Peak(s):  Clark Pk A  -  13,580 feet
Capitol Peak  -  14,130 feet
Date Posted:  08/11/2018
Date Climbed:   08/10/2018
Author:  doggler
Additional Members:   Evans24
 More Kent than Griswold  

More Kent than Griswold - Capitol, Clark, and more talus than you can shake a stick at

Clark Peak. Likely seen by many without ever given a second thought by those climbing its more famous neighbor Capitol, this stout mountain has plenty to offer. Likewise, despite being a bicentennial, only four trip reports have been written about Clark. I'll tell you right now - Clark is not a four trip report kind of mountain. It challenged me and earned my respect.

The view that never gets old - hiking to Capitol Lake

My friend Stef was looking for a partner for her #57 on Capitol, and so I began hatching a plan. We could camp at Capitol Lake, climb Capitol, and I could linger for an extra day and give Clark a go. When I informed my wife of my plans, she didn't seem to concerned. I mean, how tough can a mountain named after the main character in National Lampoon's Vacation be?

Sure enough, after a brisk pack in the night before and a 5AM start, we had topped out on Capitol just before 8AM. Our early summit combined with a favorable forecast convinced me to continue on to Clark. I parted ways with Stef just after crossing back past "K2".

Looking east toward Clark from below "K2". Pt 13,200 is the obstacle in front of Clark, and Sketch Ridge extends left from there

I had read the TRs posted by Eddie, Natalie, Greg, and Darin a couple times through and knew that the Clark's west ridge could be approached a few different ways. I didn't recall any of them coming from Capitol, though. That got me wondering - had no one bothered to try the "K2" - Pt13200 ridge yet? Or did it not go?

Yeah, not gonna bother figure this one out. Wandering Dutchman couloir.

After a short backtrack, it was on to plan B - drop down to the left, gain the ridge that extends north from PT13200, follow to PT13200, down the next saddle, and then a hop skip long scramble up Clark. Problem was, plan B gave me fits. Gaining the ridge was no small task, and once there I found myself on top of, underneath, and next to a plethora of loose and nasty fractured rock. Eventually, the occasional cairn appeared. This coincided with the rock quality improving enough to breathe again, leading me to believe that I may have gained the ridge further north/left than I should have.

Approaching the low point in the ridge - nothing looks especially appealing
Closer now - still looking pretty sketch.
OK, this is just gross.
You can trust this...right?

Sketch Ridge was not fun.

Finally - the west ridge of Clark Peak. Pierre Lakes behind, and the Bells and friends beyond.

From the saddle....actually, from before then, from the second I got on that first ridge, all the way to the summit, the rock became progressively less loose. Clark's long ridge featured a bunch of fractured rocks with huge vertical exposure - some of it was weird, where there would be two parallel rocks that extended at least 25 feet out of darkness only a few feet from each other. They reminded me of glacier crevasses. But...they were for the most part solid. Ish. Elks solid. Think Hagerman's SW ridge.

Summit walk - likely the easiest steps taken on Clark
Looks like there's been a few visits to these parts this year. Dominic and Sarah on NYE? Savage.
Summit, looking east. No thanks.
Pierre Lakes, a bunch of rocks, Snowmass Peak, Hagerman, and Snowmass Mtn.

While on the summit, I pondered my descent options, or rather my return-to-camp options. Sketch ridge had unsettled me a bit - nothing I did on the way up had asked for more than a couple class 4 moves, but some of the moves...moved. That's not a good thing. I knew that if I decided to descend from the Clark/13200 saddle, go around the ridge toward Moon Lake, I would be committing myself to multiple miles of talus-hopping. Given the choice of death by stupidity or an afternoon hopping rocks, I chose the latter.

Descent gulley on north side of Clark-Pt13200 saddle.
My feet hurt just looking at this. Moon Lake is just below the mess straight ahead.

At some point, I plopped down on a large boulder and took a snooze that Greg would be proud of had it only been on the summit. Eventually, I turned the corner above Moon Lake, and saw something pretty special - GRASS! I was so thankful for something soft to walk on that I didn't even notice the 700-ish feet of ascent required to get back to the Capitol-Daly saddle.

Capitol-Daly saddle

As I made my way up and over the saddle, I took a look at some of the handiwork done by the CFI crew I got to help out back in 2015. Kind of cool to see that the trail improvements were in good shape.

Some of the trail work done with CFI in 2015


Eventually the long slog back to camp was done. 4PM. I had dinner, packed my stuff up, put on my big boy pants, and began the 6 mile trudge back to the trailhead.

My first cliffside bear hang.
Talus badges
18875_17 18875_16

A lesson in balance


Cowpitol Creek approach
Some years, this is the crux of the route

So some final thoughts on Clark. I found it to be hard. Had I only done Clark? From Pierre Lakes? Hmmm...sure? I'm sure that's no walk in the park. Every account I've read talks of the talus we're all so fond of. That sketch ridge, the one extending NE from PT 13200, the one that Darin and Carson had gained? That thing sucked. Definitely on my short list of "never again" places. Loose has always scared me more than exposed, and most everything I encountered around Clark fit the former bill well. Subjectively, I found Clark to be more difficult than Pilot Knob and U.S. Grant, but I feel like that may be a minority opinion.

Capitol? I hadn't climbed it in 8 years, and didn't realize I'd missed it. What a GREAT Fourteener. Scenic approach, idyllic camping, routefinding, sustained exposure, sustained's the crown jewel of the 58.

And I'm given a grand send-off.
Having issues with uploading .gpx. Here's a screenshot of my tracks.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

Same here
08/11/2018 20:36
Loved Capitol for 2nd time around, and hated the talus to and from Clark. Went for miles. Ultra Raptors were the only thing that saved me from limping too hard. And 13,060 B? It's like Clark, only worse in some respects - steeper/looser talus to the saddle, more talus in the basin and mud/loose rock up the face. Yeehaw.

Summit Lounger

I'm watching you
08/11/2018 22:56
and keeping track of your summit time. Clark A is one of my favorites. Congrats on your climb.

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