By Leslie Hittmeier
On Thursday, June 4, Colter Hinchliffe, Riley Soderquist, and Jordan White completed the first true descent of the North Face of Capitol Peak (14,130’) located in the Elk Mountains in Colorado.
“I would say it was the most exposed and high consequence line I’ve ever done,” Hinchliffe says.
The trio started at midnight with a light-and-fast mentality, and gained the summit ridge of Capitol just as the sun was coming up and the full moon was sinking. “It was a pretty amazing moment for all of use,” Hinchliffe says. “All the tiredness from our 5-hour push went away at that point.”
Upon getting to the top, they realized the original plan to traverse from the ridge into the prospective line was not going to work. The snow was much thinner and steeper than expected, and the traverse was a risk the Aspen, Colorado-based crew wasn’t willing to take. “We finally found a BFR—a big fucking rock” he says. They used the rock to rappel into the most consequential part of the entire line.
“The section of skiing between the first and second rappels was easily the spookiest,” the 28-year-old skier says. The fear of the unknown combined with a steep, exposed slope on thin snow kept the team on edge until the start of the second rappel. From there, the line eases, and the crew enjoyed 1,500 feet of great skiing until the final rappel.
“As I was taking my ski off and getting ready to rappel, I accidentally dropped it and watched the thing plummet over the 250 (foot) cliff below us.” Hinchliffe says. “That’s why we named the line Peg Leg.”
Luckily, he was able to find his ski (only mildly broken) at the bottom of the rappel, and the three skiers made it back to the car safely.
Hinchliffe has had covers on both Skiing and Powder magazines and has filmed with TGR for the last four years; Soderquist is a Minnesota transplant and strong skier who wants to continue breaking boundaries in the ski mountaineering world; And White was the youngest person to ever ski all the 14ers in Colorado and works for Mountain Rescue in Aspen.
Hinchliffe and White completed a first descent off the north face last year called The Plank, but it was much less direct than Peg Leg. Plus they had to incorporate the east face.