6th September 2008 : Capitol Peak (14130 ft)

Capitol Peak and the infamous knife edge! All the guidebooks suggest that the knife edge is the hardest part of any 14er ascent. Since the rock is super solid it is actually quite easy to hang off the ridge and walk your feet along the face - see my helmet cam video. And when things get a bit too hairy just sit on the ridge and shuffle across!

This video clip shows the drop off from the knife edge, which is about 2000 ft I believe. The exposure is intense but because the rock is so solid it feels much safer than the Maroon Bells.

We started at the Capitol Creek trailhead. The road up to it has a few bumps and an SUV helps, but it is passable in a Ford Focus when conditions are dry. We followed the west trail down to Capitol Creek then continued on to Capitol Lake for a high camp at 11600 ft. The walk is beautiful but longer than it looks on the map!

Summit day started at around 5 am, and with Tim’s awesome Black Diamond Spot headlamp there were no real surprises until we reached “K2”. Getting off the main ridge onto the side of “K2” was probably the hardest move of the whole weekend. We chose to go up and over “K2” on the way out, and skirted around the side on the return. Up and over is perhaps better, with a nice downclimb to the knife edge.

After the knife edge we still had a good 75 minutes of clambering up loose rock to the summit. With such lovely weather we spent maybe an hour on the top, and met a dozen other climbers. The descent was slow but steady, and we reached camp at about 4pm. After a quick cup of tea we marched off towards the trailhead. With the last hour in the dark it was a 16 hour hike!

For quality pizza, beer and Scotch the wonderful White House Pizza in Carbondale is highly recommended. And for aching legs nothing beats the hot springs pool in Glenwood Springs!

19th July 2008 : Culebra Peak (14047 ft)

Culebra Peak is near the village of San Luis in southern Colorado, very close to New Mexico. The mountain is on private land, so to climb it you have to pay a fee of $100 and reserve a spot on a particular weekend during the summer months.

Culebra Peak

Since there are so few people hiking on Culebra the landscape feels incredibly rugged and remote, in contrast to Mt Evans or Longs Peak. Definitely worth the $100.

San Luis itself has one inn and a couple of Mexican restaurants. There’s also a grocery store and a few coffee houses. The one nearest the church (on the hill) offers free Wi-Fi.

6th July 2008 : Snowmass Mountain (14092 ft)

My 50th fourteener! This trip had everything - 4WD track, freezing cold creek crossing, lush vegetation, snow bridges, step-kicking, scree, scrambling, and of course, incredible scenery.

Snowmass west slopes and S ridge

We had to begin our expedition in Marble, since the Subaru Outback rental had trouble with the 4WD road. The walk to Crystal was pleasant enough but the extra 5 miles with a heavy pack took its toll later on in the day.

The bridge across Crystal River was under repair (although it was also “under repair” in October 2007) so we had to wade across. With all the snow melting the creek was rather tricky indeed.

Up near Geneva Lake we found the perfect campsite, with running water and solid snow to keep the Wensleydale from going off. We could see the “S” ridge but it was not at all obvious how to get on to it, so the next day we opted for the West Slopes route. Bit of a slog but the views made up for it! We had the summit to ourselves and soaked up the sun for a while.

We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Carbondale, which is pretty decent (better than the Days Inn next door) and has free breakfast and free Wi-Fi. It’s also close to a supermarket.

There are plenty of bars & restaurants along Carbondale’s Main Street, but the best place for hungry hikers is White House Pizza. Great food, local beers, live music, and special offers every day of the week.

16th September 2007 : Sunlight Peak and Windom

Sunlight (14059 ft) and Windom (14082 ft) are in the Weminuche Wilderness near Durango. Both peaks, as well as Mt Eolus, are in the middle of nowhere. The usual approach involves taking the Durango & Silverton train to Needleton, then walking up Needle Creek to Chicago Basin. Very pretty but it makes for a long day.

June 2009 : there is now a $10 “freight charge” for taking a backpack on the train.

My hiking partner injured himself the previous week, so I was on my own but fortunately I ran into two experienced hikers, Josh and Jason. We teamed up and climbed Sunlight and Windom pretty sharpish, since there was a continual threat of thunder and lightning. The weather became so bad that we gave up on staying for Mt Eolus and beat a hasty retreat back to the Needleton stop. There is only one train a day back to Durango so we couldn’t afford to miss it!

Sunlight Peak downclimb

The photo above (taken by Josh Friesema) shows us climbing down from Sunlight Peak. Josh put a very good trip report on his website Hiking in the Rockies

September 2006 : Independence Pass

Due to bad weather (rain and snow) at 13000 ft I aborted my attempt to climb Pyramid Peak. Left with a day to fill I rented a sturdy town bike and rode up CO-82 towards Independence Pass. After two hours of pedalling I turned round and flew back down to Aspen in about 10 minutes!

This “bike cam” video is from me holding the camera in my hand, while doing 40 mph or so. Would have been 60 mph on my Litespeed...