Capitol Peak and Castle Peak

16 Aug 2001 - by Bill Strand

Jim, Steve, and myself departed Fort Collins at 8am August 16th bound for Capitol Peak. We arrived at the trailhead at approximately 1pm after having to back partially down the 4wd road because a gentleman in a Subaru Legacy was unwilling to navigate a section of the road. This is a good road to have a high clearance vehicle or to be adept at navigating you medium clearance vehicle. We did see several Subaru's at the trailhead so it is possible. The pack in to Capitol Lake is beautiful on highway of a trail. After about 2:30 we arrived to select a suitable campsite slightly below the lake in a wooded area. The view of Capitol is truly impressive from Capitol Lake and the Knife Edge can be seen from here. We departed camp at 6am and climbed to the saddle between Capitol and Mt. Daily. There are some trail markers/trail construction markers along the way. From the saddle you drop into the valley on the east side of Capitol. From here it is a long ascending traverse across an immense talus field with a final climb up the ridge to K2. From K2 we made several 4th class moves to get to the ridge. Maybe a 15' section of 4th class. We then traversed the ridge for several hundred feet to the "Knife Edge". It truly is a knife edge about a hundred feet. We found a combination of straddling the ridge and walking along side it worked. The ridge makes for excellent photo opportunities. After the knife edge the route follows the ridge a ways further before climbing up an left onto the face left of the ridge crest. This area contains many short steep steps and lots of loose rock on down sloping benches. Care must be taken to not dislodge rocks or yourself. The finish of the climb to the summit emails a ascending traverse further left of the north ridge. We reached the summit around 9:30am. The summit is quite small and has an outstanding view down to Capitol Lake 2,800 ft. below. We encountered approximately 10 persons on the peak. On the pack out we passed at least 30 persons headed in to climb Capitol on Saturday. That must have been interesting.

On Friday evening we drove to the trailhead for Castle Peak just past the town of Ashcroft. The forest service has limited camping to six official sites. This is different from two years ago when I climbed Castle. We started at climbing up the road to the Montazuma Mine at approximately 7:30am and reached the summit around 10am. There were many climbers on Castle including the first climber I have seen smoking a cigar while climbing. Once again the Elk Range is a beautiful place to climb. Climb safe and have fun.

Mary Gilbert adds:

Sounds like you had a great trip! One comment: If you traverse to the south side of K2 and then climb north to it, it's no worse than third class stuff as I remember. The route kinda zigzags up the rocks.

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