Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hagar & Citadel - 5.2.2012

Despite spending almost every free day during my six years of college at Loveland Ski area, I've never skied Hagar or Citadel proper, which are the two most prominent Loveland side country lines. Needless to say, the opportunity to ski these two peaks with Ethan, who had just returned from 15 months in Africa, had me stoked. I was so excited that I got to the Dry Gulch trail head in time for a nap! That never happens!

The first mile of the approach was completely bare, allowing us to make quick time in our running shoes.

Eventually there was too much snow to keep walking...

So, we started skinning...

After an interesting mile of skinning over logs, around dirt, through willows, and over moving water, we came to the head of the valley; Ethan with Dry Gulch through a light haze:

Enhanced by early morning shadows, light haze and high cloud cover, the views at treeline were incredible. Citadel: 

At treeline the snow cover became discontinuous, we put our skis on or backs and continued on foot:

40 minutes later we had just a few hundred feet of scrambling separating us from the summit block of Hagar.

Ethan, steps from the summit, with Coon Hill visible in the background:

Although the strong south winds and cloud cover were on our side, there had been a very light freeze the night before, it was time to head down the sun-baked south east face of Hagar. I dropped first, looking back up to see Ethan make his first turn in 15 months:

I think I see a little bit of relief in there!

After the summit block we worked our way skier's left across the wide face.

Then entered the lower half of the banana chute. I've always wanted to ski the banana chute, but never thought it lined up with the summit, bonus!

Knowing that time was against us in ascending the south face of the Citadel we quickly prepared to head back up. At this point I started to lose the top half of my vision, knowing a migraine was setting in, I immediately took my migraine medicine and we started hiking. 

Ethan's great comradery helped me to push the migraine out of my thoughts and focus on the steep bootpack to the ridge.

Looking back at our line on Hagar:

After 1000 vertical feet we reached the ridge:

At the ridge, I started to lose it: the left side of my body went numb, my headache increased, and I became so dizzy I could barely stand. Ethan was nice enough to sit down with me while I had a snack, hydrated, and took another dose of Excedrin. In retrospect, with symptoms that lasted until the next day, this was the worst migraine I've ever had. Feeling a bit more stable we continued towards the short couloir known as Snoopy's Collar. The east peak of Citadel:

Still dizzy at the collar, the relatively mellow snowclimb became a test of my focus. Ethan powering up  behind me:

Reaching the small saddle, Ethan and I were both overjoyed to find untouched snow in the north couloir where the rock amphitheater was still protecting 1300 vertical feet of creamy snow. Ethan dropped first, and I followed:

Lower down, the tight rock walls opened, and we opened up our turns:


Out of the upper amphitheater, an entertaining sidestep led us to one last pitch of skiing:

Which was obviously great!

From there a 500' vert skin brought us out of Herman Gulch and back to the saddle into Dry Gulch.

On the saddle Ethan found some edgeable grass:

Done with the patch skiing at the saddle, we skied continuous snow until 200' above the valley floor. Soon we were in a meadow listening to a beautiful stream, and getting ready for a quick nap with a view:

The route:


I am so happy to finally check this off the list, especially with a great partner! These two lines go well together, on an average snow year are even easier, and at 4500 vertical feet make for a very doable tour. One of my favorite tours, highly recommended!