Capitol Peak

Date to Climb: July 5, 2009

Date Climbed: July 25, 2009

Elevation: 14,130

Range: Elk

Latitude: 39.15020, Longitude: -107.08300

Route: Northeast Ridge ll, Class 4

Round-Trip Mileage: 17

Pre-Climb Comments

We are going to backpack in to Capitol Lake area to camp the night before. We are too tired to try to do the route car to car. From Capitol Lake we plan to climb the route on Saturday and then pack out. Fun, fun, fun. The rock is supposed to be better than the Bells, we will see.

Post-Climb Comments

From the trailhead, we started on the Ditch Trail. The Ditch is an irrigation ditch to water the livestock. Along the way, we met two climbers who were returning to the trailhead. When asked about camping, they told us site 2 should be open and was a great site. Due to a recent internet post I had read, I inquired about bears. They said the only problems they had were with cows and marmots.

Cows were definitely an issue as we constantly had to shoo them off of the trail and dodge the innumerable patties they left behind. Even in the wilderness areas the cows were grazing and somehow that did not feel right.

The trail was easy to follow with not much of a grade but the cows were a nuisance, do not underestimate their presence!

Capitol Lake from above

Capitol Lake from Capitol

At the camping area we had the choice of sites. We took the advise of the hikers we met and settle into site 2. All went well until the middle of the night when Amy said something tripped on the guy line on my side of the tent. Next there was all kinds of commotion at the foot of the tent as a tent pole snapped. We went outside to see what was happening. Though at the time not completely sure, we thought that a bear had stepped on the tent. In any case, we had to do tent repair in the middle of the night which was particularly difficult since Amy continually looked towards "big sounds" in the nearby brush which took her headlamp beam off of the work in progress.

Amy did not sleep for the rest of the night. We still got up at 4:30. Quickly, we prepared for the day's climb. We hung everything except for the tent, pads, and sleeping bag. The bag was at least 9.5 feet in the air and hanging from a branch about three feet from the trunk. Being at the very edge of tree line, and big trees a rarity, we felt this would be adequate.

We left our bear problems in camp and went climbing. The trail up to the saddle was easy as we made good time. After the saddle we started a long traverse over rock and snow. I was hiking in running shoes and Amy was using lightweight boots. Neither of us had crampons. I had an ice axe and Amy wished she had hers.

Snow field on Capitol

Descending the Snowfield (sorry did not take a picture going up)

Soon the rock gave way to all snow. Luckily we got behind a great step kicker and we were able to make good time in our lightweight shoes.

Below K2 the talus slope slowed us down, but we kept a steady pace. Traversing on the slabs below K2 was tricky. It will definitely get your attention.

Along the ridge, we came to a couple of small knife edges and then on to the real thing. The holds were ample and solid but there was a lot of exposure. If you slipped, you were definitely going to take a tumble. Following the Knife Edge we followed cairns up the ridge and across the slopes to the summit ridge. Then across the ridge to the top. We were looking around on top a little before 9:00.

Captiol summit

Summit of Capitol

Overall, the climbing was better than on the Maroons. The route finding was simple, the rock more secure, and the climbing was nothing but fun.

Returning to camp we had had a visitor. Our Platypus water containers had been clawed (there has never been anything but water in the containers) and our hanging bag was missing. Gone. Amy found the bag down the hill, a good thirty feet away from our site. The bear had ripped open the ditty bag that contained my toothbrush and paste, but did not get into the tubes. He tore the sack for our water filter, but did not harm the filter or hose. He did however eat Amy’s peanut butter bagel. Everything else was unharmed, though a little dirty. (He looked like he wiped his mouth on a shirt I had stored in the bag after he ate the bagel.)

We later found out that the food bag at site 1 had been attacked during the night but I am not sure if they had their food hanging or not. As we left we told our story to all we saw, just to remind them to exercise good bear skills.

48 climbed, 6 to go!

Capitol Peak - July 25, 2009 summit check