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Capitol Peak
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Capitol-Snowmass Traverse T 
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Northeast Ridge (Knife-Edge) T 
Northwest Buttress T 

Northeast Ridge (Knife-Edge) 

   
Type:  Trad, Alpine, Grade II
FA: unknown
Page Views: 13,108
Submitted By: Furthermore on Aug 17, 2002

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Dan Bayer with the Aspen Times too the photo.

Description 

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 climbing is very easy; however, there is a lot of exposure. Once past the Knife Edge ridge, scramble to the summit.

Protection 

If you decide to take a rope, you will need a limited rack.


Photos of Northeast Ridge (Knife-Edge) Slideshow Add Photo
The famed knife edge double toe hook! (Warning: Objects in photo may appear steeper than they truly are!) Mom loved this one....
The famed knife edge double toe hook! (Warning: Ob...
Capitol Peak in Winter - Taken from the Knife Ridge looking back at K2
Capitol Peak in Winter - Taken from the Knife Ridg...
Josh Howell descending the Knife Ridge after blasting the NW Buttress in October, '95 or so.  We got absolutely hammered by weather shortly below K2.
Josh Howell descending the Knife Ridge after blast...
My cool father-in-law Jack Carey getting ready for the climb in the 60s.
My cool father-in-law Jack Carey getting ready for...
The always cool and collect Jack Carey on the ridge. No need for the gold line rope.
The always cool and collect Jack Carey on the ridg...
Rodney on the knife edge.  Capitol Lake on right, Snowmass on left.
Rodney on the knife edge. Capitol Lake on right, ...
On the Knife Edge Ridge.
On the Knife Edge Ridge.
Clint on the infamous Knife Edge.
Clint on the infamous Knife Edge.
Coming up to the knife ridge in excellent summer conditions
Coming up to the knife ridge in excellent summer c...
Winter 2009 - Jordan White makes the final moves to the summit.
Winter 2009 - Jordan White makes the final moves t...
Heading down the Knife Edge back to "K2."
Heading down the Knife Edge back to "K2."
Moving along the ridge about 1/2 way before K2.
Moving along the ridge about 1/2 way before K2.
Climbers on the Knife Edge Ridge.  Photo taken from the summit of K2.
Climbers on the Knife Edge Ridge. Photo taken fro...
Winter 2009 - the summit ridge.
Winter 2009 - the summit ridge.
"Knife-Edge": Capitol Peak.
"Knife-Edge": Capitol Peak.
Jeff enjoying one of Colorado's truly special summits
Jeff enjoying one of Colorado's truly special summ...
Sunset at Capitol Lake...Jeff has a hole in his neck
Sunset at Capitol Lake...Jeff has a hole in his ne...
Walkin' the line.
Walkin' the line.
Starting out the full ridge. The rock here was great, only to get worse as the day went on.
Starting out the full ridge. The rock here was gre...
The Knife Edge ridge looking toward the summit.
The Knife Edge ridge looking toward the summit.
The entire route from near the summit, July 2003. K2 is the peak to the right, Daly is behind to the left. You can make out the knife edge just in front of K2, as well as the overhanging cliff that forces you to drop north from K2.
The entire route from near the summit, July 2003. ...
Clint along the ridge.
Clint along the ridge.
On the Knife Edge Ridge looking back towards K2.
On the Knife Edge Ridge looking back towards K2.
The view looking down from the Knife Edge.
The view looking down from the Knife Edge.

Show All 24 Photos

Only the first 24 are shown above.

Comments on Northeast Ridge (Knife-Edge) Add Comment
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Comments displayed oldest to newestSkip Ahead to the Most Recent Dated Jul 11, 2013
By Jordan Kidd
Jan 22, 2003

The most dangerous part of this route is the traverse around the north side of K2. The north face of K2 is a pile of rubble waiting to slide to the valley floor, with a helpless climber along for the ride. A helmet is advisable from K2 to the summit of Capitol. After crossing the knife edge, stick closer to the ridge. Trending left (south) will put one into steep and loose areas.
By Kato Tsosie Dee
May 23, 2003

If you approach Capitol Peak from Snowmass Creek Trail be careful when you look for the West Snowmass Creek turn-off to Moon Lake. It is not obvious and you can easily end up marching towards the Maroon Bells. The trail cuts across a nice, grassy pasture (lots of cattle) about 1/2 mile from the trailhead. We encountered a lot of bushwacking in parts of the trail (maybe because we were off trail?) all the way to Moon Lake. From Moon Lake, it is straightforward to K2. We did not rope-up on the Knife Edge since it is very solid and there was a queue of climbers lining up at the start. There is lots of loose rock from the Knife Edge to the summit. WEAR A HELMET!! You cannot trust that those above you are as conscious about sending rocks down as you are.
By George Bell
From: Boulder, CO
Aug 25, 2003

Did this last Saturday and it was a hoot! Excellent solid rock all the way. Rather than trying to traverse around the N side of K2, I recommend going to the top of K2, then downclimbing the NW face of K2. This is steep but excellent solid rock. The remaining ledge to the notch south of K2 was not bad at all.

It is quite reasonable to do this peak in a day from the car. It is a similar day to climbing Longs via the trail although maybe 15% longer in mileage, vertical feet, and a tad harder technically. Of course you want to start before sunrise to ensure getting to the top before the thunderstorms. We used the longer Capitol Creek approach as this sounded easier to navigate in the dark. We opted to leave the helmets behind and this turned out to be a reasonable decision. Due to rain overnight and many clouds in the morning we saw only 3 other climbers on the route and we were careful to avoid dropping rocks on each other. Half the route is on a ridge so there is no rockfall hazard there. If the upper part of the route was very crowded I suppose a helmet would be a good idea.

For "extra credit", some of our party bagged Mt. Daly on the way back, this is the peak north of the pass above Capitol Lake. This ridge is much looser and unpleasant, more like the rest of the Elk Range. Still the second half of the ridge is very easy and has some great views back toward Capitol.

A rope isn't needed IF everyone can handle the exposure (assuming dry rock). Clearly, if rain is threatening you don't want to go past the knife edge.
By Anonymous Coward
Sep 1, 2003

Another tip to make this route easier, especially if you are doing it in a day:

As you gain the saddle near Daly from the lake, head 90 up the ridge instead of dropping down. From there you will cross 2 gullies. Follow a cairned route that hugs very close to the bottom left hand side of a cliff band. This is class 3. It always seems improbable, looking like it might cliff out, but it goes very reasonably. Doing the approach to K2 this way saves a lot of elevation loss and gain as well as time.

I hiked in one way and out the other trail. Both are very scenic and very different. I suggest checking them both out.
By Joseph Proulx
Dec 9, 2003

I did this route alone last July. Here's my take:

Approach: Roach's approach description for Cap. Cr. trailhead is very accurate. The Capitol Creek trail is excellent. I hiked out on the alternate trail (contouring along the west slope of the valley) and found it tiresome. It's perhaps more scenic and avoids the 500' rise to get to the trailhead; but it's also longer, has ups and downs, and the portion near the trailhead is rather muddy and ugly.

Getting to K2: The trail from Capitol Lake to the Capitol-Daly saddle is also very good. After that, I recommend dropping down low. The class 3 traverse is rotten, tedious, and slow. I dropped down to the valley on the way back, and thought it was a lot nicer -- a bit more elevation, but better than thrashing across rotten couloirs. With care, you can avoid most of the unpleasant talus below K2. I second George Bell on hitting the K2 summit.

Knife Edge and beyond: The knife edge is 4th class, but it's amazingly solid. Great hands and feet all the way. I took a rising traverse once the ridge started to look tough, and it was a bit loose. This made the climbing seem harder to me than on the knife edge. I wouldn't bother with a helmet -- but there was nobody near the summit when I was there. Maybe a helmet is prudent when it's crowded (though less so than on the Keyhole route on Long's). You probably won't find yourself below another climber on this route unless you drop low.

Capitol's summit is among the best in Colorado. The summit views alone would make this climb a must-do.
By mark felber
From: Wheat Ridge, CO
Jul 30, 2005
rating: PG13

I stayed fairly high after reaching the Capitol-Daly saddle, staying on the ridgeline itself and dropping down below the cliff band would have been a better option. Using the summit of K2 as George Bell and others suggest is also a good option, worked well for me.

This is an excellent one day outing from the Capitol Creek trailhead, physically challenging but no real route finding issues or technical difficulties. Staying high along the entire summit ridge from the Capitol-Daly saddle to the summit eliminates most rockfall danger unless parties are ahead of you. Definitely start before sunrise, and try to do the route midweek when traffic is at a minimum to avoid rockfall.
By Jason Wine
From: Denver, Co
Aug 15, 2005

Did the full ridge last weekend and found the ridge before K2 to be more difficult than expected. Route finding was easy; we stayed up high on the ridge. It isn't any harder than 4th - low 5th class, but it is very exposed and the rock is all very loose. Many sections had me wishing I was on a rope. Not sure it would have been useful to bring one though, that rock offered little in the way of pro.
By Jeff Lord
Sep 23, 2005

This climb is certainly doable in a day but Capitol Lake is a spectacular place to camp. The "alternate" Ditch Trail is definitely preferable...if you find the correct route. It is especially easy to get off route on the return and end up on a social trail that leads to more elevation, bushwacking and frustration. Look back and take detailed mental photos on the way in as you approach Capitol Creek.

We did this climb in 7:15 round trip from high camp at Capitol Lake on 8-29-05 (a non-holiday Monday). There were no other campers at Capitol Lake the night before and there were no other climbers whatsoever on the mountain during our climb. The weather was the most perfect we've had on any Colorado mountain climb. The rock is remarkably solid by Elk Range standards, and the summit is one of the most spectacular of the Colorado 14ers.
By scotthsu
From: Los Alamos, NM
Oct 11, 2008

Trip report from our climb of Aug. 21, 2008.
By Canon
Dec 14, 2012

Did it in August 2011, from the Daly Saddle I went direct from the saddle along the ridge top to K2.... Very obviously less traveled than the knife edge and has a lot of loose/suspect rock. Be very, very suspicious.
By Eric Klammer
From: Boulder, CO
Jul 11, 2013

Awesome! If you want solid rock and maximum fun and exposure, STAY ON THE RIDGE! On the way to the summit, we followed what appeared to be the most traveled route and found ourselves routinely dropping off the ridge on loose, gravelly trails and then shortly after having to climb back up to regain the ridge further on. Coming back we decided to follow the ridge crest as directly as possible and had a blast! The rock was solid, the exposure exhilarating, the climbing enjoyable and never more than 4th class. From K2 to summit took us about 35 min on the way up and maybe 30 min on the way down.