Peak(s):  Pettingell Pk  -  13,553 feet
Date Posted:  09/20/2015
Date Climbed:   09/19/2015
Author:  rajz06
 Looping Pettingell - The Return   

Starting Point: Herman Gulch, Elevation: ~10,280'
Peak Climbed: Pettingell Peak (13,553')
Route: Southeast slopes ascent and descent via east ridge
RT Distance: ~8.7 miles
Elevation Gain/Loss: ~3,530 feet (per Google Maps)
Group: Solo

My first attempt at Pettingel Peak came last July when I climbed Hassell Peak. Every season needs to have a failure and that was the token one for last season as the weather conspired to summarily dispatch my attempt up Pettingell's gnarly east ridge even before it started. I decided to tackle the peak again today but had an extra arrow in my quiver in the form of a classic September weather forecast. Herman gulch and the Herman trail need no introduction with the trailhead right off I-70 making for an easy approach to many front range 13ers.

Another treat this time of year - the aspens wearing gold!

Aspens clothed in gold!

I won't bore the reader with details of the excellent Class 1 trail having already done that in my previous report! The trail to Herman Lake which is around ~ 11,980' is about 3 miles and weaves through the aspens; it comes in and out of the woods giving hikers early views of Pettingell Peak en route.

Pettingell comes into view

The south slopes approach to Pettingell's ridge essentially starts at the north end of the lake and one need research no further than simply follow Bill Middlebrook's excellent route description to make a successful ascent. I left the trail and approached the bottom of this slope, eyeing the three main gullies that lead to the ridge.

Gullies leading to the ridge

Any of those would make for a good couloir ascent under solid snow and ice conditions but even from my vantage point below just below 12,000', it was clear that these gullies would be loose and tricky at best. But wait...

A bit farther down the ridge was another gully that was less steep and framed by a rocky bluff that looked to be a better option - could it be?

My route

I figured I would make that decision when I got to the bottom of Pettingell's south face. Spotting a faint trail just to the left of the rocks, I started my ascent from the basin.

Following the faint trail

The easiest ascent out of the basin stays away from the scree in the middle, and I followed the more stable mix of tundra and rocks through this stretch.

Climbing out of the basin

Looking down the slope

I took the next shot as I emerged out of the bottom of the basin; the easier ascent is mapped in Bill's route description and follows a gentler slope to the saddle.

My route in red; easier ascent to saddle in blue

I had my sights set on that gully - steeper and more direct but how loose was the only question. The lower section was fairly stable, but this slowly gives way to loose scree approaching 13,200'. As I eyed the ridge above, I spotted two hikers making their way to the summit.

Starting the ascent toward the gully

Looking down the rocky slope

As footing became dicier, I veered toward the rocky face to my left, finding some scrambling options that were a welcome change to the slip-and slide terrain on the gully.

Hugging the talus to the left of the gully

The one advantage of my approach was that there wasn't much climbing left to do once I gained the ridge, what with the summit only a hop, skip and a jump away.

Almost there!

The winds had picked up by now but still weren't as bad as the forecast had suggested.

Herman lake framed by majestic front rangers in the distance

I still didn't spend long at the summit. I wanted to descend via the east ridge which I knew would pose some difficulties, so after a brief respite, I decided to see what the ridge had to offer.

Starting on the ridge

The rock was quite solid on the ridge and every time I was faced with a tower, I found multiple options.

My route in red

There were times when skirting the ridge to the south (climber's right) made things a bit easier but the rocks got loose farther down the ridge. The next shot shows the two climbers that I'd spotted on the ridge earlier, navigating some towers (center of field) just ahead of me on the ridge.


I may not have chosen the easiest option at each tower but the going was steady and I didn't have to ponder my approach for long before making my move.

Descent options - my route in red; chimney option in yellow

One tower follows another

Steady as she goes

About two-thirds of the way down the ridge, I caught up with the couple just as they were skirting the ridge to the north, and exchanged notes with them.

Taking a short ledge off the ridge

They had ascended a prominent ridge on the lower slope and had already traversed Pettingell's east ridge to its summit and were now retracing their paths. They were experienced climbers so I figured it would behoove me to stay with them for the remainder of the descent.

We used a ledge below the ridge for a short bypass but were back on the ridge crest momentarily to tackle slabs. I was fine with the stable rocks on the ridge despite the exposure. Exposure has never been one of my concerns; I can get tunnel-visioned quite easily. Seeing the bigger picture - now, that's another story entirely!

Back on the ridge

The most difficult move on the ridge came shortly thereafter. It was somewhere near this point on my ascent last season that I'd decided to bail. There is an easier option on the south side but I had to tackle my nemesis.

The crux downclimb

The remainder of the ridge was comparatively gentle with a couple of rocky bumps that would then deposit us on the broad saddle where we could begin the steep descent on the grassy slope back to the trail.

Remaining ridge to saddle

Descent down the grassy slopes

Throughout the descent, views of the rugged ridge to the Citadel made for a great take-away memory of this fun outing. Throw in some spectacular fall colors and what you have is a small slice of heaven.

You are mine!

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Comments or Questions
Brian Thomas

downclimbing east ridge?
09/21/2015 07:52
This is not the direction of loop that I was expecting, sir.


What Brian said...
09/21/2015 08:10
My TR on Pettingel could be the picture negative of yours. Nice way to do it, Raj. Guess I’ll have to do it that way next time I’m up there.


09/21/2015 22:06
guys! I figured I’d give the loop a twist and it worked!

Another one...
09/22/2015 09:24
Another one on my neglected to–do list. Thanks for the reminder and fun write–up.

   Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.