Peak(s):  Capitol Peak  -  14,138 feet
"K2"  -  13,664 feet
Date Posted:  09/16/2014
Modified:  10/23/2021
Date Climbed:   09/14/2014
Author:  DanielL
 Treasures of Autumn: Finisher on Capitol   

Capitol Peak: The End of the Beginning

The season of the 14er finishers has arrived! The lofty accomplishment of climbing all of the Colorado 14ers has long intrigued and fascinated me. However, I didn't really think it was an option until an exciting climb of the Crestones traverse in 2011. It was by far the hardest climb I had done, but I realized that none of the 14ers had a higher difficulty rating than that traverse. The idea of someday finishing the many 14ers that I had left became a goal, and each summer, I climbed as many new 14ers as I could.

At the beginning of 2014, there were only 8 left. However, in that list were Little Bear, the Maroon Bells, Pyramid, and Capitol, which I still consider the 5 hardest 14ers. One by one, peaks were successfully climbed until there was only one left - Capitol. As much as we had tried to get this one in previous years and throughout this summer, each opportunity fell apart due to busy schedules, injuries, or bad weather. Eventually, a window of opportunity opened up. My sister Angie has been my climbing partner on many 14ers, and she also had only Capitol remaining. After a busy Saturday, we set out late in the day to catch a short sleep at the Capitol Creek trailhead.

Perhaps we slept fewer hours than intended, but regardless, we were in high spirits as we set out at 2:30 on the ditch trail. The sky was clear and we could just make out Capitol against the stars, faintly illuminated by a half moon. After 6 miles of hiking on gentle terrain, we arrived at Capitol Lake. The dark shape of Capitol loomed against the dark sky, and we could see a sprinkling of snow high up on the peak. Excitement continued to escalate as we hiked up the solid trail to the K2-Daly saddle and daylight started to appear on the horizon. From the saddle, the solid trail all but disappeared, and we had to scramble down and across a loose gully to get to the main traverse below K2. However, the sunrise was beautiful.

After a long talus-hop traverse, we got our first glimpse of the rocky slope to K2.

The crux of K2 was a short, exposed scramble directly up the small ridge to the summit.

Atop this, we got our first good look at the great peak. Wow! Just wow!

After a somewhat sketchy down-climb of K2, we were on the dramatic ridge of Capitol. Apart from Little Bear, I was never so nervous on a climb as I was then, and this was a much better kind of nervousness! Seeing the rugged summit of Capitol so close and yet so far was quite a sight to behold. My nerves quickly calmed, however, as we started traversing the narrow connecting ridge. This was actually a lot of fun!

After a short scramble, we were at the Knife Edge.

I'll go ahead and give my opinion of the Knife Edge. It's not difficult to cross, and neither of us felt that it lived up to its reputation. Yes, it is exposed, but at no point did I feel at risk of falling due to any committing move. In fact, some of the terrain past the Knife felt just about as difficult and exposed.

Soon, we were on the other side of the ridge and looking up at steep, complicated terrain below the summit. Best route? I'm not sure. We started by traversing well below the ridge, following cairns, but were uncomfortable with climbers above us and climbed up a long buttress, all the way back to the ridge crest.

We were still on the low traverse when we saw an airplane low in the valley:

Up the steep buttress:

Getting even steeper:

After the lengthy climb up the buttress, we were back on the ridge crest. Some more steep climbing, but not far now!

The snowy face of Capitol:

After another exciting ridge scramble, we were on the top of number 58! Woohoo!

Happy finishers!

We basked on the summit for a while in beautiful weather, reveling in the beauty of God's creation and chatting with other climbers on the summit. We had a clear view of the other Elk range 14ers, covered in a thin layer of snow, and some pretty awesome lakes on either side of Capitol. I don't think that the "finisher" stood out to me as much as having summited Capitol. This is truly an awe-inspiring mountain!

The descent:

Just below the summit, we ran into another climber (eskermo) who was on his finisher as well! In fact, we had met him on Pyramid and Culebra, our previous two climbs, which makes three in a row! Congratulations on the big finish!

Along the descent:

When we got back to the Knife Edge, we met up with another group led by Ted (mtn_nut). Unfortunately, one of Ted's partners suffered a serious fall on K2 later in the day (the fellow in the purple pants behind Ted in the below pic). Thoughts and prayers for a complete recovery for Justin!

Ted on the Knife Edge with his team behind:

Back across:

Upon returning to K2, we attempted to traverse around, instead of going back over. The traverse was surprisingly snow-covered, and we only made it halfway around K2 before we had to climb back up to the top.

Back up to the ridge crest:

An awkward move on the crux of K2:

Class 4 is done, now for Class 2:

Almost back to the Daly-K2 saddle:

Upon reaching the saddle, we both breathed a sigh of relief. Capitol was now behind us!

We then enjoyed a beautiful hike down the Capitol Creek valley, bursting with early fall colors!


Well, it's hard to believe it has gone by so fast! I'm grateful for God's protection over the years, and for the support of family and friends. As I'm now only 18 years old, I have relied heavily on other hiking partners to drive and lead climbs the past years - especially my sister Angie, who has put up with me and my wild climbing ideas. Getting the driver's license this year is a step up in both opportunity and responsibility. Sometimes I hear, "So now you're done with mountain climbing, right?" No way! I believe that this is only the beginning. What's next? We'll see! Thanks for reading.

Comments or Questions
09/17/2014 01:16
Nice trip report. Was the airplane one of those that drop fish fry into the mountain lakes perhaps?

Congrats to both
09/17/2014 03:00
18? And NOW the introduction is over.

09/17/2014 05:07
Congratulations! Isn't it a fun climb? The hardest I've done so far, but my favorite. You climbed it the day after we did.

Nice man!
09/17/2014 13:55
Congrats on the finisher.

Good Job!
09/17/2014 19:08
Congrats on a fun mountain and for finishing!!! It was fun to bump into you on Humboldt 9 months ago or so! Keep it up!

To you both
09/18/2014 02:11
Congratulations on finishing! And on a fine peak too.

Thank you
09/18/2014 23:18
Thanks all! I appreciate the kind words.

jsdratm: Yes, I believe that the airplane was stocking the lakes with fish. I couldn't be certain but it seems to make sense.

Climb on!

09/20/2014 03:10

10/24/2014 05:03
Nice work Daniel! It was a pleasure climbing with you on Pyramid.

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