Citadel to Pettingell Traverse

Citadel to Pettingell Traverse

Page Type Page Type: Route
Location Lat/Lon: 39.71530°N / 105.91141°W
Additional Information Route Type: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Additional Information Time Required: Half a day
Additional Information Rock Difficulty: Class 4
Sign the Climber's Log


This route is a fun, slightly technical, scrambling traverse from the twin summits of the Citadel, to the higher Pettingell Peak. The ascent of the Citadel described here follows the standard route up the east ridge. An interesting east ridge route variation is also described. When taking this route from the Citadel to Pettingell, there is one rocky step which is not practical to downclimb. Most climbers choose to rappel down this step. Once past the 3rd/4th class sections of the connecting ridge, the trek up and over Pettingell becomes a class 2 hike.

Round trip mileage: 9.75 miles
Elevation gain 3,850 feet


The approach hike described here is the same as that for the standard East Ridge Route from the Herman Gulch Trailhead.
Citadel to Pettingell Traverse TopoRoute Topo

Start from the Herman Gulch Trailhead. (Please refer to the "Getting There" section on the Citadel mountain page. Begin hiking up the trail from the trailhead. The trail heads due east for roughly 200 yards before splitting. Take the left fork (the Herman Gulch Trail). The right fork continues off to the NE and leads to Watrous Gulch. The Herman Gulch trail heads off to the NW. Continue along the trail as it follows the creek to its left. The trail will begin to go in and out of the forest and will cross three avalanche chutes. Eventually the trail begins to contour up across the south-facing slope of the valley as it climbs up onto the shelf which sits below Pettingell Peak. After arriving on the shelf, follow the now much flatter trail as it takes you to Herman Lake. Even before arriving at the lake, the Citadel will loom above you to the WSW. The route which you will need to travel in order to reach The Citadel's east ridge will also be before you.

Follow the trail until it fades on the east side of Herman Lake's outlet stream. Cross the outlet stream and contour along the slope above the stream and the marshy areas downhill and to the left. Try to preserve your elevation as you traverse over the slope aiming for the basin which sits below the Citadel's east side. In this area you will encounter some areas of cliffy rock faces. Either traverse above or below them as your chosen path dictates. You will also encounter some small streams in this area running down from the upper reaches of the slope. After crossing a talus slope, you will find yourself in the basin below the Citadel.

Your next goal is the saddle which sits to the east of the Citadel. Look for a climber's trail which angles up the slope to the saddle. Cross the basin by scouting the driest route. After reaching the climber's trail, follow it up across the scree slope and onto the saddle.

Route Description

Here are two scrambling route options from which to chose in order to climb the summit block:

South Gully
July 13, 2003
 Looking up the...South Gully

From the saddle, hike up the Citadel's east ridge. Avoid some rocky spots on the ridge by staying to the left (south). Just east of the summit block, you will arrive at a level shoulder. The standard route traverses the summit block cliffs to the WNW, and leads to a steep and loose gully (class 3) which provides access to the saddle between the Citadel's twin summits. Climb up this gully taking care not to dislodge rocks onto anyone below you. Once at the top of the gully, you will find yourself between the Citadel's rugged summits.

In order to reach the east summit, you must first overcome the crux of the scramble, which lies just above the saddle. Look for a corner in the rock which provides access up the cliff section that rises above the saddle. Climb up this rock corner to reach easier ground which lies just above. Some rate this crux at class 3, others at class 4. It is not particularly difficult, and foot and hand holds are plentiful. The section is also not terribly exposed. Once above the crux, continue scrambling up to the east summit.

To reach the west summit, scramble left (west) from the saddle, up steep rock. The west summit is more jagged and exposed than the east summit. However, the view of the east summit from this rocky perch reveals its own quite breathtaking character. The view from these summits of the mountains in the distance on every side is wonderful.

East Face/Gully
Summit Block, East FaceEast Face

This more direct and sharper scramble directly to the summit is perhaps the the most aesthetically pleasing way to top out on the east summit from the east ridge.

Follow the route described above to the level shoulder just east of the summit block. From the shoulder, you can see a weakness on the east side of the summit block. This weakness consists of a narrow rock face and a gully running up alongside it. Drop down off of the ridge a bit and traverse right, bringing you to the bottom of the rock face or gully. The lower reaches of this gully and face can hold snow into mid summer. Either engage the rock face directly (class 3 or 4) or ascend the less difficult gully. Eventually, the you must exit the gully to the left and traverse onto the upper part of the rock face. From the upper rock face, continue scrambling up to the Citadel’s east summit. To continue towards the west summit, downclimb towards the small saddle between the summits. Locate the top of the crux corner described above. Downclimb the corner and reach the saddle. Scramble left (west) from the saddle, up steep rock to the west summit.

The Traverse to Pettingell

From the west summit, head north off along the jagged ridge toward Pettingell.
Traverse RappelThe Crux of the Traverse
You will encounter several tricky downclimbs as you progress. However, these downclimbs should not exceed class 4 scrambling difficulty.

Eventually you will come to a buttress that is not practical to downclimb. It is roughly a 60 foot rappel from the rappel anchor, down to the bottom of the step. For those making the traverse in the other direction, this buttress is rated 5.4. After the rappel, the traverse's difficulties are for the most part over. Continue along the ridge as it climbs up to Pettingell's summit (class 2).

From Pettingell's summit, you can make your way back down to Herman Lake by descending the talus of Pettingell's SE slopes. Or you can choose to follow a more interesting and somewhat more difficult route back down to Herman Gulch by following Pettingell's east Ridge.

Looking back at the Traverse Looking Back Along the Traverse

Essential Gear

Be sure to bring the standard mountain hiking essentials. A helmet would be a good idea for this route. An ice axe may be worth having if parts of the route are still snow covered. A rope, harness, rappelling device, etc. would be needed for the rappel. You should also bring at least one sling with you as the ones on the rappel anchor may not be trustworthy.

External Links

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