rockcairn logoRockCairn.com rockcairn logo
  • Capitol Peak, Snowmass Trip August 22-24, 2003
  • Elk Range
Capitol Peak as seen from Capitol Lake
  • "If dogs are to be kept on a leash in the wilderness so that they do not harass the wildlife, then what about the cows (not part of wildlife) harassing hikers?"
  • "Hey, cowboy did you drop something? I've been smelling it for the last 3 miles."
  • "Hey, cowboy did you loose something? How about 200 unfriendly trail users (cows)."
  • "Hey, cowboy next time could you think about lighting up the trail traffic sign indicating: Cow rush hour 8-9am., expect delays of up to 20 minutes."
(Capitol Peak)
Summary

Capitol Peak Elevation 14,141ft. (Aug.23, 2003) "Northeast Ridge", trail from Capitol Creek TH and Capitol Lake Campsite. From this TH this class 4 trail runs (17.0 miles rt. with 5,800ft. gain). I had tossed around the idea for doing the whole climb as a day hike, but decided against that because backpacking in would give me the opportunity to climb on Sunday from the lake and not the car if bad weather prevailed on Saturday. The hike from Capitol Lake to the Summit is technical but not long. Also by backpacking  in to the lake you can actually enjoy the climb instead of just rushing in to concur another mountain.

Read More Details or View Slideshow

Trip Schedule break down
Friday 12:00PM -left work (drive to just within 13 miles NW of Aspen on 82)
  3:45PM -arrive at Capitol Creek Trail Head.
  4:25PM -leave Capitol Creek Trail Head headed for Capitol Lake.
  7:00PM -arrive at Capitol Lake campsite.
Saturday 5:15AM -leave the campsite.
  5:45AM -Mount Daily and Capitol saddle.
  6:55AM -summit K2.
  7:45AM -summit Capitol Peak via Northeast Ridge.
  10:05PM -back at campsite.
Sunday 7:15AM -leave campsite to backpack back to TH.
  8:15AM -spend 20 minutes avoiding Cows.
  10:15PM -back at the TH.
  2:00PM -back at Home. (20 minute delay at Idaho Spring...car wreak)

From the parking lot TH the trail goes down a steep set of switchback and towards the bottom you run into a canal or stream which is a bout 2 feet deep and a little difficult to cross because there isn't and good bridge. The log that was there was good for the way down, however on the way back to the TH parking lot  it was much more difficult. One you reach the bottom of the switchbacks there is another creek crossing, but this one has a good man made bridge. The biggest pain about the trail is that the first 4 to 5 miles where you either run into domestic cows or there waste products. I did not have any problems on the way in, however on the way out the cows did create some unnecessary aggravation. The trail in was straight forward until you were only a last half mile away from the lake and run into a number of side trails. There is a section of the trail that does a pretty big switchback up the side of a slope and at the top you have to cross a creek. This creek crossing probably varies in difficulty depending on the season in which you are climbing, in late August no problem.

Just before you reach Capitol Lake you will find an grassy open basin and a couple of signs indicating where numbered campsites exist. In this open basin you will have Daily Pass on your left, the lake in front of you, and good camping spots over the ridge on your right. By the time I choose a camp site, I only had time to put up my tent before it was dark. I had eaten something right before I left the TH on the way in so at least I did not have to deal with cooking food in the dark.

In the morning I woke up to a dark and cloudy sky. I left camp early and made it to the top of Daily Pass in no time. I found the trail around the back side of the ridgeline but ended up going to far to the south before turning to the West (right) and heading up to K2. Throughout the day I was surprised that I was the only one taking this route, everyone else was sticking to the ridgeline from Daily Pass and taking the ridge all the way to capitol. I know that my way was serious easier, I heard from some other climbers, that had taken the ridge route, that they had ended up doing some class 4 moves, There route was an unnecessary risk and really of no time savings.

As I approached K2 I could only hope that it was behind the clouds in front of me. From the summit of K2 I could only get short glimpses of Capitol's summit. Some good advice for getting off of K2 and onto the ridgeline is this, it is best to go off the West side and then traverse back to the North before traversing back to the South and onto the ridgeline. Again on this section of the trail I saw people struggling un-necessarily. I guess the straight line path to the summit always fogs a persons common sense. Once on the ridgeline you run into the "knife Edge" right way. Once past this exciting part the trail, continue down the ridgeline and around the left or Southeast face and onto the summit. The summit is fairly small and should have good views if your weather is good. The entire Elk Range can be seen from this vantage point.

The way back down went faster then the way up and I found a better set of rock cairns to follow. Although the clouds danced around the ridgeline in the early morning, the rest of the day was fine until around 1:30 when the clouds started forming up again. At 1:50 the lighting rocked the Capitol Peak and the rain poured down for about and hour and a half. I was back in my tent resting by that time and just hoping that the aluminum tent poles in my tent would not attract lighting. I had planned to make a decision about staying Sunday night or not. I decide that I would rather stay and enjoy the scenery instead of being hammered by the late afternoon rain storms while backpacking back to the TH.

Sunday morning I packed up and took an early start back to the TH. The hike back would have been great and I was making good time until I ran into a 20 minute cow herd delay. The worst part of the hike out was the smell of baking cow and horse waste on the 400ft. climb from the creek up to the TH parking lot.