Partners: Brian (LordHelmut) and David.
Distance: ~13 miles.
Elevation: ~5,300 feet
Hassel Peak - 13,215, rank 471
Pettingel Peak - 13,553, rank 217
The Citadel - 13,214, rank 406
Hagar Peak - 13,220, rank 466
Golden Bear Peak - 13,010, rank 634
Life is starting to fall back into a routine after the birth of our second child so I was itching to get back to the hills after a couple of months hiatus. Brian and I have been e-mailing for probably the better part of 2 years, but never have been able to get a trip together until this one. After weighing our options we decided to give this little ridge scramble a try.
We met at 3:45 at Loveland Ski area. Unfortunately, we were surprised to find that the parking lot was closed until 9 am, so we had to leave the car about 1/4 mile down the road. After picking up David at Dry Gulch where he left his car, we drove to Herman Gulch where we hit the trail at 4:30. Hassel was an easy class 1 trail all the way to the summit. The trail hits Pettingell's East ridge, but, after an enjoyable sunrise over the front range mountains, we decided to stick to the trail that descended a little into Woods Creek but was more direct. The route description we found online was for trail running and they gave a time of 2 hours and 41 minutes to summit. Well, we hit the summit at 7:30, turning in a time of 3 hours. Guess we were moving pretty well.
After hiking down to the saddle, we were greeted with some fun class 3 scrambling on Pettingel's north ridge. Before too long we were enjoying our second summit of the day. It was shaping up to be a perfect day so from this point on, we basically forgot all concept of time. (We would end up with what I am guessing over 2 hours of summit time for the day.) I taped up my ankles since I was starting to feel some burn/rub and then we meandered down Pettingell's gentle south ridge
David and I hiking to Pettingell - Photo by Brian
Scrambling along Pettingel's North Ridge
Soon after we started up from the Pettingell/Hassel saddle we found plenty of scrambling varying from easy Class 2 to even a little Class 4 if you wanted it. Given the magnitude of what we had in front of us, I welcomed the warm up with these fun moves.
Me Hugging the Wall on a Class 4 section of Pettingel's North Ridge - Photo by Brian
Goats along the Pettingel's South Slope with The Citadel in the background
Pettingel's summit with Citadel and Hagar in the Background
Me showing good form on one of the many knife edges
Citadel/Hagar from Pettingell
David on approach to Citadel
Balancing Rocks (Pettingel/Citadel Saddle)
We hit Pettingel's summit (I'm guessing) around 9:00 or so. Now, we could see what we had in front of us and Citadel began looming large. The south slope of Pettingell was very mellow compared to the north, but we came across a couple of goats which added to the day's enjoyment. Also, it broke up a little of the gentle class 1 stuff. But, once over a small bump in the ridge, the real fun began - and we started catching glimpses of the crux chimney.
Approach to Citadel - Summit is middle spire, crux chimney is dark line on right.
David along the Ridge to Citadel - Photo by Brian
We had read of a class 4 bypass and conflicting reports of if the chimney itself or the left wall was easier. As we got closer, I knew I'd have my hands full. Keep in mind, this is my first true class 5 route. I'm sure I've found myself on some Class 5 stuff in the past, but this was my first "established" route of that difficulty.
4th class warmup - crux chimney in right background.
Brian hit the chimney head on while David poked around on the left wall. I stood back and weighed my options. Brian made quick progress but there was one section of an overhang that blocked easy access to anything above about 10 feet up the left wall. Once Brian was up, I took my turn at the chimney. The first 90% of it was tons of fun. Then, about 5-10 feet from the top (I could all but reach out to shake Brian's hand), I hit the crux of the crux. It didn't occur to me until afterwards, but all my pictures of Brian were at the same spot I was stuck. The fact that only a couple of toes were keeping me up with nothing but 50-60 feet of air underneath me was not comforting my nerves. I learned 3 important things at this point in time: 1) I now know what class 5.4 feels like. 2) I now know I can climb class 5.4 3) I have no intention of ever climbing exposed class 5.4 again without some protection. Looking back, I really should have sought out the bypass, but I wasn't about to try and down climb what I came up. So, I grabbed what I could and hoisted myself up the last few feet. Extremely relieved that was over without incident, I found a seat to be a spectator as David quickly followed up behind me.
Weighing our options at the crux tower.
Brian making his way up the 5.4 chimney
A little perspective on the steepness/size of the chimney
Me Climbing the Crux Chimney (and probably saying a few prayers at this point in time.)
David Climbing Crux Chimney
After the big climb, we cleaned the rocks of some rappelling remnants and started back on the class 3 ridge to the summit of the Citadel.
David making his way to Citadel. "Modest" exposure behind him.
Finishing along Citadel's North Ridge
One last scramble to gain the summit.
We met our first people of the day on the Citadel's summit. A young lady and her father had camped by Herman Lake and we had a relaxing conversation while my nerves slowly settled. The summit is a great place to find some "lounge chairs" mixed in the spires. The weather was still absolutely perfect so we didn't have any intention of going anywhere any time soon. David, unfortunately, had to be at work at noon in Dillon so he fled quickly for his car while Brian and I took a well deserved break. We probably spent a good half hour - 45 minutes up there before shoving off to Hagar.
Hagar from Citadel's summit
Citadel from the South (Saddle with Hagar)
The divide between the Citadel and Hagar is pretty gentle for the most part. It's not until you are within a few feet of Hagar's summit that it gets exciting again. There is a fun scramble to the summit block which is accessed by another little knife edge.
Scrambling along Hagar's North Ridge
Hagar's Summit Block
Knife Ridge to Hagar Summit
Nice Scramble to the Summit of Hagar
Once on top of Hagar, we knew our scrambling was over for the day. We saw nothing in front of us but a few false summits on the way to Golden Bear and a couple of miles of tundra.
One more to go... Golden Bear off to the left. (From Hagar's Summit)
A look back on a long day from Golden Bear
My Pretties.... The Gores from Golden Bear
Once over Golden Bear, all we could think about was cold beer and getting some real food in our guts. The hike out was uneventful, but with the day's excitement, I couldn't handle much more. We just talked while we made our way over the Eisenhower tunnel. This was truly one hell of a great day to be in the hills - perfect weather, good company, and a ton of solid rock to play around on. This one truly tested me physically and mentally and is one I'll remember for a very long time. Thanks for reading.