Route: Herman Gulch TH, Cooper's Colorado Scrambles route to The Citadel, ridge to Hagar
Elevation Gain: 3,909'
Ridge scramblers: Darrin (kansas) & me
With snow above 13.5K this past weekend, summer scramble season is quickly coming to a close. So we decided to get one last one before snow and skiing are the main draw. "The Citadel" has been on my radar since I first saw it. An impressive class 3 peak tucked away in a forgotten corner of the Front Range. Off-highway road access, good trail to treeline and close to home. Check!
We decided to forgo the ambiguities of the Dry Gulch parking and subsequent bushwhack for the simpler trail access of Herman Gulch. It would add some distance, but ease of travel would make it faster. Started hiking as first light was trickling up I-70 and headlamps were no longer necessary.
The lower part of the trail went by quickly as the sun rose higher in the sky. As we made our way up the bench to Herman Lake, Cooper suggests we divert from the trail and contour around the valley before reaching the lake. I see a small trail divert at the elevation suggested, but as it ran into trees and willows, I didn't want to go that way. It was much easier to hike to the lake and then contour higher around the valley, than to willow bash lower. Cooper's "trail" may save some elevation gain/loss or maybe just shorter distance, but it's not worth the willow disaster. We tried his way on the way back, but soon regretted our decision and went back to our morning's route. Ease of travel trumps shorter distance in this case.
Chilly morning - Pettingell in background
Willow free - contour
Once on the south side of Herman Gulch, there is a decent climbers trail up to the Bethel - Citadel saddle. On the saddle, Hagar Mountain finally comes into view, as well as the difficulties of the remainder of the way up The Citadel. There is a faint trail that will lead you from the saddle to the gully that separates the two summits of The Citadel.
Climbers scree trail to saddle
Citadel to Pettingell Traverse - for another day
Once in the gully, proceed asap to the west side (ie climbers left) and get onto the solid rock of the ridge. A decent climbers trail will take you to the summit
Gully between Citadel's "summits"
Loose gully - go to rocks/ridge on left immediately - Photo Credit: Darrin
The true summit is very airy and consists of a few towering blocks. Darrin wasn't convinced this was the true summit, as he looked over to the prominent block to the east. This would be the running theme of the day... which is the true summit?
Darrin next to the summit block
Traverse to Hagar
Traverse to Pettingell
Herman Gulch view
Citadel's "false summit"
After a short "summit" break, we start the traverse over to Hagar Mountain. The elevation loss on the ridge happens immediately in a loose scree fest. But once starting up again towards Hagar, the fun begins - if you stay ridge proper. Plenty of opportunity for class 3 & 4 if you want it. Otherwise you can traverse a few feet lower, mainly on the east side for class 2+.
Approaching the low point of the ridge to Hagar
Some fun scrambling to be had
Chillin' in the sun
Ridge proper was lots of fun
Approaching the final summit block, the route does go class 4, and I didn't see a good work-around. But there are still options of route to choose from. Darrin went with a solid class 4 slab-crack climb, where I went with the more loose chimney climb. The walls are solid, but the center of the chimney was loose and foot holds were more difficult.
Hagar's impressive summit block
Darrin chose a crack climb
I chose the loose chimney - good hand holds, sub par foot holds
Me in the chimney - Photo Credit: Darrin
Above the chimney - Photo Credit: Darrin
The last obstacle faced before the summit is an airy knife edge. The ridge proper was easier than the down sloping narrow ledge that is below this edge.
Darrin crossing the knife edge
Approaching the knife edge - Photo Credit: Darrin
A very worthwhile summit and day of scrambling achieved!
Darrin is always so serious... maybe I should pinch him next time
We had planned on contouring around The Citadel's lower fortress walls to get back to the saddle, but as Darrin wasn't convinced we had gotten the "true summit", we went back to the gully separating the two Citadel summits to tackle the class 4 chimney blocking access to this "summit". Here we run into a guy that I saw descending Pettingell, while we were on Citadel the first time. This guy wasn't sure either about which was the summit, and also headed over to check as well. Once on this pinnacle, it was obvious that the summit from earlier in the morning was the true one.
Still a few flowers to be seen
Returning to The Citadel
Class 4 chimney up to the "false summit"
View of "true summit"
At least we made sure we got it right? After that, the way down the trail and back to the truck went quickly. Plenty of hikers and fishermen on the lower trail to contrast the single person we saw all day above treeline.
Hey, Tuning Fork looks in