Pettingell Peak – 13,559

RT Length:  9.89 miles

Elevation Gain:  3407’

I was surprised to find a few other vehicles at the icy Herman Gulch trailhead when I arrived.  Two looked abandoned, and the other looked like someone was sleeping inside.  Brave, considering it was 12 degrees outside (which seems to be the magic number this season).  I parked, gathered my gear, and was on the trail at 5am.  This time of year it’s very cold in the mornings, which means it’s very difficult to motivate myself to get out and hike, but I always know I’ll be glad I did later.  Such was the story this morning.

The trail starts just behind the information sign at the north end of the parking area.

I followed the Herman Gulch trail for .25 miles before turning left and a junction and following Herman Gulch Trail 98 (the signs are obvious)

I followed this well packed, class 1 trail for 3.5 miles to the upper basin.

Once in the upper basin the trail ended and the fun began!  I put on my snowshoes for this part. I knew there was a lake here (Herman Lake), but with the snow I wasn’t sure of it’s exact location/outline, so I skirted the lake to the right, staying on what I knew to be solid ground.  I’ve fallen into a snow covered lake before, and didn’t want to repeat the experience.   Here’s an over view of my hike.  I took the solid line up, the dotted line down

And step by step, first skirting the lake

Then finding an access rib, and following it west

The snow here was sugary and I kept postholing/treading backwards.  I’d forgotten my ice axe at home and only had my trekking pole.  The trekking pole worked, but if I’d slipped it would have been nice to have had my ice axe (especially just before the summit).  Here are some pictures of the way up the rib

The further up I hiked the less snow there was.  Here I kept on my snowshoes because they were helpful more than not.  I aimed for the saddle

Once at the saddle I had to take off my snowshoes because they started getting in the way.  Here I turned right, and followed the ridge northeast to the summit.

There was snow at the summit, but it wasn’t worth putting on my snowshoes.  Here is where I would have liked my ice axe as well. Instead, I held my snowshoes in one hand, trekking pole in the other, and climbed up.  The snow here was very sugary and at times I sank up to my waste.

But this wasn’t the summit… Here’s the actual summit

I summited Pettingell Peak at 8:50am

Pettingell Peak: 

Here’s looking back at the ridge I took in

It was a beautiful day so I sat for a bit on the summit, enjoying the view. (I was so glad I’d gotten out and hiked!)

From the summit I continued hiking northeast, making a little loop of the ascent.

Looking back, you can see a cornice is beginning to form near the summit

Here’s an overview of the route I took down from the ridge, back into the basin, and out through Herman Gulch

The initial descent didn’t have much snow, so I scree surfed down.  Here’s a visual of the fun

Scree Surfing: 

After the scree ended I put on my snowshoes as I descended into the basin.

Here’s a look back at how I ascended (left) and descended (right) Pettingell Peak

And now, back to the basin (following my tracks in)

I once again skirted the lake and made it back to the basin, where there were dozens of people, several dogs, and a well packed trail awaiting me. 

Here’s looking back at my tracks coming down from Pettingell Peak.

I took off my snowshoes and followed the trail southeast

Here are some pictures of the well packed trail out.  I passed dozens of people on this part of the hike as well

Back to the junction, where I turned right and hiked the quarter mile back to the trailhead

I made it back to the trailhead at 11am, making this a 9.89 mile hike with 3407’ of elevation gain in 6 hours.  When I made it back to the trailhead all of the dozens of parking spots were taken.

Autocorrect is the bane of my existence (especially with Raynaud’s, as my fingers don’t register on touch screens very well).  When I saved this trip via Strava and named it, I made sure I typed in ‘Pettingell Peak’ under ‘title your run’. I checked more than once to make sure I’d spelled the peak correctly.  Unfortunately, it autocorrected once I hit send, and got titled instead ‘Petting Elk’.  If you see any, don’t pet the elk.

Author: Laura M Clark

Laura has summited over 500 peaks above 13,000' solo, including being the first woman to solo summit all of the Colorado 14ers, as well as the centennials. After each hike, she writes trip reports for each one and publishes them on her blog, which is read by fans all over the world. Author of Wild Wanderer: Summiting Colorado’s 200 Highest Peaks, which is available to purchase on Amazon.

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