17 Miles RT
I have been patiently wanting Capitol peak for quite sometime now. I have coveted the granite rocks that tower above the valleys below the Elk Mountains and the beautiful face. Finally opened a window of opportunity. The weather was looking nice all week and it was time to Man up.
We began the weekend leaving Colorado Springs sort of late Friday evening after Ben got off of work. Beware, if you are driving from aspen, Snowmass Creek Road isn't a clear turnoff. Basically, if you reach Basalt, go back 2 stop lights because you went too far and the other way there is a giant sign that can't miss. We arrived at the trail head at about 1230AM and decided to camp under the stars rather than in a tent. Other than getting eaten by the world's largest mosquitoes, it was a gorgeous night with a full moon and a beautiful sunrise. Ben, Matt, and I met Jason and Kim for breakfast at the trail head and we went all out with eggs, bacon, hash browns, corned beef hash, tortillas, OJ, and Coffee.
With our full bellies and packs, we stepped off at about 9:30AM.
Ben Comments: "Are there rocks ahead? If there are, we all be dead."
Matt replies: "No more rhymes now, I mean it."
Ben: "Anybody want a peanut?"
After about ¼ of a mile along the ditch, Matt and I removed our shoes and socks and went dirty hippy style for the next few miles to the main river crossing in our bare feet. I felt like Bilbo Baggins or something. Along the way we began to get excited about our climb.
We were simply enamored with the fact that we could see the spectacular ridge throughout most of the climb.
"This is true love - you think this happens every day?"
Finally we began to cross the river. It was easy not having shoes, Matt and I kept moving. Kim was the only smart one and carried water shoes. Because of her due diligence:
"She doesn't get eaten by the eels at this time."
Eventually, we arrive at Capitol Lake. We head up through the campsites and find one that suited us rather well. We were able to get two tents setup in Site 7. Don't plan on having a fire up there because they are not allowed. It's a bummer too because there is all this dead wood just sitting around. Oh well. Up until the last hour or so the weather had been pretty beautiful. Around noon, the dark clouds rolled in and it rained and even hailed/sleeted some. Eventually a weather window opened
"All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right... and who is dead.
Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while."
"Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line"! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha…"
After three of us took a couple of refreshing jumps, it was time to get back to camp. I jacked the hammock that it took Matt over 2 hours to make out of the climbing ropes for a quick snooze.
After the hammock jacking, it was time for some tasty dinner
All though our faces don't look completely impressed, our $0.42 mashed potatoes, $0.98 Sardines, and $0.18 Ramen noodles all mixed together never tasted so great. Less than $2.00 fed 3 grown men! If you need to stretch the food, just add more water and the potatoes will expand. As soon as lunch was eaten, it was time to throw the food up in the bear bags from trees. Fortunately it wasn't the bears we were so worried about.
Kim said: "What about the R.O.U.S.'s?"
Micah: "Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."
For the rest of the evening, it rained more than not and so we squeezed 5 people into the 2 man tent for a little game of gin.
Around 9, we were all headed to bed and Matt off to his hammock for a good bit of whiskey and to sleep man style at 11,700' with only a bivy sack…
I shouted to Matt: "I do not envy you the headache you will have when you awake. But for now, rest well and dream of large women."
A few hours later, Ben and I hear a knock at the door of the tent…
"And you friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless! Do you want me to send you back to where you were? Unemployed in Greenland!"
After about 20 minutes of Matt Shivering, we all 3 finally slept for about an hour like sardines in our 2 man tent.
We awoke at 3:30 AM to a bright starry sky and a full moon ready to go.
"We are men of action, lies do not become us."
After pumping our water, we began our climb in the dark to the top of the pass about 900' up.
In no time, we were at the pass and viewing the sunrise to the East.
After dropping below the ridge proper, we saw the backside of the pass and how much snow was present. We were going for the low class 4 route but it got a bit chossy for the liking of the group. After a while, we backed out and opted for the true ridge proper. Due to the fact that none of us knew the name of the ridge or what it held, Kim took the liberty to name it "Nasty Ridge." We contemplated the ridge and what it would withhold for getting to our goal.
Jason pulls Kim aside: "A word, my lady. We are but poor, lost circus performers. Is there a village nearby?"
Kim responds: "There is nothing nearby... Not for miles."
Jason: "Then there will be no one to hear you scream."
Let's just say that after that ridge, the Knife Ridge along with the rest of the route was a Godsend. The ridge proper scrambling and exposure was truly much more dramatic than the rest of the capitol route where we were welcomed by the solid granite on the infamous Knife.
With Matt looking down on the team, we wondered…
"He's right on top of us. I wonder if he is using the same wind we are using."
This is how much snow you are looking at back there.
After debating where to cross the snow after the arduous ridge, we finally decided on a portion. While crossing the snow, we realized how much faster it would be to take the snow to the summit. It was just soft enough to kick safe steps without feeling the need for the crampons that we left at camp.
We finally arrived at K2 and realized that you have to climb the other/left side up chossy 4th class rather than the standard right side of the summit. It was already 9 am after all of the back tracking and then the ridge proper trekking and then cooking oatmeal breakfast along the way. From the K2 summit, we had clear skies around the entire cirque.
Like a boss, Matt traversed the Knife Ridge as if it were a gymnastics balance beam.
"HE DIDN'T FALL? INCONCEIVABLE."
It was then my turn when Matt asked:
"I don't suppose you could speed things up?"
I said: "If you're in such a hurry, you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do."
Then it was off to Kim:
Ben says: "Hello there. Slow going?"
Kim says: "Look, I don't mean to be rude but this is not as easy as it looks, so I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't distract me."
And finally Ben…
"And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva…"
After the knife ridge, we were getting sorta tired but all had it in us for the summit.
"We'll never succeed. We may as well die here."
Nearing the summit block. Matt and Ben decided to take the route to the right side and Micah and Kim to the left. Shortly after the split, Ben may have well peed in his pants as he took the scare of his life when his 2 ton foot hold broke loose under his monstrous behind! He lept forward for his life and luckily grabbed onto a solid rock as giant monsters tore down the mountainside to the valley below. Had we all took the same route, someone below would have surely been smashed. I wished I had a picture of his face as we kept moving.
Matt says to Ben: "I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo Montoya, you will reach the top alive."
Ben says as they rope up: "Throw me the rope."
Kim and I split off the right and continued to the most standard route. Not wanting to cross a small snowfield to see what lay beyond, Kim and I pulled some somewhat overhung 5th class moves on solid but juggy rock. Here is where she really impressed me with her mountaineering skills.
"Humperdinck! Humperdinck! Humperdinck! "
Finally after a short level traverse, we all met up and reached the summit to Matt beginning the party.
I drop a half Mast flag salute for Kevin Hayne who had passed away from a Tragic Accident on Little Bear the weekend prior.
And finally Ben…
Getting ready for our group photo as the clouds seemed to begin threatening. I remind the group that we were only half way after Ben made the following comment.
"No, no. We have already succeeded. I mean, what are the three terrors of the Fire Swamp? One, the flame spurt - no problem. There's a popping sound preceding each; we can avoid that. Two, the lightning sand, which you were clever enough to discover what that looks like, so in the future we can avoid that too."
We then took the obligatory group summit shot.
"Have fun storming the castle!"
We made our way back to camp as the clouds chased us.
We arrived back to camp to remove our boots for a while and pack up while we searched for the six fingered handed man. We departed with the rain still threatening. If you find some trekking poles in site 7, those are Ben's and he would like you to bring them down for him in return for a tasty beverage.
6 quick miles later, we arrived at the car with burger fixings waiting for us. We invented a new burger which Matt named "God Burger" because if God could make his perfect burger, this would be the next best thing. It was a beef patty, 5 strips of bacon, a fried egg, onion, and mustard. That's how a man eats after a journey!
The glorious summit played peek'a'boo out of the clouds as
I just kept thinking: "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."
See you at the top!