Friday, March 25, 2010. Tomorrow's weather forecast is looking sketch. Should we ski? The powder forecast looks better for Sunday. We better ski Sunday. The question still nags: What should we do Saturday? I call my good friend Mark and hope that we can come up with some sort of an adventure. For a good half hour we pore over topo maps, alternately producing and rejecting numbers and lines. We start in the Gores and trend East towards Denver. Grand Traverse Peak is mentioned, along with Uneva Peak. For various reasons, none make the cut. Eventually we get back to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Wait, what is pt 13,294? Surely this peak has a name. There is a brief pause as we both revert to the memory of our recent ascent of Grizzly Peak. This peak does have a name. We are going to climb The Citadel.
Fast forward to 5:00 AM Saturday morning. We have a 7 AM meeting time at the Herman Gulch Trailhead. I-70 is dry all the way to the Bakerville exit, where evidence of a 3 inch dusting of snow from the previous night finally appears. I don't even need 4wd to get to the trailhead. This is a good omen for winter/spring climbs! Eventually Mark arrives and we leave his truck at Herman Gulch to use as a shuttle. We then make the short drive to Loveland Basin to start our ascent. Our plan is to hike north using Loveland Ski Area's gracious "uphill access" policy to the summit of pt. 13,010 (Golden Bear/Marmot Peak) and follow the ridgeline to Hagar Mountain, The Citadel, and Mount Bethel.
A last resort.
Hiking up through the resort is uneventful. Aside from a rather unpleasant interaction with a ski patroller while hiking out of ski bounds the snowshoeing is enjoyable and the views pleasant. Remnants of last night's storm still linger and make for a large rainbow and stellar views of Torreys Peak. From the parking area we trend North-West, eventually accessing our ridge of choice via a backcountry access point at the saddle just East of Pt. 13,010. It is a quick 700' to the summit of Pt. 13,010 and a good view of the route ahead.
Descending off of Pt. 13,010 the wind makes its presence known for the first time. There is a fairly stiff West wind blowing 20-30 mph and it hangs around for the rest of the day. For this reason, breaks are short and few in number, and goggles and balaclava stay on until reaching treeline hours later.
The ridge is snow covered and mellow up until a steep section right before Hagar Mountain. If this had been the end of the hike, I would have been a little disappointed. There is a short scramble before Hagar which obruptly ends in the form of a long, thin summit.
Descending Hagar's North Ridge is where the fun starts. The ridge made for a picturesque and challenging traverse that truly embodied all that is Colorado winter mountaineering. A fun class 3 downclimb immediately off the summit dumped us onto steep snow and finally onto a class 2 slope that would have probably been more comfortable had we put the snowshoes back on.
The exposure to the West and the views of Coon Hill were spectacular.
Just below the final section of rock we ventured partially onto the South Face of The Citadel and climbed a short section of steep ~55 degree snow. Most parties would want to have crampons for this section as it was a little too icy to kick steps in.
We then stuffed ourselves through a VERY narrow chimney and gained access to the class 3 slope above the cliff bands. From here, the West summit is not far away and the scrambling (especially snow covered) was interesting.
We descended from this summit straight to the notch where another difficulty lay in wait. From the top of the notch a 10-15 foot dihedral presents itself as easy access to the East summit. When climbing it I definitely used my axe to hook in a few places and the holds good enough for mitts were pretty sparse. Had it been any longer I would have called it 5.6. For purposes of exposure (there is none really) we'll call it 4th class. After topping out of this dihedral there is more class 3 to the East summit. Of course with good route finding you can make this section quite a bit more sporty as well.
Descent from The Citadel.
From the East summit we descended back to the saddle, downclimbing the 4th class dihedral. The crampons went back on as we downclimbed the couloir from the notch onto the South Face of The Citadel.
Here we encountered a large moat-like snow feature that spanned the length of the South Face of The Citadel. Daring not venture out onto the face for fear of triggering an avalanche, we followed the moat East eventually stepping out onto the face very briefly to connect with the East Ridge of The Citadel.
We had abandoned our plans to tackle Mount Bethel long ago and were content with yet another epic on a beautiful mountain. We descended a South facing spur and caught several glissades down into Dry Gulch. Missing our trailhead by not passing over Bethel, we were rewarded with a not so inspiring hike back to the lot at Loveland Ski Area and the welcome end of a 12 hour day.