Peak(s):  K2 - 13664
Date Posted:  06/19/2008
Date Climbed:   06/18/2008
Author:  cheeseburglar
 K2 with TGC!   

K2 w/TGC
K2 Elevation: 13,664
Vertical Gain: ~4200
Round Trip Time: 8 hours (5am to 1pm), unless you count the false start...

Capitol Peak from the Ditch Trail:

Disclaimer: Photos and their descriptive text are based on real events on the day of the trip. Some of the text in this trip report is likely a complete fabrication. The writing of this report is an attempt at the style of W.E. Bowman. He is most famous for "The Ascent of Rum Doodle", as far as I know.

After a good climb on Sunday it dawned on me that my 36th birthday was on Wednesday. So if I'm still having a midlife crisis, that means I'll live to be 72, which seems like a nice age to live to. The only thing I could think of was to start My Capitol Project (more coming...) on my birthday. I put some feelers out, but the usual suspects either work on weekdays, live far away, or apparently don't have the appropriate insurance coverage for such an adventure. We have a running joke at my office. It goes: "I'd fire you, but I'd have to hire you back tomorrow". So I assumed I could take my birthday off. My one buddy said, "You really are crazy". That is what I'm out to prove here...

I posted on the 14'ers climber connection page, but giving someone two days notice for a mixed climb up Capitol on a Wednesday is probably too much too ask!

Seeing how Wednesday was a full moon with a transit time of about 1am, I figured it was perfect for an alpine start from the trailhead. Of course, I didn't get to the trailhead until 3:15am. I started out but unfortunately had left my good headlamp in my other vehicle. This is where the excuses start... It was pretty much just me walking down the ditch trail with my ice axe and a rather silly headlamp with only two LED bulbs. My real mistake was I read the trailhead sign about this being bear country. Once the warnings go out, even though you know it's extremely unlikely, the mind runs. So I decided to make noise, as you are supposed to. Anyway, after talking and singing to myself and looking into deep shadows for about 5 minutes, I decided there was no way anybody, especially myself, should be forced to listen to me for 1 hours until daylight! Oh, and the moon went behind a high ridge and my headlamp was casting light only about 10 feet... Deep and dark shadows were everywhere...

I returned to the truck and napped. I woke up, for the second time, which is unfortunate because waking up is the hardest part of the day. This is where the potentially fictional parts of the story start. The Great Camillo (TGC) was doing some kind of levitating meditation next to my truck. He said, "I read your 14'ers post. Let's go!"

Off we went. For those of you considering hiking the ditch trail at night, this is a small sample of what you won't see:

The ditch trail is pretty good considering it is still runoff season. There are areas of mud and the occasional cow pie hazard. Now the good news... I did not see a single cow. I hope this means that they only pasture cows there every other year. I know of other properties that do this, because in order to have an agricultural land tax rate you have to pasture cows at least every other year. Of course, it could be that the cows just haven't been moved up there yet. Keep your fingers crossed. Maybe they were just scared of TGC.

The little log bridge across the creek is still in place just upstream from the trail where the Ditch Trail meets the Capitol Creek Trail. The overflow stream was running and required a bit of a hop to get across.

Snow drifts were on the trail between maybe 9500 and 9900. Don't worry, TGC consolidated them by belching loudly. Very effective. Pretty continuous snow covered the trail above 9900 feet. It also was pretty well consolidated, in most places.

Now, TGC talks a lot about his many great exploits. If you meet him, watch your words. At one point I made a comment that he thought was untimely or inappropriate. He just glared at me and halked a loogie at my leg. This is the result.

Oddly, this is also what a leg might look like if you postholed right where a tree covered with snow was below your path.
Actually, most of what TGC told me was not about himself. He imparted much wisdom unto me. Such as this: Read the snow. Areas that are prone to postholing occur around trees, rocks, streams, and grade or aspect changes. He taught me how to continuously observe the slope, aspect, color and texture of the snow. When changes occur, care is required, such as a shuffle step or lessenned gate, to prevent a dramatic posthole event that could result in a bruise or worse!

The headwall below Capitol Lake normally holds snow pretty late in the year. There was a lot there, of course. I put crampons on for this section and of course had my ice axe.

The trail goes to the right in the picture. It seemed to be completely covered with snow. TGC made me take the diretisima straight up this face. It was fine for him but at the top we did have to traverse across some poorly consolidated snow and descend a little. We traversed left to avoid the descent to the lake and summer camping areas (still snow covered) and selected a nice looking coulior that allowed a snow ascent almost to the saddle between Capitol and Daly.

Now, some of you might think my next words will result in bad fortune for me, but I must say them. TGC had a bad case of HAFE. It's not clear it affected him in any way, but it did clear the ridge from the saddle to about 13,400 completely of snow. For those who don't know, HAFE (High Altitude Flatulent Emulsions) is not a serious condition for the sufferer, but others in the party can be adversely effected.

Fortunately, I was way behind TGC. The only reason I was able to stay with him is that he was actually doing a cross training program. He would stop every two minutes and do 360 one handed push ups on each side, followed immediately by 720 handstand pushups and would then tear a boulder off the ridge and do curls and tricep extensions until I arrived.
He made me stay as high on the ridge on this section as possible. Once I tried to descend to easier looking terrain. He stopped in mid handstand pushup and started yelling, which caused the entire mountain to shake. I went back to the ridge.
The ridge has pretty impressive exposure on both side, but after watching TGC do cartwheels and back handsprings across it, I just had to do it.
The slopes below K2 were well covered with snow that was extremely bulletproof after TGC "treated" it. I didn't even need to put my crampons back on!
There is still snow on the southeast face of Capitol, the standard route would require some mixed climbing.

I was about to go down and take a closer look at the knife edge, when TGC requested I take some pictures of him. He wanted them for a diplomatic mission he was recruited for, something about ending terrorism and dictatorships across the globe by sending them intimidating photos of himself. I snapped a picture, but there was a violent photokinetic and exothermic reaction in my camera. Apparently, TGC is too much for the sensors of a digital camera to handle. The camera burned my hand and I dropped it. It melted the snow beneath me and the entire summit of K2 avalanched towards Capitol Lake. TGC saved my life by grabbing a rock with one hand, me with the other, and he then proceeded to play hacky sack with my digital camera and ice axe. I was pretty scared and was screaming like a teenage girl at a Hannah Montana concert for about two minutes until he got bored. He threw me up onto a rock and then kicked my camera and ice axe to me.
The descent was fairly uneventful as long as you consider glissading down the steepest coulior TGC could find a normal thing. He didn't pick one with a very good runout. Descending all the way to the saddle on the ridge might have made more sense!

Snowmass is back there somewhere:

Capitol Lake is starting to unfreeze:

Pierre Lakes Basin has a bit of snow still:

Sopris is not near as impressive from the south but there is still snow:

Hero shot, the old ice axe conquers the slope below the K2 summit!

Comments or Questions

As usual...
06/20/2008 02:47
your adventure on the mountain (with TGC, err in tow)doesn‘t even begin to compare with your wordsmithing prowess! Well done laddie!

Steve Knapp

Great timing!
06/20/2008 16:21
I‘m heading up there this weekend for an attempt at Capitol. Nice beta in your pics. Did you originally plan to do Capitol or was making it to K2 your only goal? Sounds like if we want a dryish campsite we‘ll need to camp below 10k?


Have fun up there!
06/20/2008 19:53
It was more of a scouting expedition, didn‘t really expect to get up Capitol. There are lots of good snow camping places. If you want to stay out of the snow you‘ll probably need to be below 10k. But below 10k it might be muddy and there aren‘t any designated spots.
Glad someone got some use out my silly report!


07/01/2008 05:05
nice photos!


07/01/2008 05:21
Road up is pretty good. I think I drove that road in a 95 Subaru Legacy (low clearance) two summers ago. Takes some doing, but it‘s not that bad. Of course, years ago, hot rodding down that hill I broke a fairly important part of an 86 Dodge Ramcharger when I hit a rock on the side of the road. You can catch a little air off of the water bars if you are going fast.
On a serious note, if Saddam had TGC on his side, the war would have gone very differently.


10/22/2008 10:35
Some really sweet pictures! I have to say though, hiking and climbing that far, it would have been near impossable for me to turn around and accept only K-2. Especially on a bluebird day like what you had!
How was the road up BTW?


too bad...
11/30/2010 17:28
you couldn't capture some of TGC's HAFE fumes in a vial to sell to the government as the next major WMD! It could be The Great Camillo's next great accomplishment...
Maybe that's why we couldn't find any chemical weapons in Iraq! TCG's farts in a concentrated form must have been Saddam Husain's secret source of chemical weapons, but he fled to climb K2 for the 6th time before our troops arrived


Happy birthday Gemini !!!
02/05/2011 00:22
My birthday is the same day....unfortunately I didn‘t have the day off. Enjoyed lakes of sake and mountains of sushi instead at Izakaya Den last night 8).
What a great way of having a birthday coincide with the full moon....


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