURE! Wow ... I just don't know what to say. I am particularly amazed at the large scale of things on that ridge. Some of that rock looks like stuff in the Sierra. I'll say right now, with the experience/skill level of your group (and the tight comraderie), I have NO DOUBT whatsoever that you guys will get the remainder of the ridge completed (and in style). 8) I look forward to that trip report and am sure it will not disappoint (I need to go now and check my blood pressure which skyrocketed just reading this report). Thanks for much for posting. Glad you are all okay and didn't get injured. Happy trails!

The most extreme
09/15/2010 17:36
I would include this as a part of the most extreme endevour in Colorado Mountaineering. Climb the Northwest Butress on Capitol, do the traverse to Snowmass, ski to the bells, climb and traverse, then scale the north face of pyramid and descend. Alpine style. In winter. Perhaps impossible.

Brad Snider
09/15/2010 19:42
Way to go! Those ridge formations look amazing and absolutely scary! Something to dream of for the rest of us--I know I'll never try it. Looks like you don't have far to go from your bail point to the summit of Snowmass for next time. Awesome TR, thanks for sharing!


09/15/2010 23:14
Steph asked me the other day a really good question. ”Did you actually enjoy the ridge?” The answer wasn't as easy as I expected. Honestly speaking, No. I didn't think it was as enjoyable as I was hoping. The consistent mental focusing and that the difficulties/responsible climbing never let up distracted greatly from actually appreciating the ridge. IMO, at the end of the day, I climbed it just to say I did it. Surprising b/c I wasn't expecting this as an answer.

And THAT is why I love scrambling & mountaineering so much...every climb or outing always holds an unpredictable outcome and an ending never twice the same.
Thanks, guys!!!

So, who's in for Holy Cross' North Face?

Can't get enough....
09/15/2010 23:45
Kiefer - I applaud your honest response to Steph's question. I totally understand your position and your feelings. What happened on Sat required an immense amount of concentration for many, many hours. I'm very glad it was YOU that responded last year when I posted up on 14er's that I was looking for a partner to do this with. I'm up on Maroon this Fri..doing the traverse.

A favorite...
09/17/2010 02:31
Kiefer, as you know, I'm totally smitten by this area...head over heals in love. Several recon trips over the years... My kudos to you and the crew for actually going out and getting it. Nerves of steel wed with surgically technical proficiency... A great team, tackling a tough route.

Gentlemen, and ladies, we breathlessly await the sequel....

Snow-cap traverse near N Snowmass, from the PLB, 9-14-08

emcee smith
09/17/2010 12:39
You guys are an inspiration to us all. Very much appreciate the decision to come down as a group with Steve; a lesson that we could all take more to heart.

Kevin Baker
I'll pass
09/20/2010 22:11
I enjoy challenging ridge runs, but I'm with Brian. No way am I setting foot on that traverse! Just too many things that could go wrong. Glad you guys all came down in one piece.

Well Done - and Good decision to descend!
09/21/2010 00:33
Great story and good thinking to descend. Just awesome stuff.

Raising the Bar!
11/30/2010 17:28
Exciting just to read about the experience and progression teaming up for this attempt. Thank you for sharing the history, research and details regarding this gnarly route. Best of luck to all of you on the 2nd attempt. I believe this is this first multi-authored TR I've had the chance to read on this site. The fact you all chimed in for this TR tells a lot about your teamwork.

Brian C
02/05/2011 00:22
This is really a feat. So glad you all made it safely and what an accomplishment. Mike, I remember you talking about this on Independence. I knew you would pull it off! Major congratulations to all of you!

04/03/2014 18:13
for climbing this ridge, as I am 110% certain I will never set foot anywhere near it for as long as I live. This confirms my theory that the northern Elks and their splintered white boulders are a tettering choss pile that will one day, come falling to the ground in an apocalyptic manner, with hopefully no one within striking distance.

3 words - F**k that ridge. (but kudos to you)

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