| "The Citadel" to Pettingell Traverse
"The Citadel" (13,294) and Pettingell (13,553)
9.5 miles, 3800 feet from Herman Gulch TH
Participants – Jen and Scott
I was pleasantly surprised by the weather forecast for Sunday when I was looking for something challenging and close to home for us to hike. I remembered a great trip report from SarahT a while ago about the traverse from "The Citadel" to Pettingell, two peaks I'd been wanting to climb in the Front Range. I handed Scott Cooper's Colorado Scrambles book to take a look and we decided to go for it. At the time of Sarah's report, this climb was way out of my league and I didn't think I'd ever be doing it. First of all, I had just started climbing some class 3 routes and secondly, I didn't have any climbing gear or the vaguest notion of how to use it. Fast forward two years and it's something Scott and I are able to take on ourselves!
"The Citadel" from the Herman Gulch Trail and a look at the traverse
We took off from the Herman Gulch trailhead followed the huge trail all the way to Herman Lake. Cooper suggests leaving the trail earlier, but we decided to stay high and avoid any wetness down in the basin. This worked great although it probably added some time and mileage.
Flowers on the way to The Citadel
We headed up grassy slopes and hit a nice trail that leads to the saddle between Mt. Bethel and The Citadel. From here, we walked up grassy slopes until a snow slope and mountain goats blocked our path. The snow wasn't going to be a problem, but we approached the goats with caution and waited until they moved on.
Approaching the summit block
Once at the summit block, we went left and ascended a loose gully, me inside the gully, Scott being a bit more creative. I think I'd do an alternative route next time because this gully was not fun, just loose and annoying.
Once on the summit, we took a look at the weather and decided that it was holding nicely and that we'd go for the traverse. Honestly, I thought the worst part of the ridge was the very beginning. It's super airy and had my full attention. There were some tricky downclimbs and at one point we were maybe 20 feet below the ridge crest on the west side.
Pictures of the traverse
The hardest section of the traverse is a 5.4 downclimb that Cooper suggests rappelling. The rappel point was obvious as there were numerous slings around huge boulders. We inspected the slings, cut a bunch of stuff off, and retied our own anchors.
Inspecting the boulder and the gear that was left
Our anchor was a ways up from the start of the downclimb and our 40 meter rope reached perfectly. It took a little while to set up our anchor, and we were glad the weather was still holding in our favor. The rappel was very fun, and there were beautiful purple flowers in the rock to look at on the way down.
Scott on rappel
Looking up from the bottom
The crux downclimb
After the rappel, the ridge eased up in difficulty, except for one 4th class move that we probably could have avoided by looking around.
Looking back at the traverse
Looking forward to Pettingell
The walk to Pettingell went quickly and after a short summit stay, we decided to descend the east ridge. The ridge was quite fun and the drop-offs on the north side were amazing. After a little scrambling, we noticed a mountain goat following us on the ridge crest. He wasn't making any aggressive moves towards us, but he started getting too close for comfort and we obviously weren't going to outrun a mountain goat.
Scott threw a couple of warning rocks in his direction which scared him off down the slope. Okay then, off we go! We made our way down the ridge a bit more and then discovered why the goat had been following us so closely – a mom and baby goat were directly on the ridge crest about 100 yards away.
We knew we couldn't disturb the goats and decided to call it quits on the ridge and just descend the south slopes to Herman Lake. This entailed lots of scree-skiing in trail runners - not my favorite thing in the world, but it worked. We headed toward a small snow slope to cut out some of the talus-hopping, and then headed down to the lake. We took a short break and made pretty good time back to the TH.
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