Solo 14er Finish on Capitol, no. 58

Page Type
Trip Report
Colorado, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 5, 2008
Hiking, Mountaineering, Mixed
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Solo 14er Finish on Capitol, no. 58
Created On: Jul 7, 2008
Last Edited On: Jul 7, 2008

Up to Camp

Mountains: Capitol Peak (14,130’), K2 (13,664’)
Route: (07/04) Started at the Capitol Creek TH and camped below Capitol Lake (~10,800’). (07/05) Climbed to the Daly saddle and followed the crest of the 4th class ridge to K2 and continued along the standard N.E. Ridge route from K2, leaving Ridge Direct a little later than usual.
Crew: Prakash and Ice Axe-y the ice axe

Thanks are due to Craig, Steve Knapp and CO Native for the conditions info. I waited 9 months for the conditions I saw in their most recent trip reports. Several times in the interim I had packed and all but jumped into my Jeep to drive to the TH only to be yanked back to reality by doumall or someone else who understood my plight. I hardly thought I would last that long: Patience in Mountaineering 101. There was a 30% rain/snow forecast for my planned first-choice summit day (Saturday) but there’s always a 30% forecast everywhere so I decided to go. I reached the trailhead late on Friday evening and began hiking up the ditch trail enjoying the bluebird day and the fantastic views this mountain offers during the hike up.

5692Capitol from the Ditch Trail

It’s pretty easy to miss the trail cut-off when you lollygag and focus on picture-taking. I ended up following the ditch trail for a ¼ mile too long and had to bushwhack due East to meet up with Capitol Creek trail. The correct branch at the trail junction is marked by a cairn (in the picture I look back at the cairn, circled in red). You will also see signage in the trees past the opposite bank. Here are a couple of pictures taken from the East side of the creek.

5783_modFrom the East side of Capitol Creek, looking at the trail signage in the trees

5784_modlooking at the Ditch trail from the East side of Capitol Creek

I’ve also missed another useful piece of info from past TRs. There’s a log bridge 50 feet upstream of where the trail crosses the creek. I ploughed through cold, fast flowing, and knee-deep creek water instead. While this is fun, there is another option to be aware of. At the headwall leading up to the lake I noticed that sections of the trail off to the right had melted off and I followed it up to a small meadow at approximately 10,800’. Here I stumbled upon the campsite of a group of three climbers carrying ropes, planning an early attempt the following day. It was completely dark by now and I asked if I could set up camp in the vicinity. They graciously Okayed the request. I went to bed at 11PM with the alarm set for 3AM.

Ascending to Daly Pass

After the customary morning flirtation with the snooze button I began hiking under headlamps at ~4AM. The other three climbers set off a little earlier. I soon passed them and left the trail, heading up close to Capitol Lake. I would use an easy couloir I’d seen the previous evening, heading up from the lake to the Daly saddle. I fleetingly assessed the crusty early summer snow. Crampons were unnecessary. Close to the top the snow was hard packed and I fished out my axe. I never saw the other group of three for the rest of the day. The actual trail is to the climbers left of the couloir I used, and is completely free of snow all the way up to the saddle. I was up at the saddle in time for sunrise and munchies.

5696Daybreak on Daly Pass

5703Sun rises on Daly Pass

Past the saddle there are a few gullies to be traversed. Though on suncupped Easterly aspects, these gullies were sort of bulletproof early in the morning and kicking steps across them took a little work.

5704Kicking Steps

Another group of three young climbers from Montana came up behind me. These folks were attempting Capitol for their first 14er along with Elbert the following day.


I looked across at the standard route up to K2… annoying talus hopping followed by a gentle snow slope up to K2’s summit.

5711Snowslope up to K2

The Ridge: Daly Pass to K2

The Class 4 ridge crest from Daly pass seemed like a more interesting alternative, much more so. I climbed snow up to the base of the ridge.

5712Base of the Ridge from Daly Pass 1

5714Base of the Ridge from Daly Pass 2

One of the climbers from the group from Montana followed me for a bit but then decided to head for the standard route while the other couple followed me up the ridge. The ridge has some fine 4th class moves with a small knife edge thrown in.

5715Knife Edge

Here’s a picture of the couple following the path I’d climbed down to a few feet below the ridge crest.

5721Ridge from Daly Pass 1

Once you commit to the ridge, you will find the most solid rock by sticking to the crest. There is plenty of choss lower down. I quickly climbed back up after my investigations down below.

5722Ridge from Daly Pass 2

There is one point that looked intimidating from afar but it turned out to be much easier than I thought. I stayed right on top of the ridge crest to get to it.

5717Ridge from Daly Pass 3

The other two climbers decided to head back down and find the standard route. They were concerned about the down-climb on the other side of the point. I thought they had shown fantastic resolve up to this point, (especially considering that this was their first 14er) and was a little disappointed to see them turn around here. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t follow a solitary madman with ‘eXtreme’ imprinted across the dome of his helmet either. I scrambled up to the point. It was exposed 4th class climbing at the hardest part. There was no drop off on the other side. The other side of this point is visible in some of my other pictures in this report.

5723Ridge from Daly Pass 4

Clouds came in from time to time but cleared away. There appeared to be a large storm system off to the North/NE but it didn’t appear to be moving towards me. Here is a sample of what lies on the ridge past this point looking towards K2 and Capitol behind it.

5725Ridge from Daly Pass 5

And here’s looking back at the couple from Montana and the section of ridge I had climbed…

5728Ridge from Daly Pass 6

There was a little more exposed 3rd class scrambling to be done before K2

5730Ridge from Daly Pass 7

The climbing was not difficult, but there was some overhanging exposure and I took time to plan my moves. It was still early in the day and I had plenty of time.

5732Ridge from Daly Pass 8


The difficulties ease up all of a sudden and the rest of the way to K2 looks like this.

5733K2 from the Ridge

Here’s a picture of the easiest route around K2 that avoids bagging the summit… snow-free.

5735K2 from Closer Up

Here’s that famous shot of Capitol from the summit of K2.

5736Capitol from K2

5737Upper E. Face Difficulties

I climbed down the slabs off K2. I didn’t see the group from Montana below me and I figured they turned around.

5739Getting off K2

The Ridge to Capitol: Knife Edges

Contrary to what I’d heard, there was a lot of loose rock strewn all over this mountain although not as bad as Pyramid or the Bells. There is solid rock on the ridge crest and that’s where I stayed for as long as I could. I found myself meticulously three-point climbing the whole route. There are actually three knife edges on the first half of standard NE ridge route. I was surprised that one of them takes all the glory. Perhaps this is because it’s easier to cheat on the other two. Here’s the first one just below K2.

57421st Knife Edge 1

…and here’s looking back at it. This knife edge can easily be traversed via ledges (footholds) at a convenient distance below the edge.

57431st Knife Edge 2

Five minutes later the second, more popular knife edge appeared. I used an assortment of techniques to cross it. (1) Straddled and shimmied across some of it (2) Bent forward and grabbed the edge, stood up and walked over the edge while sliding my hands forward (3) Grabbed the edge and walked on ledges to the climber’s left. I lack the few extra millimeters of ball required to balance-beam the whole thing. I am sure more worthy climbers here possess this added ability.

57462nd Knife Edge 1

57472nd Knife Edge 2

Here’s a close up of the edge from half way across… pretty sharp.

57482nd Knife Edge 3

The third was a mini-knife edge about 10 feet long and appeared 5-10 minutes after the second one. Again, this one is easier to avoid if necessary.

57503rd Knife Edge

However, I felt the knife edges and the first half of the ridge in general were easier than the loose-rock-ridden Upper East face.

5757Upper East Face 1

Here’s looking back at K2 and the ridge to Daly.

5758Ridge to Daly

I met another climber from Glenwood Springs who was making his way down off the mountain. He and I were the 2 who summitted of the 10 I know of that set out on Saturday to summit.

The Upper East Face of Capitol

I never found a satisfactory description of the upper east face in many of the trip reports and route descriptions I’ve read so I tried to get in some pictures that illustrate it better. The route past the knife edge is cairned exceptionally well. Where a cairn was missing, I followed a common-sense route and dependably found the next cairn.

5761Upper East Face 2

Large, precariously positioned blocks of rock are prevalent.

5762Upper East Face 3

5763Upper East Face 4

Where there is no loose rock there are steep slabs that provide good holds for short periods of time. The cairned route momentarily takes you around to the back of the summit block that is not visible from K2. I found patches of manky summer snow at spots. Many of the snowfields could be avoided but I had to traverse 2-3 steep ones. The snow was loose and slid easily under my boots. This is melting fast though and I’d be surprised if it was around next weekend. Crampons would’ve been useless here and I booted across the snow while holding on to the occasional rock hold that I could reach overhead. Cairns continued to be found aplenty. On this section of the climb, if you are off route, you will soon know.

5777_modUpper East Face 1


I made summit as thunderheads began forming for the day.

5765Summit Ridge

I was elated and yodeled long and loud as is to be expected on a worthy opponent like Capitol. Unfortunately the summit register was smashed. There were a few pieces of paper with illegible writing, and no pen. Here’s an interesting little side project for the next climber headed up there.

5767Summit Block

Five minutes later I had successfully bellowed away all the pent up frustration of the last several months waiting for this summit, but still grinned from ear to ear like a d-bag while I grabbed my summit photo on ‘teener #58.

5768Summit Shot

Here are some summit pans beginning with the traverse to Snowmass…

5770Traverse to Snowmass

The Ridge to Daly pass…

5773Ridge to Daly Pass

Capitol Lake…

5766Capitol Lake

And Pierre Lakes basin…

5769Pierre Lakes Basin

Descent to Daly Pass

I would’ve liked to spend a good hour on summit but Capitol is a weather-magnet like all other fine peaks the world over. 10 minutes later I began my descent following the cairns. I’d say it was my identical ascent route. Halfway through my descent I met Larry and Howard making their way up. We chatted briefly and I headed down. They then assessed the weather situation and decided to abort their summit bid. Here’s another pic of the Capitol-Snowmass traverse timed with their turn-around point.

5781Traverse to Snowmass

Loose rock below the ridge crest continued to be a problem. At one point I reached up and plucked an ostensibly solid boulder twice the size of my head and brought it crashing down to a ledge below my feet as Howard looked on. Three point technique saved my life here. Incidents like this occur occasionally to remind you how quickly things can turn tragic in this sport. I down-climbed with these two for a while and then decided to glissade to the elevation of Daly pass and traverse across to it. The glissade filled my pants with wet snow. I was freezing and decided to take off after waving goodbyes to the two who had decided to stay high on the traverse.

Pack Out and Conclusion

The hike to Daly pass went quick and there were a few more short glissades to be had on the way down to the trail. I broke camp in the middle of a downpour and began the hike out, cold dirty and hungry as hell. I grabbed a few more shots of Capitol on the way out. The trail junction of the Ditch-Capitol Creek Trail is visible at the bottom of this picture .

5785Capitol on the Way Out

I was back at the Jeep at around 8PM. The chassis groaned as I unloaded my pack… It was either from the weight or my Jeep’s way of saying “Whoa! You reek boy”. I stared at these boots for a while.

5787Crusty Ol' Boots

Kindly indulge me in this last lachrymose reflection of mine. When I started out on Longs in August of '06, I thought I’d be an "experienced-climber" when I was done with the 58. Now it seems like there’s no such thing (to restate the obvious) and I’m still a gaper although slightly more de-sensitized to cold, pain and suffering. There are just varying levels of insanity and “gaperdom” from what little I’ve seen. I’d like to dedicate (it’s little, but the least I can do) the completion to my wonderful family and friends who waited on tenterhooks for the past several months, for my phone calls when I went climbing by myself. Thanks are also due to all my climbing partners who came along for the ride and co-workers who checked the missing climber’s lists on Monday mornings.

P.S.: Congrats Kirk on a solo ascent of Pyramid in less than favorable conditions. Glad you made it out safe.



Post a Comment
Viewing: 1-16 of 16

northface28 - Jul 7, 2008 1:15 pm - Hasn't voted


Great to read the report. I am actually the kid from montana that followed the standard route.Thanks for mentioning us. Great to hear you made the summit. We couldn't be more upset about turning around, but we will make the drive back in 4 weeks with the right gear for the first 14er. Firt time to Colorado and I'm hooked


maverick - Jul 7, 2008 9:26 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congrats!

I was pretty impressed you guys considered an attempt on Capitol for your first 14er man. How did it go on Elbert?


TJ311 - Jul 7, 2008 2:21 pm - Voted 10/10


Congrats on your completion of the 58. Love the trip report and great pics!


maverick - Jul 7, 2008 9:28 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Awesome!

Thanks TJ311. It was a fun ride.

Alan Arnette

Alan Arnette - Jul 7, 2008 4:15 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Report

Nice TR and pics. Well done. Thanks!


maverick - Jul 7, 2008 9:29 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Report

Thanks for stopping by to comment Alan, I'm honored.


MarthaP - Jul 8, 2008 8:31 pm - Hasn't voted


An EXCELLENT trip report and certainly, for those looking to attempt the route, as informative as possible by utilizing both clear pictures and descriptions. Congratulations and well done!


maverick - Jul 9, 2008 3:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Excellent

Thanks for the kind comment.


jwproulx - Jul 9, 2008 2:48 pm - Hasn't voted

Ah, freedom!

Nice way to finish it up. The only thing missing was the can of Dale's at the summit!

Now that you've freed yourself from the tyrrany of THE LIST, what's next? Or is it just time to spend some Saturdays munching on Fritos, sipping beer, and watching baseball?


maverick - Jul 9, 2008 3:52 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Ah, freedom!

Thanks! My buddy weiser was going to come along to summit but I forgot him back in my refrigerator (d'oh). I'm glad to be rid of the list but there's no R&R in the plan for now.

CaLculAted Risk

CaLculAted Risk - Jul 9, 2008 8:54 pm - Voted 10/10

Great Trip Report!

Wow. Now I see why this trip report made the front page. Great description of the climb and loads of pictures for the reader. Congrats on your completion and thanks for writing up such a good report.


maverick - Jul 10, 2008 11:06 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Great Trip Report!

Thanks for the comment. I love writing these. Hopefully the beta is useful.


AubreySun - Jul 9, 2008 10:17 pm - Hasn't voted


Well done, Prak!

Very few trip reports make me laugh, but I can always count on yours. You've brightened many boring days at work ... when I randomly I burst out laughing, I get weird looks from the people in the cube farm outside my office.

I also look forward to being "free" from that "list." Don't get me wrong, I love the journey and I LOVE 14ers, but I don't want to be owned by anymore lists (for at least a while, anyway).

Ah, the freedom to climb whatever, whenever. I hope to taste that flavor in a couple weekends ...

Congratulations, again! Not only have you climbed them all, but you've climbed some extremely challenging routes! No shortcuts to the top for you.

Perhaps you should take a weekend off now, eh?



maverick - Jul 10, 2008 11:11 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Suh-weet!

Thanks man. Perhaps some day in the future these reports will help me wax garrulous about my climbing days :). Good luck on Wilson Pk. It doesn't look like I'll get a rest weekend. The wheels are in motion pulling me the other way although I'd really like to rest a shoulder injury.


MountainHikerCO - Jul 9, 2008 11:04 pm - Voted 10/10


You finished them up for the first time with a great climb.


maverick - Jul 10, 2008 11:13 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Congratulations

Thank you. Capitol instantaneously became my favorite climb ever. It was less technical and challenging than Winter Ascents and other 14er routes I've done, but this climb was definitely special.

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