Mountains: The Citadel (13,294’)
Route: Started at the Dry Gulch TH (10,700’) off I-70 close to the Loveland Pass exit. Ascended dry gulch for access and ascended Snoopy’s Collar to the summit. Ski descent off the same route.
Crew: Ashish, Nirmal, and Prakash
Distance / Elevation Gain ~8.5 miles and ~2800’ vert gained and skied (approx)
Ashish had been contacting me via 14ers.com to try and get together for a CO snow climb for a long time and our schedules finally matched in the last weekend of April ‘14. I invited my friend Nirmal for the weekend as well since he’d been itching to climb in Colorado… a bit of a reversal after having cut his teeth on popular peaks in Europe, Mexico and South America. Nirmal arrived from Minneapolis on Thursday night and stayed at our place and got acclimatized by taking work calls all day Friday. Ashish arrived from Houston the night before and had acclimatized in RMNP. We met Ashish on Friday night at Boulder for dinner and discussed route options. We decided on Citadel / Snoopy’s collar since they both had altitude and snow experience but wanted to get out on a steep snow route. We invited Ashish to stay with us to simplify logistics which he did. After packing we hit the hay and were up at 3AM Saturday morning. We loaded up and soon began driving down to Dry Gulch.
We began booting up dirty snow alongside I70 which turned cleaner once we got to the gate at the bottom of the dry gulch trail. At that point I began skinning while the other two continued booting up. We began up the dry gulch trail and then arose a bit out of the gulch itself following a skin track which on after thought seemed to be a track headed up one of the slopes to climbers left of the gulch. Nirmal and Ashish snow-shoed up. We soon broke off from that trail and paralleled the gulch rather than return to the actual trail and lose elevation.
After a little bit of traversing through 6” – 1” deep snow we returned to the trail rising out of dry gulch…
A look over at Mt. Bethel…
As we skinned / snow-shoed up the views began opening up…
We finally saw Citadel and Hagar still holding on fiercely to their winter coats… as they should. Citadel –
…and Hagar –
We had to lose a bit of elevation down to a high alpine lake that forms at the base of the apron below Snoopy’s collar. As an afterthought there was a small shortcut to the right of Dry Gulch that might’ve made for easier access without the elevation loss.
We kept skins and snowshoes on as we ascended the apron
One spot halfway up the apron above a rock band looked good for breakfast and to take flotation off. I stopped there and stamped out a broad ledge in the snow for us to stop, eat, drink and gear up for the summit push.
Ashish switchbacks up to the breakfast ledge –
We saw a group of skiers descend Hagar in what seemed like great conditions –
As we finished a leisurely breakfast and geared up we noticed the other skiers hauling up our boot pack towards Citadel as well. It was 10:30AM or so and the snow was starting to get really mushy and our boots were sinking in anywhere between a foot to 18”. As the leader of the group approached us I recognized him as Ben Conners… along with Brian and Mike… others I’ve caused trouble with in the past. From that point on we switched off trail breaking duties and caught up on past good times.
We were soon up at the collar. As Ben made his way up to the summit I waited for Ashish and Nirmal. Ashish was soon up on the collar as well really excited to be topping out on his first couloir without a guide…
Nirmal was right behind, feeling the altitude since he’d had little time to acclimatize…
Nirmal and I threw our packs down on top of the collar and scrambled up to the summit –
The views off the summit were amazing…
Nirmal seemed to be enjoying the last scramble up to the summit block –
Looking over at the false summit – Snoopy’s beer belly?
There were a few fun moves on the snow-covered scramble to the summit –
The clouds were showing off their artistic skills –
The skiing here would be in arguably more scenic conditions than what could be afforded by the Loveland Pass ski area –
Nirmal was pretty thrilled to be on the summit –
Soon it was time to dsescend… skiing glop isn’t too much fun and I was eager to minimize wallowing as much as possible, or worse – starting off wet slides.
As we got back to the saddle Ben, Brian, Mike and Dillon (who had snow-shoed up the ridge) were all beginning to descend down Snoopy’s backside –
We geared up for our own descent and I began skiing back down the collar. I traversed to a safe spot below the cliff band at the bottom of the collar and waited for Ashish and Nirmal to join me. From there I planned to have them descend the ridge while I quickly skied the softening snow on our ascent route. I would then traverse across below the ridge and meet them where the ridge emerged out of dry gulch. After communicating the plan and backup plans I set off to do what I’d been looking forward to all morning –
I waited at the base of the ridge and ate a sandwich and sausage and hunkered down out of the wind. After a bit I left my gear and began hiking up the ridge and saw Nirmal and Ashish heading down. We sat down together and after they’d had some food and Gatorade began the descent through dry gulch as one group. The snow was slushy and didn’t allow Nirmal and Ashish to gather enough momentum for glissades. The descent went fairly quickly though. Some snow plow activity had happened on the road during the day. We drove back quickly and replenished the calories lost. The next day Nirmal and Ashish left for the airport together already making plans for the next trip back.