Early Trail to Capitol Lake

Saturday morning began with a 21-mile run on the Highline Trail in Denver with fellow Air Force team mates preparing for the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct 28. That evening at 10:00 P.M. I returned from Colorado Springs to Denver Int'l Airport to pick my wife Laila up from her flight from Salt Lake City. We drove straight from DIA to Carbondale, Colorado arriving at the Days Inn just after 2 A.M. The plan--backpack in to Capitol Lake the next day and ascend Capitol Peak on Monday for my 54th of Colorado's 54 14,000 foot summits.

But first we had to sleep--which we did all the way up until just before check out time. Turning on the news we heard the first reports of bombs over Kabul...

Sam, Steve, Laila Bremner at camp site on Capitol Creek

Thankfully we would be escaping the "news" with our sojourn into the wilderness.

But first we had to make the obligatory stop for a noontime breakfast at the "Red Rock Diner". We read yesterday's NY Times brought from Col Spgs as we savored "Veggie Omelettes" and coffee.

After a bumpy ride in the truck we arrived at the trailhead to Capitol Creek in mid afternoon...over an hour later and we had finally assembled our unwieldy packs. We were travelling in comfort--I even packed our queen-size blowup mattress. With rope and sundry gear we each were packing heavy loads.

Sam the Wolfdog chews on old Horse leg bone
Steve makes a camp fire--a rare occurence
Laila and Sam with Capitol Peak in background (doesn't it look wicked with the snow cover?)

I had been up this trail twice before. Laila once. The extra time I had been up the Capitol Creek approach was on Dec 21st, 1999 under the largest full moon in 100 years. It was cold though and new snow hindered our progress. At that time after seven hours plodding we didn't even reach Capitol Lake before giving up.

This time I noticed at the west end of the parking lot a map at the trailhead showed a new trail. I had read of this trail in Roach's new guide and though he stated that it was longer since it offered better views we chose to follow it. The trail stays high above the Creek drainage and after a stint through woods opens into spectacular meadows. Finally just short of two hours into our hike the trail traversed left meeting up with the main Capitol Creek Trail after crossing the creek proper. With our heavy packs biting into our shoulders we decided to relax and set up camp next to the creek...the same camp site we had used last year when we turned back near K2, discouraged by steady rainfall.

Setting up the tent and situating ourselves we relaxed into the setting with a couple hours daylight to spare. Why not gather a bit of wood and make a <rare> campfire? I normally avoid campfires. But here well below timberline we decided that if we simply gathered old wood from the forest floor we may well contribute to the ecological benefit of this area...that is by removing "fuel" from the forest floor we would do our part to avoid future forest fires. Ignorant people who cut down "green" growth (usually horse campers) are the enemies of good camping techniques.

Speaking of horses...Sam found a horse leg (!!) complete with shoe iron, which he made into his special personal "project".

Laila crosses creek to camp site
Ascent to Daly Pass--Steve with Capitol Lake in background

This was great. The ambience of high peaks, nearby creek, atmosphere, good cookin'...nothing like it in the world. This is why I keep coming back to the mountains of our glorious state. I feel truly alive in this setting--why not keep returning to it?

That night we were awakened continually by periodic rainfall. What would that portend for the next day? Would we be successful? I had my doubts.

Finally at 0615 I insisted to Laila that we had to get rolling. The sun was not yet up, but we had a full day ahead of us and we would need all the daylight hours we could gain in order to make a successful bid on the summit.

By shortly after 0700 we had left our camp site and were heading up the trail towards Capitol Lake and Daly Pass.

So far so good was the order of the day as far as weather was concerned. The temps were "brisk", but by no means unbearable. We steadily made our way higher towards Capitol Lake. Once near the lake, which we did not approach, our next project was the 1K+ foot ascent to Daly Pass. Piece o' cake! Steady as you go, one step after the other was all there was to it!

Page 2, Capitol Ascent
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