Type: Trad, Alpine, 2000 ft (606 m), 13 pitches, Grade IV
FA: unknown
Page Views: 21,601 total · 91/month
Shared By: Julian Smith on Jul 4, 2003
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac, Tyler KC

You & This Route

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The Northwest Buttress is a fantastic journey up a crack system that turns into a steep arete going up the north face of Capitol Peak. It is among the best of the technical routes to be found in the Elk Mountains, but it still has loose rock in some places. From Capitol Lake, continue south around the lake on a pack trail to Capitol Pass at 12,080. From the pass, work up talus to the southeast or left until the bottom of the face is reached. Traverse left for 30 feet to the beginning of an obvious crack system that leads to a chimney. Fixed gear may be visible.

Pitch 1 - Climb a finger crack that ends with a traverse left to a roof. Crank through the roof to gain a stance. From the stance, clip the old fixed bolt, and climb into a crack system that begins almost horizontal and arches up and to the left. This section is wide. From the top of the crack, crank through another small roof to a stance. Jam the off-finger crack (crux) above the stance to a belay of fixed slings beneath the chimney. 5.9.

Pitch 2 - Get into the chimney with a hard move and continue up to the end of the chimney on a slab. Belay at an anchor of fixed slings. Be careful of loose rock on this pitch. 5.8.

Pitch 3 through 5 - Scramble or simul-climb a low angled slab and gully system for 400 feet to the base of the Unicorn Spire. Through an easy, but obscure line, climb past the Unicorn Spire on the right and continue up and right past a rotten spire to regain the crest of the arete.

Pitch 6 through 10 - Climb the steep arete for several pitches to gain a small saddle on the ridge proper.

Pitch 10 to 13 - From a fixed piton belay at the end of the saddle, climb a crack system up to a very loose roof. Crank through the roof and go up and right. We belayed from a fixed piton. Continue up over slabs to the summit.

The Knife Edge Ridge is the descent route. It is a good idea if someone in the party is familiar with the descent. It is long and complex. The Northwest Buttress route is very committing. After climbing the 1st 2 pitches, you are pretty committed to climbing the whole thing and coming back down the other side. Use Lou Dawson's guide as a reference with a topo. Roach also gives a good description, but has no topo. The route gets sun hit fairly early, with the bottom of the face getting the sun the latest.


Take a light alpine rack and a bigger piece, maybe a number 4 Camalot for the 1st pitch.