September 5th, 2013After aborting our double-header last weekend, we quickly returned to the Elk Mountains to finish the 14ers. With colder weather on the way, and our skills at their peak, we decided not to delay our last 14er at all.
17 miles, 5300' elevation gain- "ditch" trail to Capitol Lake
This year has been a little bit of a challenge. I got sick several times in June and July, which hurt my training and forced us to cancel trips at least 2 times. But none of that seemed to matter with the goal so close at hand. So we set out for another 400 mile drive to Aspen and beyond.
|From our parking spot at the TH, we can see the Capitol Peak summit|
|Uh, what am I doing again? (SZL)|
The trailhead area is quite large and very nice. Immediately, you can see the summit of Capitol peak, which is somewhat unique. Similar to Mt. Whitney, I suppose. The ditch trail starts off in a small Aspen grove before coming into a treeless area with a great view of the valley floor below. And yes, the Capitol "ditch" trail is actually quite nice. Did I mention we love aspen trees?
|Start of the trail|
|Friendly trees and cool mud|
|Storm clouds are building|
|The open area right before the ditch trail meets up with Capitol Creek trail|
|A closer look at Capitol|
|Capitol Lake panorama|
|Beer tastes better at high alpine lakes|
|Another view (SZL)|
We went to bed early but were worried about the wind which seemed to be shaking the tent. We "slept in" until 4:30 AM and quickly realized the wind was a non-issue. We started up the trail around 5AM and found ourselves at the saddle a mere 35 minutes later. But the easy trail was done.
The boulderfield was a test of patience, it ended up being much more work than we anticipated. Once topping the headwall, K2 was a short jaunt followed by a brief scramble.
|Sunrise over Mordor|
|K2 looms ahead, hit with alpenglow|
|I love the reflected light in the foreground (SZL)|
|Climbing up the boulders (SZL)|
|Scott scrambles up the last bit of K2 with Capitol Lake in the background|
|Looking up at K2 (SZL)|
|Capitol Summit from K2|
|Panorama looking West from K2|
|Sunrise looking east|
|Panorama East to South. Castle, Pyramid, Maroon Bells, and Snowmass Mnt. are visible.|
|The three lakes seen from K2 area|
|Getting close to the knife edge, trying to figure out the GoPro (SZL)|
|After downclimbing K2, scott starts on the "Knife Edge" ridge|
|Starting on the knife edge (SZL)|
I took this video while about 1/2 way across on the knife edge, looking back at Scott and trying to help him negotiate the trickiest part. I can't say that my comments are intellectual, something about fatigue and altitude makes you about 30 IQ points less intelligent. Anyway, it gives you an idea of what it was really like for us.
|After the knife edge, looking to the summit|
|After the knife edge, looking back to K2|
|Staring to climb the summit proper after the ridge|
|This section reminded me of the "green gulley" on Pyramid (SZL)|
|I like this (SZL)|
|Looking up near 14,000 feet, it's all good|
|Solid rock! (SZL)|
This video is the last couple minutes as we climbed to the summit. The actual summit ridge is pretty spiney but doesn't gain much altitude.
|Summit! Dan celebrates finishing the 14ers!|
|Scott Lowery, finisher extrordinare, looks dapper in black|
|RIP Karl Heiser, 1981 - 2005|
When I was growing up in Loveland my best friend was Karl Heiser. We got into all sorts of trouble in our adventures but he always kept me safe. Karl left us too soon in 2005, but I still feel that he is watching sometimes. I wanted to dedicate the climb on Capitol Peak and finishing the 14ers to Karl's memory. He may be gone from this earth, but will forever live on in our hearts.
|Summit Panorama. Castle Peak, Pyramid Peak, N and S Maroon, and Snowmass Mnt. visible (L to R)|
|Looking East, Mt. Daly and K2 are visible, as well as the summit ridge|
|Another Panorama, looking S mostly; centered on Snomass massif|
|Scott enjoys the traditional "Summit Snickers"; never did it taste sweeter|
|Scott negotiates down some steep class 3 rock. I loved this section.|
|Scott coming down to the knife edge ridge again|
|Looking toward K2 before the knife|
|Kendrick hanging out at the knife edge|
Okay so after coming across the knife edge once, it's a lot less scary on the way back. I tried to use my South side bypass and do it as quick as possible. You can drop your legs down and then hold on to the flake with your hands to move quickly. However, I do get "stuck" on the middle and I'd need to figure out a faster technique if I want to do a better job next time. It is nice getting it done quickly, you have less time to start "thinking" about it.
|Scott on the knife edge|
|Scott and others on the knife edge|
|Scrambling down to the noth below K2|
|The view from the saddle is serene|
|Capitol Peak summit and Capitol Lake below|
|Capitol Lake from the saddle|
|Lake from lower down (SZL). Perfect colors!|
|Scott quaffs his victory beer 'Hoppenburg Uncertainty Principle' double Belgian IPA|
We got from the saddle to the tent in a blazing 14 minutes, which even included time to stop and snap some pictures. While Scott retrieved our special beers from the fridgid shore of Capitol lake, I started to take the tent down and pack up gear.
We enjoyed some vacuum sealed Alaskan smoked salmon and Ritz crackers with our beers. Scott had a "Wunderlust Belgian IPA" and I had a Grimm Brothers 'Magic Mirror'. After we had imbibed substantial beer, we packed up and set off. But we weren't done with scenery. The clouds again gathered and threatened rain, which made us keep up a swift pace on the way down.
|Grimm Brothers 'Magic Mirror' imperial kotbusser ale|
|A last look at Capitol Peak from our campsite|
|The trail back to the truck|
|Further down the trail|
|About a half mile from the trail junction|
|Reflecting pool, part 2|
|It's a lovely day (SZL)|
|3 miles to go, and about to enter the aspen zone.|
|Lush aspen forests|
|Final view of Capitol Peak|
Less than 2 hours since we set out, we were done. At the truck we were monstrously happy to doff our backpacks, change out of our sweaty shirts, and slip into lightweight and dry shoes. The hike out was beautiful, but it was starting to get pretty hot, and we were ready to be done. We had ice-cold "Absolute Zero" Monster energy drinks and ibuprofen to celebrate the end of hiking. Then we passed an ice-cold soda to Kendrick as he finished the run, and headed down the road.
We ended up celebrating at Rudy's BBQ in Colorado Springs with my wife Nicole and son Alex, and Scott's girlfriend Kerry. All in all, a fantastic day.