Capitol Peak is one of the most challenging fourteeners in Colorado, and yields some good technical routes including the Northwest Ridge. Standing at 14,130', it is one of the most impressive mountains in the Elk Range with its amazing north face. Unlike some of the other mountains in the Elk Range, Capitol has very solid rock which can make the climbing very enjoyable, and the views from the summit are very rewarding and spectacular.
Capitol Peak can be approached from either the Capitol Creek Trailhead or the Snowmass Creek Trailhead. Both of these trailheads can be reached off of Colorado 82 south of Glenwood Springs. For detailed directions to these trailheads refer to either Dawson's or Roach's fourteener guides.
Depending on which trailhead you decide to take, you need to reach the summit of K2 which is a point northwest of the summit of Capitol. Starting from the Capitol Creek Trailhead, you have a longer approach. While starting from the Snowmass Creek Trailhead, you have a shorter approach, but have to battle 2 miles of boulder hopping. From K2, descend down the ridge towards Capitol Peak. This is where the fun starts. You can decide if you want to use a rope on the Knife Edge ridge or not. The...[more]Browse More Classics in CO
One more ? regarding the Northwest ridge route, one guide book says to use crampons and axe in the Slingshot Couloir, while another book just says go up it. I'd rather not bring the extra weight, anybody know the truth of the matter? (I'll put up a fully detailed description of the route once I do it and have the facts straight.)
I would recommend leaving the crampons at home and do the 5.9 more direct start instead. Otherwise the crux of the climb may well be getting across and up the couloir and onto the rock. Also, if there is another party above you, the couloir will probably funnel any rockfall right on top of you. And believe me, climbing the NW ridge without generating any rockfall would be an incredible feat. I personally don't think it could be done. Well, maybe if you free solo it so your rope doesn't knock stuff off all the time.... There's so much loose rock everywhere, that knocking a golfball-sized piece down can start quite a scary chain reaction.
Cool area and a great place to spend a few days. Camped at Moon Lake for 3 days and never saw another person in the basin! (4th of July weekend as well) Found some cool rock to play around on, and if you've already hauled up the rope for a technical route, it could make for some rest day fun. Check above for photos and details.