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Fall Backpacking and Climbing

By Ann Driggers

I've been wanting to climb Capitol Peak for a while now, but every weekend I had it slated for an attempt, the weather hasn't cooperated. This past weekend it didn't look too stellar either but since there are not too many opportunities left this year we decided it to give it a shot. In any case a backpacking trip up Capitol Creek into the heart of the Elk mountains is pretty darn sweet. So off we went, a happy band of five wannabe Capitol summiters, with a good supply of the necessary staples - bad weather gear, wine and chocolate.

Hiking In.jpg

The sun was shining and although the evening air was brisk and had a distinct autumnal feel, our spirits were high as we ate dinner and settled in for the night. Shortly after dark fell, the show began. Lightning flashed, thunder crashed and rolled from cloud to cloud. One clap was so loud I felt the ground shake beneath me as I lay hunkered down in my little tent and I felt the electricity in the air. Rain lashed the sides of the tent for what seemed like eternity. When the alarm went off at 5 a.m. the next morning I didn't feel like I'd slept a wink. By the light of our headlamps and the moon, we groggily hiked the switchbacks up to Daly Pass. As the sun rose the aftermath of the storm became evident. Capitol's north face was shining white and we crunched over fresh snow the higher we climbed.

Climbing K2.jpg

After an hour or so we reached the summit of K2, a 13,664 foot high bump on Capitol's ridge.

K2 Summit.jpg

To continue on would require some fairly sketchy climbing on snow covered rocks. I had on my flat soled, rock shoes so I opted instead to call it quits. Capitol will be there next summer and I want to be too, so the decision wasn't hard for me. Three of us decided to head back to camp and finish up some of the excess supplies while two of our group forged their way to the summit.

Hiking back.jpg

We were relieved to see the successful summiters return to camp a few hours later, safe and sound, and just as the weather turned bad again. In the midst of a hail storm we quickly broke down camp and headed out. I don't think it was my imagination but the aspens had turned a deeper shade of yellow in the 24 hour period since we hiked in. Fall is definitely here.

Fall is here.jpg

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