"Citadel, The" - 13,294 feet
"Citadel, The" - 13,294 feet
|Dry Gulch is not dry|
7.8 miles, 2800 feet
Citadel first thing in the morning
I drove up I-70 intending to attempt either Hagar or The Citadel. I even had a crazy thought that Maya and I might be able to do both. It turns out that ambition and reality don't always agree. I'd heard that Herman Gulch was holding a large amount of snow so I decided to try from Dry Gulch thinking it would be, well, drier. It wasn't. As we started out in the early morning hours the trail started out snow free and then quickly turned into a swamp. Water was running down the trail and there were multiple small streams we had to cross. Then around 11,000 feet the snow started. I lost the trail in the trees and decided that heading up farther into the basin between Golden Bear and Hagar was my best choice. It wasn't. I put the snowshoes on. Then we'd find dry ground again. Take the snowshoes off. Finally after a fairly miserable trek through the forest we broke treeline into a valley full of snow. At this point I figured now that we had continuous snow that things would get easier. They didn't.
Is it still winter?
At first they did. I was able to snowshoe higher into the valley without much of an issue. Then I decided to switch to crampons and head up the slope towards Hagar. At first that went fine. Until I started postholing. Then Maya started postholing. Crampons off. Back to snowshoes. Still postholing. So far the day was going well. At this point I decided that going to Hagar was a terrible idea and saw dry ground heading up the ridge to The Citadel. Well at least this way I could get out of the snow for a while and possibly meet some friends that were hiking in Herman Gulch. It seemed like a plan. We hiked towards the dry ground and ran into a group of 3 skiers that were heading towards Hagar. After a brief conversation we wished them luck and headed for the tundra.
Snow that wasn't terrible for a change
Hagar and snow that's about to get much worse
Citadel and dry ground on the left
Maya agrees with my route choice. Or so I think.
Dad, see it's easy.
(screw you Maya, you weigh 30 lbs)
Finally on ground that didn't collapse underneath me we made good time up towards Citadel. At about 12,800 we hit another snowfield but this one was at least manageable. At this point I was debating whether I had enough time to hit the summit because the ascent had taken so long. We reached a dry spot on the ridge just before the final snow climb to the summit. I looked at the time and decided to go for it. I'd been meaning to do this climb for a few years and never managed it. I was also trying not to think about the best options for a descent. I could see down into Herman Gulch and knew it was going to be miserable if I went that way too.
Skiers headed for Hagar
Blissful dry ground
A bit of snow
More of Hagar
Looking down at Herman Gulch
Last bit to the summit
Maya's ready to go
I got the crampons on and followed Maya across the snowfield to the summit gully. As we crossed I saw three people behind me on the dry spot on the ridge. I wasn't sure if they were planning to follow so we just did our thing and headed up. I tried to ignore the consequences of a fall from this location. It was a long way down into the valley. We turned the corner into the gully and made fairly quick work of the final stretch. I found a decent exit out of the gully and we did the final moves up to the summit block. I decided we weren't staying long so after a few pictures we reversed direction and started back down. I did the first part facing in and then as the angle moderated I turned around and we crossed back over. I saw the other 3 people start heading down and was curious where they had come up. Maybe they had a better way down? As I had this thought I fell in a hole. A really deep hole. Right next to dry ground. I could touch dry ground but I was sunk in to my waist. I eventually managed to dig myself out after a few minutes. After that enjoyable experience I talked to two skiers on the ridge as I switched back out of crampons and gathered up the snowshoes before we started our trek down.
Umm, should my dog be doing this?
In the final gully
The other summit
Another view of the other summit
As we headed down towards the Citadel/Bethel saddle I was still debating the best way down. I saw the 3 do a glissade back into Dry Gulch. Maybe they did know something. As we descended I watched them start across the snow. They didn't seem to be having any trouble and I figured that my best course of action was to follow their lead. We did our own glissade down and started following their tracks. We eventually caught up to them around treeline and after talking to them found out they knew of a much easier route down. Maya and I joined up with them and we headed down into the trees and back towards the trail. Eventually we found the trail and a cairn. I said goodbye to my new friends and repacked all my gear before we started out after them. Back to the swamp. Then we got back to the dry trail and headed back towards the car. It had taken 5 hours to ascend and less than 2 hours to descend.
Saddle with Bethel and the three people in the distance I was following
A tough day. Weather was beautiful but the snow conditions sucked and Dry Gulch is not even a little bit dry. If you like postholing and swamps this hike is for you. Do it soon. I wouldn't want anyone to miss out.
(if you don't I highly advise the east route and not going up the valley to the west)
|Comments or Questions|
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