The Citadel (13,294)

13 Aug 2000 - by Doug Cook

After a leisurely start from Denver, I left the Hermann Gulch trailhead at 9:30 AM on the standard route to Hermann Lake. There were about 25 cars in the parking lot. Due to a history of car break-ins at this TH, parking at the far North end of the parking area is recommended. Cars at the North end are more visible to traffic on I-70 than other areas that are hidden by trees. The trail is nearly all dry, a marked change from my previous four visits in early Spring when snowshoes were required. Wildflowers are in bloom, most prevalent down on elevations along the creek.

The trail to Hermann Lake takes you across the cirque and to elevations above where you catch the trail to the saddle which leads to The Citadel. I ended up doing a long traverse from the lake across the cirque to catch a diagonally ascending trail up the slopes to the saddle. (One tent was at the lake, set up so close to the water that it was a stone's throw out the front door to the water.) For climbing The Citadel, cut off to the left from the main trail down near the creek (there are faint trails leaving the main trail), cross the creek, and follow a faint trail across the gulch toward the saddle. With some attention to routefinding, nearly all the willows in the gulch can be skirted.

The ascending traverse takes you to the saddle on the long ridge which leads toward the fortress-like rock towers of The Citadel. After the long climb along the ridge, the twin towers of The Citadel come into view. The climbing looks like hard 4th and 5th Class with a couple of narrow, steep rock couloirs leading up and out of sight. From the saddle at the base of the towers, traverse slightly descending and around the towers on rock and talus until you reach the wide, steep couloir. This is the route normally climbed when the couloirs are filled with snow. I scrambled up the couloir on surprisingly solid scree and dirt. Similar to the standard route on Kit Carson, the further around The Citadel you traverse, the easier the rock couloirs to the summit. (On my descent, further around the towers, I found a short, not too steep small gully leading back down to the base of the towers. There were a couple of cairns, the only ones seen all day.)

The summit blocks are a short 3/4th class scramble from the top of the couloirs. With careful route picking, serious exposure can be avoided and ropes are not required, although they may be welcome to climbers less comfortable with exposure or short 4th class pitches.

From the TH to the summit took three hours. With large cumulus clouds starting to build, some with dark gray bottoms, I descended and enjoyed a stroll back across the grassy slopes and meadows of the gully eventually connecting again with the main trial. I saw probably 20-25 other people on the trail during the day. From the saddle to the summit, only two other climbers were seen on the ridge across the cirque. This was my second summit day out of five trips to The Citadel. Three prior trips had ended with us being chased off the saddle by Spring thunderstorms.


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