On the south side of I-70 at Exit 218 several miles east of Eisenhower tunnel you will find a parking lot for the trailhead to Herman Gulch/Herman Lake. This trail will lead you to the base of Pettingell Peak. The first portion of the hike was an easy trip up a high valley through forests and meadows, across avalanche chutes, and finally up several switch-backs to Herman Lake. The three mile hike to the lake took us about an hour and a half and climbs approximately 1700 feet.
After reaching the lake we walked half-way around the south side and crossed a rocky-yet marshy area near the outlet to reach the base of a semi-steep rocky climb. From this point on crowds would no longer be a problem as all of the tourons assumed Herman Lake was the
destination. From this point we climbed north gaining several hundred feet in elevation. On top of this pitch of several hundred feet the mountain turned to scree a flattened slightly until the saddle just west of the summit. After climbing through the remains of last season´s cornice which had formed in the saddle we approached the summit from the west (along the Continental Divide).
On top the views were of the Indian Peaks to the northeast and Longs Peak
almost on the horizon beyond that. To the southwest we could still find Mount of the Holy Cross but the horizontal bar of the cross was almost nonexistent this late in summer. Of course the Gore range was directly west of us and the standard front range mountains (Mount Evans, Torreys
and Grays Peaks
) were to our south.
Once we had taken in these views, we proceeded to follow the ridge to the west along the Continental Divide to another sub-peak (name?) several hundred feet lower and about a half mile west of Pettingell Peak. From this point we continued along the divide (southwest) towards Hag Mountain. This stretch of the hike is not recommended for those with fear of heights as there are some spectacular drop-offs to the north and west of the ridge and only a very steep slope to the south and east. There is no way out other than retracing your steps along the ridge. Our footing was safe however and the views of the drop-offs and the valleys below (especially off the back side of the ridge - west of the Divide) and through the jagged outcrops were phenomenal!
Just before Hag Mountain the climbing became technical so we opted to stop and rest before heading back down. We retraced our steps for about a quarter of a mile (back to the east) and found a steep rocky slope which made for a quick descent back to the valley floor (an elevation loss of about 1000 feet). Here we found some small ponds, marshy ground, and small streams. After making our way back to dry ground we traversed east across the valley back to the trail for an easy way back to the car.