Peak(s):  Daly A, Mt  -  13,300 feet
Date Posted:  07/06/2020
Modified:  07/26/2020
Date Climbed:   07/03/2020
Author:  Tony1
 Dilly Dallying Around  

Mount Daly A

Friday, July 3, 2020
South Ridge from K2-Daly Saddle, Capitol Creek
16.4 miles
~5300' total ascent

Party: Tony (Tony1), Ethan

Over Independence Day weekend, I had a couple of friends - Ethan and Andrew - visiting Leadville from Denver. We figured we'd make a little day trip over Independence Pass for a frolic in a very colorful part of the Elks. While Ethan and I were looking forward to a summit of Mount Daly, Andrew was planning a majestic trail run over Avalanche Pass. Daly has been on my list for a while, being the gorgeous orange-striped mountain overlooking Snowmass Village. I couldn't help but notice a couple things about Daly in my preparation for the day:

  1. There isn't a ton of information out there about the route beyond the K2-Daly saddle, and...
  2. I have heard and read multiple reports that the peak isn't all that hard, but it's harder than one would think.

Because of these things, I figured I'd add my experience on this peak to the handful of others documented on I didn't take many pictures, but hopefully the several shown below of the ridgeline above the saddle will prove helpful, and I will try to be verbally descriptive (this is difficult).

Our wake-up call was 4:00 am. On the road from my house by 4:30, we made it to the trailhead and were hiking by about 7:00. This included a stop to poach the Difficult Campground restrooms below Independence Pass. Hand sanitizer was used.

Morning view.

We made our way up the Ditch Trail, mesmerized every few minutes by Capitol looming closer and closer. It's a formidable view; luckily we weren't attempting to day hike that peak. Our conversation at one point turned to the fact that our Mount Daly here is Mount Daly A, implying the existence of another, shorter Mount Daly. We know there are also many Grizzlies, Reds, Greens, Balds, you name it. Mount Sanitas? What if we had so many Mount Sanitas in the state, we exhausted the Excel algorithm and had to move into Greek letters? Nah, Cyrillic letters. I hereby propose Capitol Peak be renamed Mount Sanitas Ya (the backward R). Anyway, we reached Capitol Lake around 9:30 for a break involving food, water, sunscreen, and of course, indulging ourselves in the delectable view of Capitol Peak.

Capitol Lake.

Ethan and I discussed trailhead reunification times with Andrew and parted ways as he began his jaunt up and over Avalanche Pass. We made quick work of the steep trail to the K2-Daly saddle, pausing to helmet-up and go over our first routefinding obstacle.

I've always loved how it goes from white, to orange, to red, and back to white.

From the saddle, we veered climber's left of the exposed rocks on the ridge, contouring up and around them to a window. We went up the scree below and through the window, revealing the rest of the route ahead.

Through the window.

Now, I remember other reports splitting the south ridge of Mount Daily into three sections, as follows:

  1. Flat, class 3 traverse;
  2. Ascending class 3 terrain;
  3. Class 2 hike to summit.

I strongly agree with these designations. Most of the challenging routefinding for us presented itself in Section 1. After the window, we descended slightly and traversed below purple, rocky terrain above. After a minute or two, the purple rocks above us opened up, revealing a slippery, cream-colored dirt slope. We used this slope to gain the ridge proper, and we had to crawl. You've heard of "class 3 grass," now get ready for "class 3 dirt."

Overview of the Daly ridge.

After this, we mainly developed a pattern of using the ridge proper for a few minutes, then descending slightly to contour around a rocky area, re-gaining the ridge, staying on it for another few minutes, and then repeating. Most of our detouring around obstacles occurred on climber's right of the ridge. At all times in Section 1, we were either on the ridge proper or just below it. Notably, we went climber's left around the last obstacle before a noticeable notch in the ridge separating Section 1 and Section 2. Well, we mainly went through it via what was probably a couple unnecessary class 4 moves, but we were able to avoid it entirely on the descent.

One of the several "ridge proper" areas of Section 1.
Bypassing an obstacle in Section 1.

Once Section 2 began, I noticed a couple of cairns whose positions seemed to indicate an ascending traverse to climber's right of the ridge proper. A few minutes of investigating the area revealed this to be incorrect. Generally, we stuck exactly to the ridge proper in Section 2. The scrambling was easy and fun. There was one area in the lower end of Section 2 where we traversed slightly on climber's right of the ridge to avoid a particularly spiky area.

Section 2.
Section 2 spiky area bypass. Not as loose as it looks.
Section 2 views.

Shortly after, the beginning of Section 3 presented itself. The rugged ridge smoothed out as the rock and dirt turned orange. Clouds had been developing and the sky was now overcast, with rain falling on Aspen. We had been keeping an eye on this, but the clouds lacked substantial vertical development as they came together. No thunder, no wind. We pressed on and simply hiked upward toward the summit. At the end of Section 3 just below the summit, there is a final small talus area to navigate through, and we went climber's right. It's a little loose, but not bad.

A very high ladybug!

Above this, we jaunted over to the summit and rejoiced in our successful climb of Mount Daly in a literal weather donut at about 12:30 pm.

View of the Elks from the summit of 13,300' Mount Daly A.
Sometimes you find it just as rewarding to climb not the highest mountain, but the one next to it.

Not wanting to push it too much, we started our descent after a very brief summit break. We descended the way we came, taking care to remember what deviations we made on the ascent. We planned to take our exact route down, except for one area: the "class 3 dirt" just uphill from the window. Is there a better way? That couldn't have been it; it was horrible to get up that 50 feet. I don't want to descend it!

Keeping to the ridge crest when we reached the "class 3 dirt" area, we bypassed it above and looked for an appropriate way down. There didn't seem to be one, well, at least one that seemed it would be easier than what we ascended. Theoretically, one could keep going southward, but that would lead to very cliffy terrain. We decided to scramble down a section of downsloping purple rocks, somewhat covered in slippery dirt. This was the same area we traversed below earlier. It was tedious, but I imagine less so than if we had chosen to crabwalk down the "class 3 dirt." I don't believe there's a good way through this area; its passage requires sucking it up, buttercup, and dealing with the scree and slippery dirt.

We traversed back to the window and stumbled down the last bit of scree around the rock wall to the K2-Daly saddle at about 2:30.

I need this window in my house.

Suddenly, the clouds cleared, and now it felt hot. Hot! Great, I was hoping to avoid getting a sunburn. Reaching the lake at about 3:00, we took a more substantial break to relax for a little while before the long hike out. Luckily, we had more clouds come over, but avoided getting rained on during the hike out. No sunburn after all! We met Andrew at the trailhead just after 5:00 and ventured into Aspen for some dinner, hoping to find somewhere uncrowded, non-wallet-busting, and with a patio for sufficient fresh air. Was there such a place? Yes: Bangkok Happy Bowl. That curry was the cherry on top of the day.

Operation Dilly Dally: successful.

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

07/07/2020 07:39
Nice report that will help when I get back to the "other" mountains around Aspen.

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