| A Partial Glacier Gorge Traverse.
May 16, 2012
~16.5 Miles, ~6,200 Gain
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge Trailhead.
Thanks to Ryan, Monster5, I received some valuable beta the day prior that allowed me to sleep a few extra hours as he warned me that the Bear Lake road is closed from 8 PM – 6 AM, Sunday-Thursday. I ended up crashing at a friends place in Lyons and we woke up and made the short drive to the Glacier Gorge trailhead. Sure enough the road was torn up and was just opened as we arrived at 6:15 AM.
After sorting through gear and the slow drive, we started hiking up the Glacier Gorge trail around 6:45 AM almost 2 hours after I would have liked to start. With favorable weather in the forecast, I wasn't too worried about a late start. Keith and I made excellent time to Mills Lake before things really slowed down. Ryan had mentioned some downed trees but I entirely underestimated how horrible they were going to be. Within a quarter of a mile of Mills Lake, the downed timber bushwhack began. I was surprised at the amount of snow in the area compared to the Cristos or Creede.
Pagoda Peak from our approach.
Downed trees and high angle trails.
Half a mile later Keith was ready to call it quits as there was no end to the downed trees. Shortly thereafter, Keith pulled a muscle in his back trying to crawl over some deadfall. We took a break and discussed our options. Climbing up and over some peaks sounded like a better option rather than re-bushwhacking back to Mills Lake with a questionable back.
Due to snow being unconsolidated, we left the “trail” ~10,400 and started an ascending traverse on the east slopes of Arrowhead. The upward traverse wasn't easy travel with snow and granite slabs. Around ~11,600 the snow finally consolidated for enjoyable travel. We ended up doing a snow climb up to Stone Man Pass which was energy consuming as it was near ankle deep stepping. Got to love the late start for snow climbing.
Once at the top of Stone Man pass, we took a break. I was hoping for Chiefs Head but it wasn't going to be realistic considering our delayed start, nasty approach and road closure at 8 PM. We started up McHenrys and to make things more interesting, we stayed directly on the southeast ridge. The climbing was mostly class 3 with some short class 4 sections on some delightfully solid rock. We arrived on the summit of McHenrys at 12:50 PM.
Mt. Alice. The Rabbit Hole Couloir looks pretty good!
McHenrys from Stone Man Pass.
Keith making his way up to Stone Man Pass.
Hiking up McHenrys. Chiefs Head in the background.
Gaining the ridge proper.
Gaining the ridge proper.
Direct line on McHenrys
Some class 4 action. (Photo by Keith)
Keith making his way up the ridge on McHenrys.
Longs from the summit of McHenrys
Now for the famous McHenrys notch. We carefully worked our way along the west-northwest ridge of McHenrys looking down several gullies for rappel anchors. Working our way directly to the notch we found our descent gully (the last one). It started with some questionable class 3-4 down-climbing on wet and icy rock. Being a bit sketched out by the wet rock, we set up our first rappel off of a rock horn on the right side of the gully. Both Keith and I brought 1 30 M rope which worked out great for our rappels.
Keith working his way towards the notch.
Scouting around looking for anchors. (Photo by Keith)
I took the first rappel which was ~70 feet to a small ledge before the final drop off into the notch. Keith followed. For our second rappel we used another rock horn on the left side of the gully and made ~80 foot rappel to the base of the technical difficulties. From the base of our second rappel, we down-climbed another 40-60 feet on some talus blocks into the notch and then traversed west into the gully leading up to Powell's summit.
First Rap. (Photo by Keith)
First Rap. (Photo by Keith)
Keith coming down the first rap.
Keith starting the second rap.
Me coming down the second rap.
Keith traversing into the gully for Powell.
The climb up to Powell was a mix of rock and snow and we arrived on the summit at 2:20 PM. Just as we were going to take our break, we heard some loud thunder. Weather was starting to roll in from the northwest. Although, not immediately threatening to us, our stay was short and we started hiking quickly towards Taylor. One option of bailing was Taylor Glacier but Andrews would have made a safer descent; we both decided on Andrews Glacier. Since I had already summited Taylor and there was an impending electrical storm in the Mummy Range we traversed around the west side of Taylor and descended to the top of Andrews Glacier.
Some snow action on Powell.
McHenrys from Powell.
By the time we reached Andrews Glacier, the weather had cleared out and the sun was trying to shine. Back to plan A. Finish the traverse. Keith and I both decided that after descending Andrews Glacier the probability of an epic posthole to The Loch was highly likely being so late in the day.
Keith didn't have much energy left so we agreed to meet on the summit of Flattop Mountain while I bagged Otis and Hallett. I continued up the west slopes of Otis where I arrived on the summit at 4:10 PM. Great views of Taylor, The Sharkstooth and of Longs Peak.
Sharkstooth from Otis.
Longs-Pagoda-Chiefs Head-McHenrys from Otis.
I hiked down the grassy class 2 slopes of Otis and started up the southwest side of Hallett where I arrived on the summit at 4:40 PM. In the distance I could see Keith following a trail around Hallett but it appeared he was heading for Ptarmigan Peak.
View from Hallett.
Moving quickly, I ditched my pack on the summit of Flattop and jogged along to the trail until I caught up to Keith to tell him he was heading the wrong way. He had underestimated how little prominence Flattop Mountain had and just assumed Ptarmigan Peak was Flattop. We returned to Flattop and hiked down the Flattop trail, post-holing in spots, eventually arriving at Bear Lake. The weather deteriorated significantly on our descent as we had several short snow squalls. From Bear Lake, it was a short hike to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead where we arrived back at 7:10 PM. Outstanding day despite the horrible approach.
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