For this climb only my brother Matthew could make it with me. I was originally thinking about Square Top A, but alas, the construction on Guanella Pass makes that trailhead a weekend trailhead. So I did some research and decided that Pettingell would be a good choice. I thought the distance would be fairly well within Matthews range and the gulch is supposed to be gorgeous. Plus, if we couldn’t summit at least we would have a beautiful lake as a consolation prize (Herman Lake).
We left Aurora at 7am, but traffic on I-70 was bad and we didn’t make it to the trailhead until almost 9am. The approach through the forest was fairly uneventful at first. Fairly early on we saw some Columbine growing in the shadows of the aspen trees. I was impressed, they are so beautiful and to be honest I had never seen them before. They were large, colorful, and amazingly beautiful.
I love Columbine flowers!
A gentleman who was passing us as I was enthusiastically taking pictures commented that if we liked those few Columbine, we would be in for a treat because there were many more up ahead. I was excited, and was keeping an eye out for more of our state’s flowers growing on the forest floor. In fact, when the forest gave way to a meadow my brother spotted some more. There were three of them sitting around a tree, which I proceeded to capture in photograph.
I don't think I could ever get tired of these flowers.
We were so enthralled with those three that we didn’t notice what was around us. When we turned around we saw the entire meadow open up. It was filled with Columbine, growing from every nook and cranny, fields and fields of them, mixing with other flowers of every shape size and color. It was a myriad rainbow of sub-alpine beauty. I have never seen anything more amazing in my life. I can truly say there is nothing more spectacular than walking into a meadow that opens up into hundreds and thousands of gorgeous Columbine. And they smell nice too!
Patch of Columbine.
Sunflowers and Columbine.
Columbine with a peak in the background. I don't believe this is Petteingell, I don't think you can see it yet.
Hard to see, but its a beautiful combination of colors with Columbine, sunflowers, and indian paintbrush.
The view back the way we came accross the meadow.
Purple flowers (name escapes me) with The Citadel in the background.
My brother was pretty amazed too. I wish I was a real photographer with a better quality camera that could have truly captured the splendor of that secret garden of our state flower. Alas, I have nothing that can do justice to what we saw that day. At that moment I thought of Stephanie. I could picture her in my mind running out into the meadow trying her hardest to capture as many pictures as she could. I wish she could have been there. I know Herman gulch would have made her very happy and seeing her smile is better than any number of Columbine.
The Columbine were pretty much the highlight of our trip. After walking through the meadow we went back into the forest and the Columbine started to thin out. My brother also started to get blisters on both feet. I tried to preempt this by applying mole skin around the hot spots to keep them from rubbing anymore. This helped for a while but didn’t last. As we neared the lake Matthew’s feet started hurting again, and I think this sort of opened the flood gates. We were taking frequent breaks, and Matthew was complaining every step of the way about how steep it was or how tired he was. I felt bad for him because his feet were hurting, but I know him and I know that he was bringing on the melodrama. We came across a couple of people coming down and they all gave my brother words of encouragement, which I appreciated a lot because they really helped him to make himself walk up to the lake.
Of course once we got to the lake Matthew was perfectly fine. You can lead a kid to water but you can’t keep him from playing with/in it (and throwing rocks it). We ate lunch on a big rock and then my brother contented himself with jumping around on rocks and little “islands” of dirt in the lake.
Matthew playing at Herman Lake.
Very poor panorama at the lake. No real hope of cropping off the black from this sadly
My original plan was to leave him at the lake to play and go up to finish Pettingell myself. I made my way around the south side of the lake to where the “ramp” that presents the easiest path up Pettingell is. I could see some snow, and I was worried because I didn’t bring any microspikes or other traction device. I was right to worry. The snow went up farther than it looked like from far away, and it was slick. I was hardly making any progress at all so I stopped climbing and turned back to the lake. I really hated to be one of “those people” that stops at the lake below the summit, at first anyway. But my brother was having so much fun at the lake, I just couldn’t help from joining in and enjoying myself too. Although I’m sure I got some dirty looks (or at least confused looks) from people as I jumped around and threw rocks into the lake. It was a good chance to indulge my inner child a little bit. So that makes for number two where I have had to turn back before reaching the summit. That’s not too bad. I’m sure there will be many more in the future, so I better get used to it! Again, I apologize for the crappy photos and the late post, as with Stephanie gone I have lost my photographer and my motivator for finishing trip reports. Thanks for reading!