Glenn Randall Photography

Extraordinary landscape photography from Colorado and the West

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Capitol Peak Panorama



Panorama of sunrise from the summit of Capitol Peak, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado

Capitol Peak Panorama, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado

Capitol Peak is reputed to be the hardest Fourteener in Colorado. From a technical standpoint, that may well be true. As I pursued my Sunrise from the Summit project, however, I found peaks with difficult route-finding in the dark to be more intimidating than Capitol. With my extensive background in high-standard rock-climbing, I didn't expect to get stopped by fourth-class moves. And after all, once I was on the famous Knife Edge, the exposed granite arête on Capitol's northeast ridge, there would only be one possible route. Since I planned to shoot sunrise from the summit, I expected to be back down in camp long before the usual afternoon thunderstorms fired up. What I hadn't anticipated was bad weather at sunrise.


Capitol Peak from the Ditch Trail, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, ColoradoAfter my Eolus and Sunlight shoots, I spent a couple of days photographing abundant fields of lupine in the Sneffels Range near Ridgway, then backpacked to Capitol Lake, basecamp for Capitol Peak, in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen. By 1 a.m. the next morning I was ascending the serpentine trail constructed by the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative. A short ways past the Capitol-Daly saddle, I encountered the first of a series of steep, snow-filled gullies that cut across the traverse into the basin below K2, the bump on Capitol's northeast ridge that marks the beginning of the serious scrambling. These gullies, and the rocky ribs that separated them, turned out to be the first route-finding challenge of the night. I quickly decided it was time to strap on my crampons and deploy my ice ax, as the snow was very firm just an inch beneath the barely-frozen surface. I left my crampons on as I crossed the remaining granite ribs and started up the long snowfield leading to K2. I shed the snow gear a few hundred vertical feet below K2 and arrived on top of this steep, rocky knoll as the first faint light began to show in the east. That dim glow revealed that ominous clouds were already building to the west and north of the peak. This was not going to be a day to linger on the summit.


Snowmass Mountain from the summit of Capitol Peak, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, ColoradoI tried one route down from K2 to the Knife Edge and backed off - too steep and gnarly in mountain boots with nearly 20 pounds of camera gear on my back. I tried a second line and backed off it too. The route-finding was starting to look more challenging than I had anticipated. I considered traversing around K2, but the traverse still held a 50-degree patch of snow perched above huge exposure - no place for a single ice tool and soft leather hiking boots even if I had put my crampons back on. I tried a third line down the rock. Now everything clicked. Holds led to more holds and soon I was confronting the Knife Edge.


It was still dark enough that I could see clearly only within my headlamp's 20-foot range. On either side, cliffs and slabs dropped off into a dark abyss. The granite arête is truly a knife edge, sharp enough to be a great handhold as my boots sought out small footholds with friction slabs in between. For me it was exhilarating but for someone not used to exposure the Knife Edge could be terrifying.


Now the climb became a race between the rising sun and the gathering storm. The base of the clouds was only slightly higher than the summit of Capitol - a sure sign that abundant moisture in the air was likely to fuel a vicious cycle of thunderstorms. The scrambling over talus, cliff bands and loose blocks was tedious but not too difficult and I arrived on the summit half an hour before sunrise. That gave me just enough time to set up the tripod and panorama head for two 360-degree panoramas, followed by some single-frame shots of the enormous, snow-filled Pierre Lakes cirque and Snowmass Mountain as the sun danced in and out of the billowing clouds.


After a short and hurried call to my wife Cora to let her know where I was, I headed down, glancing nervously over my shoulder every minute or two to see if I should start donning rain gear and safeguarding camera gear. The weather threatened again and again, but the dark clouds kept passing north and south of me. Three hours after leaving the summit, I reached my camp just as the darkest cloud yet rolled down the valley toward me. But it too missed, and the sun soon made my tent sweltering. I gave up on napping after a sweaty hour, packed up and headed down to the trailhead six miles away. The weather didn't truly cave in until I was driving through Glenwood Springs, heading home after an 11-day shoot that had been the most productive I'd had in years.

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Glenn Randall Photography  |  2945 Colby Dr.  |  Boulder CO 80305-6303 | Office 303 499-3009  |  Mobile 720 320-7126

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I offer over 100 images on this site, in four or five sizes each and as many as five different presentations (loose, matted-only, framed, gallery-wrap canvas, and gallery float). It is impossible to keep every size and presentation of every image in stock at all times. Accordingly, most of the items I offer for sale on are hand-built one at a time as customers order them. It normally requires between five and ten business days to complete an order, but it may take longer if I am on an extended shoot. Shipping time is in addition to these figures. To get specific information about delivery time for a particular item, please call 303 499-3009 or email me. I will do my best to accommodate rush orders. Thanks for your patience!

All photographic prints, regardless of presentation (loose, matted-only, framed, etc.) are delicate and require careful packaging to be shipped safely. Accordingly, all online purchases will have a 15 percent charge added for shipping and handling. This shipping charge only covers shipments to the continental United States. Please contact me for a quote on shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, or to international destinations. If you would like to pick up your print at my home office in Boulder rather than have it shipped, please call 303 499-3009 (office) or 720 320-7126 (mobile) to complete your purchase and make arrangements for pickup. Alternatively, I can deliver prints in the Denver metro area for $1.00 per mile based on round-trip mileage.

All matted-only and framed prints larger than 24x30 inches, all gallery-wrap canvases and gallery-float prints larger than 30x40, and all framed panoramas wider than 30 inches, are too big to be shipped via FedEx ground and too big to fit in any standard-size art box. While these prints can be shipped, they require a custom-made crate and the cost is exorbitant ($300+). I strongly suggest that all customers who live outside the Denver metro area and who wish to purchase a print larger than the maximums specified above buy the loose version and take it to the custom frame shop of their choosing. Loose prints can be shipped rolled at the standard shipping rate of 15 percent of the retail price. I will gladly provide detailed instructions to the framer on the moulding I use and my preferred method of mounting and framing the piece.

I use elegant hardwood frames on all of my framed prints. The image above right shows the frame I use for the smallest framed size of this image. I use proportionally larger frames with the same color finish for larger prints. The moulding shape will vary, depending on the size. For more information on the frames I recommend for different size prints, please visit my framing page.

Studio Moulding frame 353-125 cherry Studio Moulding Forte 4934 mahogany-finish picture frame Studio Moulding Forte 4834 mahogany-finish picture frame

I allow returns for a full refund (minus shipping) for 30 days from the date of delivery if you are dissatisfied with the print. You are responsible for the cost of shipping the print back to me, including the cost of insuring it for the full retail value, and the print must arrive in salable condition for a refund to be issued.

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