Conquering Capitol Peak with Honey Stinger

Honey Stinger Hive

Colter Hinchliffe admiring the sunrise from just below K2

Capitol Peak came a calling our names again this year with an incredible amount of late season, sticky spring snow.  It’s always an interesting dilemma on the logistics side when there is no snow down low, but an insane amount up high.   Capitol Creek was no different and as Colter, Riley and I started our trip out with skis and boots on our backs and shoes on our feet, it made it slightly better to have a full moon to tackle the 8 mile approach with.  We rolled out of the parking lot at around 12:30 AM in hopes of being on the summit early morning.

We spent most of the night walking or skinning by just the light of the moon and the slog really went by rather quickly.  Having transitioned to skis around 3.5 miles in, it was a welcome relief when the first booter up to the Daly-Capitol saddle came in to view and we were allowed to switch muscles for about 1000 feet of climbing.  I make it a goal to stuff my face just about every time I transition and this morning was no exception.  For a line like we’ve had in mind, I was going to need all the energy I could get.  After eating a Honey Stinger waffle, some chews and a gel, it was up and away to the saddle before transitioning again and slamming a bar.  I’ve been on quite a few lengthy expeditions with Honey Stinger product and to this day I haven’t really become tired of it and still enjoy it.  That’s not something I usually say about energy food.

 

Honey Stinger

My rations for the 18.5 hour day. It got me through!!!

We drop in via headlamp and do a super icy dropping traverse into West Snowmass creek.  And put skins back on for the next 1000 feet up to K2.  ‘If you are hungry, it’s too late’ is the motto I live by (and try to act on) when it comes to mountaineering, so I keep emptying my pockets as we come up and get our first light of day just below K2.  We couldn’t help but dwell on the moment and snap some photos of an incredible sunrise before reminding ourselves that we had to climb east facing terrain to get to our summit.  We skin for another 10 minutes and the skis are replaced with crampons as we start our traverse around K2 and on to the knife edge ridge.  The conditions are prime for easy walking on most of the ridgeline and once across the flat section of the route we start our final ascent to the peak up 60-65 degree snow and rock sections before finally topping out on the summit ridge and traversing the final 100 yards to the true summit.  Half the battle is over, and I begin to stuff my face with more food than I’m hungry for, knowing full well that our descent is going to take plenty more energy, and will likely not leave any time for another meal.

 

Honey Stinger Hive

Riley Soderquist and Colter Hinchliffe climb some of the steeper snow and rock en route to the summit.

After some deliberation we decide on the north facing line but decide that the traverse in is unreasonable.  Good thing we have ropes!  A 150 ft rappel puts us on skiable snow and after a couple hundred feet of 60+ degree skiing we have another short 30 foot rappel.  Following that we all give a small sigh of relief and get down to skiing 55-60 degree terrain for the next 1500 feet before we hit the final 400 foot rappel and build an anchor.  We all rappel to the ends of our ropes and find a crack to build our last anchor that will get us all the way down to the relative safety of the apron.

 

Honey Stinger Hive

K2 looks on as we traverse the flat part of the ridge before the final push to the summit.

We reap the reward of another 1000 feet of corn turns to the lake and find a big boulder to crash on for a few minutes to reflect and just look at our line.  Cherry Cola Chews are my favorite, and I made sure to have no shortage of them today.  Another pack hits my belly before we shuffle our way down to our shoes and load up for the rest of the walk out.

 

This is easily the most committing line any of us have ever done in Colorado, and we feel lucky to have found it in good condition and to have finished it safely.  On the walk out and while BBQing in the parking lot, we christened the name Peg Leg for our new line.

-Hive Athlete Jordan White

 

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