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Colorado 14ers: Capitol Peak

Rocky scrambles and a knife-edge ridge lead up one of the most challenging Fourteeners. Stellar views over the untamed Elk Range are endless.

Rating

Some Fourteeners are about as eye-catching as anthills, but not Capitol. It’s a mountain’s mountain, all granite precipices and soaring arêtes. If you’re like most aspiring Capitolists, you’ll hike 6.5 miles to a campsite at 11,600 feet beneath the mighty ramparts of the north face, where the daunting view will have you tossing on your Therm-a-Rest all night long. Fortunately, summit day begins easily enough, with switchbacks up grassy slopes to 12,480-foot Daly Pass. After a brief descent, you’ll climb a bump on the northeast ridge ominously called K2. The much-dreaded Knife Edge lies just ahead. This razorback catwalk at 13,600 feet is less than 50 yards long, but it’s a circus act without a net. Experienced scramblers will hand-traverse with fingers gripping the edge (tip: Stay left). Beginners should rope up and scoot across à cheval, riding the beast like a horse. Show-offs will walk across.There’s more scrambling after the Knife Edge, but now at least the exposure won’t make you whimper. At the top, admire the icy Pierre Lakes, neighboring Snowmass Mountain (another Fourteener), and the craggy redrock peaks to the east. But don’t dillydally: The Knife Edge is even dicier in a thunderstorm.-Text by Dougald MacDonald-Mapped by Lisa Heckel

To Trailhead

From Aspen, take CO 82 N to the town of Snowmass (don’t confuse with Snowmass Village). Turn R onto Snowmass Creek Rd. In 1.8 mi., turn R @ T onto Capitol Creek Rd.  Follow road for 8 mi. to trailhead parking.

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