Peak(s):  "Citadel, The"  -  13,294 feet
Pettingell Pk  -  13,553 feet
Date Posted:  09/27/2016
Date Climbed:   09/27/2016
Author:  LarryM
 Two Mountains unclimbed - lessons learned  

I'm still fairly new to the high mountains, having gotten started 2 1/2 years ago in my mid 50s, with plenty still to learn. I've expanded my comfort zone this summer & done some cool stuff, but today had a rough (though still fun) day in the mountains, and learned some lessons.

The plan was The Citadel, then descend to Herman Lake, then Pettingell. I got a late start (I had to get my daughter off to school) and didn't hit the trail until 8:40.

I started up the Herman Gulch trail and quickly made my way to the lake (just over an hour).

Herman Lake

I then headed for the Citadel. There was a sort of trail which I kept losing, but it didn't matter - the route was obvious, though the going slower.

View towards the saddle

I climbed to the saddle & headed up the ridge, which was steep but easy.

The Citadel

I got to the top of the ridge around 11:00 or maybe a little later.

I knew that I needed to go left to find the class 3 gully to the summits. But I had a hard time route finding I didn't see an easy way to go left. That was almost certainly my inexperience showing; in retrospect, the slope wasn't that bad and a direct approach (direct to the left - not directly up to the summit, obviously ). probably would have been fine. (Also this was the first of two times that I could have done a better job of studying the route beforehand; Dziezynski's guide says to descend a little at that point.) Instead I ascended a little, following a trail which hugged the cliffs & eventually died out. I ended up deciding to come back another day, maybe with a partner. (Though my caution here was a little ironic given my later decision on Pettingell.)

That was the right call - I might have been fine, but, especially solo, best not to push my limits too far out of my comfort zone.

I headed back down the ridge to the saddle and then back to the lake. It was about 12:30, I still felt fresh and there was no threat of weather at all, so I headed up Pettingell.

Herman Lake from part way up Pettingell

I followed the obvious route - there was even a sort of trail - for a while; then, without realizing it, started veering off to the right. The route got rockier, but it was just rock hopping on solid, not steep terrain, so not bad. Then I made my big mistake and I still can't entirely reconstruct my thought process. Instead of heading left to the saddle, I headed right, straight up the slope. It didn't look bad, and at first it wasn't. But as I climbed, it got steeper and looser. (If I was more experienced I would have realized this would happen before I started climbing). I started having some trouble & started worrying. But I didn't want to climb down the mess - by then I realized that, if I reached the ridge (actually I was headed almost straight for the summit) I would be able to descend on easier terrain. So I kept pushing on.

As I approached the summit, a medium sized rock came loose and pinned my leg, fortunately not injuring it. I was able to move the rock, but that spooked me pretty bad. I then made my second bad decision: rather than gutting out the last few yards to the summit (albeit over steep and loose rock), I started down climbing. That was an adventure done mainly on my butt. After a few hundred feet I was able to contour right to better rock and the rest of the descent was easy. I even contemplated climbing the correct route to the summit - I was near the correct route and still over 13,000 feet - but it was getting late and I decided to leave it for another day.

I made my way down the mountain - this time more or less on the much easier correct route - though somewhat slowly since I was mentally exhausted from the scree fest. I hit the parking lot at 4:00 pm, 7 hours and 20 minutes after my start, significantly later than planned - but of course I lost a lot of time ascending and descending the scree slope. My batteries died just about when I started down, so I don't have an entirely accurate record of distance and vertical, but it was about 12 miles and 4,500 feet of vertical.

Still and all a great day in the mountains, I made it back uninjured, and lessons were learned for next time.


I need to get better at route finding.
Until then, and probably even then, I need to study route descriptions more thoroughly, especially when going off trail (most 13ers) and solo.
I need to better avoid steep, loose rock when I can (I made a similar mistake a couple months ago, ironically from the same trail head but doing Parnassus/Bard/Robeson/Engleman.)
I should buy a SPOT or the equivalent.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions

It takes time....
09/28/2016 07:37
An old saying comes to mind... "Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from bad judgement". You are learning and that's the important thing.

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