August 19, 2003
Click on the pictures!

Small Cascades along Icy Brook in Glacier Gorge.

Another shot of Icy Brook.

A shot of the trail in-between Mills Lake and Jewel Lake.

A small waterfall along the trail.

McHenrys Peak finally comes into view!

The Arrowhead, towering above Black Lake.

McHenrys Peak comes back into view as I climb the Northern shelf above Black Lake.

McHenrys as seen from above the Northern shelf.

Heading up to Stone Man Pass. (I'm heading toward the small, triangular snowfield in the upper middle part of the photo)

Looking up at McHenrys from the gully to the pass. The true summit is on the right.

Looking up the tallus filled gully to Stone Man Pass.

Looking (NW) toward the summit from the crest of the pass.

The "trail" before you drop into the gully that leads to the summit.
Part of the "trail."
The final gully that leads to the summit.
Me doin the v on the summit!
The summit register & Longs Peak.
A few feet off, but still cool to see. Mt. Alice is in the background.
The summit of McHenrys.
From left to right: Longs, Meeker, Pagoda, and Chiefs Head.
McHenrys Peak as Im heading back down toward Frozen Lake. You can see the "stone man" of Stone Man Pass in the upper left of the picture.
Some flowers along the trail on the way back to Black Lake.

McHenrys Peak

August 19, 2003

Light was just beginning to make the eastern horizon visible by the time I got to the Glacier Gorge trailhead. I had my pack full of supplies for a very long day. This time I would be heading up towards Black Lake to summit McHenrys Peak. This is a true beast of a mountain. It is argued by some to be the most difficult non-technical peak in the National Park. It rises to a height of 13,327 ft, towering above Black Lake (over 2,700 feet below) and the rest of Glacier Gorge.

The trek up to Black Lake was uneventful, except for the crossing of Icy Brook and some small waterfalls. Mills and Jewel Lake were also nice, especially having them all to yourself in the dawn hours....a rare thing if you have ever visited this area around noon. Once passed the lakes, I was surprised to see all of the work being done by the park service to maintain the trail...new log "steps"More filler stones....more soil for the base of the trail...etc. It was nice to see and made the trail very comfortable. In less than two hours I was standing at Black Lake with McHenrys Peak staring down on top of me.

Seeing McHenrys from Black Lake, and knowing you have to climb to the top of that thing, is a very intimidating experience. I had a Clif Bar (Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip...mmmmmm), sucked down some water, and started across the eastern shore to climb to the top of the shelf just to the North of the lake. This takes you to a shelf at the base of the Arrowhead which leads you to the gully to Stone Man Pass.

Once I was on the top of the shelf, I could clearly see the route ahead, with Stone Man Pass still about a mile away.....a lot of climbing to do! I took my time making my way across what resembles the boulderfield on Longs, and in about thirty minutes I was standing at the base of the gully.

This gully isn't very long, but is steep, and full of an annoying scree/tallus mix. I picked my way up the gully trying not to start a rock slide and soon made it to the crest of the pass. On the right side of the gully, there are steep cliffs and overhanging rocks that I caught myself just staring at...something about them. Once at the pass, I turned to the Northwest and began trying to find my way along the nonexistent "path." This section was actually, by far, the most fun I have ever had while climbing a mountain. It is rugged, steep and high. It's the ultimate playground for anyone who likes peakbagging. You can follow the "trail" or you can make up your own, to make it as easy or a difficult as you wish (at least 3rd class scrambling).

Once you find your way to the gully that leads to the summit, it is a quick push to the top. This is an amazing summit with very unique views of surrounding peaks. The view down to Black Lake is breathtaking.....it's a higher drop than it is from Longs to Chasm Lake...and you feel like if you got a running start and leaped off the summit, you could land in the middle of the lake! (please dont try that, you will die).

I stayed on the summit for about 20 minutes, looking through the summit log (lebowski), and soaking in the view. On the way back down I followed the same route until I got to the base of Stone Man Pass. From there, I turned southeast and made a side trip to Frozen Lake. This is an amazing lake surrounded by Chiefs Head Peak and the Spearhead. Definitely worth the trip if you have the energy.

The rest of the way to Black Lake consisted of winding through brush and hopping many small streams. There is still a lot of water flowing from the snow melt at the head of Glacier Gorge...which is a very good sign. But the showers, that have been a daily occurrence, decided to let me have the entire day storm free. This was a relief, not having to worry about the lightning.

I have put McHenrys Peak on the same level as Mount Alice in my opinion of the best mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park. It is more fun than you could possibly imagine, it is one of the most beautiful mountains in Colorado, and getting to the summit is an experience I will always remember. It gave me an opportunity to push my comfort levels farther then I ever have. I never felt excessively "exposed" but got to challenge my climbing and route finding skills. A perfect combination (for me anyway). I will definitely return to this mountain...hopefully sooner than later.

 

 

Round Trip: 13.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 4,087 feet

More McHenrys Peak Info.

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