Peak(s):  Pagoda Mtn  -  13,497 feet
Alice, Mt  -  13,310 feet
McHenrys Pk  -  13,327 feet
Date Posted:  09/26/2015
Modified:  10/13/2015
Date Climbed:   09/26/2015
Author:  piper14er
 The long and the short of it or the thrill of victory and the agony of the feet  

I had a plan and that plan was to save a day and one long trek to Mt. Alice. Well as the saying goes "the best laid plans". I decided that a start from the Glacier Gorge trailhead to nab Pagoda, Mt. Alice and McHenrys would be a good idea. I had already summited Chief's Head from Wild Basin. Unfortunately the drop from Pagoda to the saddle between there and Chief's Head would be a problem. I did try to get a backcountry permit to camp but as absurd as it is, in my opinion, there is only one permit available up the Glacier Gorge trail. So no go. You can get a bivy permit if you are climbing.



I believe I have sufficiently recovered to post a report and ponder future hikes. Immediately after this trek I was not feeling so warm and fuzzy.

Whether real or imagined the drop off of Pagoda looked to be pretty stiff and from a report I read it was technical and a rappel. Maybe that was correct by the reporter. I have a book on RMNP trails/routes and it did not show that the ridge went either. No doubt as I have said about other spots someone has done it. I looked and it did not look good to me so that led to a long roundabout sans a big left hook off Pagoda.

Anyway I should have started earlier, or I should be younger or really I should have been faster.

The trail is good from the trailhead with a few wrinkles. First go straight, then go left then take the cutoff after the second bridge. There is a Route Description (not a report) on, under Pagoda that will give you the info you need to get to Pagoda and back. I will provide a bit of info on the route to add some of my perspective.

The first light of day on Arrowhead and McHenrys. A nice wall between you and them.

A first look at the Keyboard of the Winds.



A look ahead to the gully past the Keyboards.

I started in the dark and finished in the dark but in between there were the shadows. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!"

A look back down the basin with lakes that were passed by.

A slog up a loose scree filled gully of about 1200 to 1300 feet gets you to the small saddle where you can look at the Keyboards.

The summit is now only about 425 feet up and 0.2-0.3 miles away.

Okay so back to the first two pictures in this report. I decided that it would work okay by dropping down the SE Gully off of Pagoda. This idea wasn't great but there you go. A slog down la oose rock/scree filled gully of about 1300 to 1400 feet gets you to a rock filled bottom.

A look up the gully from the Wild Basin side.

The SE Gully ties into Keplingers Couloir, which I did a few years back. My memory was jogged and now I recall that it was a rough go.

The gullies were slow going for me and I could feel the day starting to slip away.

Another look back at the massive amount of rock.

A look ahead looked promising with smoother ground past the rocks.

A look back at Keplinger Lake.

Mount Alice lies ahead.

Mt. Alice and the ridge that is the NW Ridge route to Chief's Head.

It required quite a bit of downs and ups, scree slopes, rock and some grass to get to the NW Ridge. Once you are there Hourglass Ridge is staring down at you.

Hourglass Ridge seems to be intimidating but the actual climb up is not difficult except for the fact you going up about 800 feet in just a short distance.

Mt. Alice.


Chief's Head, Longs and Meeker.

The day was slipping away but I was still confident at this point I could get to McHenrys with enough time to hike down Stone Man Pass in the light. The hike down and over to the NW Ridge on Chief's Head did take a little time. It was farther than it looked at first. You do have to gain some elevation, about 400 feet to get above Stone Man. I was not too sure about that as I had not come up that way. Once back up to 12850 or so you have another loose scree, rocky steep gully to decend. The gullies had and were taking its toll on me. This one was slow, dropping about 650 feet and before you have to ascend back up close to 300 feet. Dang.

A look back up the gully above Stone Man.

Maybe I should have dropped off here and saved a few feet.

Stone Man Pass.


The Stone Man himself.

It was too late to attempt McHenrys and get back down to the pass so I abandoned the thought much to my disappointment. I did not want to hike down the pass in the dark. I had not come up this way. Another loose rock, scree slope and then a long traverse across the basin to the trail, such as it was up higher in that basin. The traverse included some rock slabs to cross and one pretty good gulch to get through. I did seem to be able to follow the cairns even though it was getting dark so my gpx appears to follow the route. There isn't a trail, at least from what I observed. There was one cairn sitting on top of the rock above that gulch. Don't walk off the rock since there is a twenty five foot or so drop.

I did make it back to the trail unscathed. Very shortly after that I met two climbers coming up in the dark heading up to Spearhead, with a bivy permit.

An hour or two later the moon came out.

Crazy 20.1 miles and 8000 feet later I was back at the trailhead. I am still feeling that trek a few days later, but on the way to recovery. Anybody up for McHenrys, I know the way.

I am adding some info for McHenrys now. Summited 10-10-2015. Hope it helps someone.

12.7 miles +/-
4300 feet +/-
I posted this at LOJ where I attached a gpx if anyone wants it or pm me. This was my last Front Range 13er. Thanks.

Glacier Gorge trailhead with shortcuts. Take the second left turn off Glacier Gorge to Mills Lake. After the second small bridge go a short diatance to a slab rock that is on the left side of the main trail. Take the shortcut leaves the main trail to Alberta Falls. It s a good trail and even easy to follow in the dark. This cuts off a good portion of the main trail and misses all the people. The shortcut returns to the main trail just east of the Haiyaha/Loch Mills trail junction. Turn to your right and go just a few tenths of a mile to a fork in the trails. Go left to Mills Lake, Jewell Lake and then on to Black Lake. Pass the one and only permitted camp spot on your way to Black Lake.
The second shortcut is just before Black Lake where you take a faint trail around the south and east side of the lake. You have a choice here. Once you get to the east side of the lake you can take the faint trail directly towards Arrowhead. The first part of the trail is over rocks and not necessarily easy to find. Here is a Lat/Long N40.26629 W105.64320 at 10700 feet. The gpx attached to this report will help. That is the way I returned from McHenrys Peak. It is not the way I went up. If you go this way you avoid the grass ledge I mention below and avoid the exposure. There is some Class 3/4 rock to get up above the grass slopes depending on your route finding. Once above that get above the steep slabs and head directly for Stone Man Pass.

I took the prominent ledge to the south/southwest. I believe the gpx shows the direction although my GPS unit did not like the big rock wall on my right side while ascending. The wide ledge goes well up to the deep gash in the major headwall above Black lake. The wide ledge narrows down to a one foot to two foot wide grass ledge with some real exposure on your left as you head upwards. This is the crux of the climb, the route finding on McHenry above Stne Man notwithstanding. It is only about 50-60 feet in length and there are holds in the rock wall that goes straight up on your right. The drop on the left is mostly vertical, down several hundred feet anyway, to the water falls and rock below.

Once you get past that choke point it widens back out and then you gain the area above the major headwall. Go up the drainage to some cairns and find a nice series of ledges to climb out of the ravine. It is not far to that point once you crest.

After that it is a traverse across rock, slabs and grass to the bottom of Stone Man Pass. I held more to the McHenrys side of the slope up to the pass for better footing.

The first look at McHenrys once you are at the top of the pass is a bit worrisome as it looks so broken and you don't see a trail. There is a cairn almost immediately right of the pass. Follow that cairn to the next and the next. If you stay with the cairns there is a good route and there is a trail for a good portion of the way up to here N40.26201 W105.65681 at 13100 feet.

The kicker is this, the cairns take you to the first gully and there are several that are down below that gully that go west. The first gully looks to be Class 4 stuff and if you want to do that head on up. If you want to keep it to easy Class 3 go straight to the second gully here N40.26223 W105.65746 at 13000 feet. You do have to lose some elevation but the way down is on a nice wide grassy ledge, no exposure.

Once to the bottom of the second gully take a right up a few easy ledges to the gully. The gully is partially grass and partially good rock. Take the gully up to the ridge southeast of the peak and then it is Class 2 to the top.

The ledge going up. You can see the grass ledge above the gash.

The grass ledge. It looks okay here but once on it the drop seems more dramatic.

Another look back.

Snow below the Keyboard.

The jumble.

The second gully.

The grass ledge down to the second gully taken on the return.

The rock I had to downclimb on the return. This is just above Black Lake.

My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 35 36 37 38 39 40

 Comments or Questions

Good call
10/01/2015 11:28
That’s a long day! Good call on avoiding Pagoda’s west ridge. It is indeed a technical endeavor with tricky routefinding and at least one more or less mandatory rappel down a highly exposed 5.7 slab crux.


10/01/2015 12:22
it was long for me anyway and on a plus note at least I didn’t try anything really dumb there on the west ridge


big combo
10/01/2015 20:48
saw you did this pair on LOJ and was wondering about your route, I was surprised to see it done without Chiefs Head. That’s a lot of up and down in different basins! That last stretch up McHenrys from Stone Man is a bit steep and worth saving for another day even though Stone Man Pass is a bit nasty. Glacier Gorge is worth a return trip. BTW – the shortcut to Black Lake from Stone Man goes pretty easily and is cairned but it helps to ascend that way to know where the gap in the cliff band is.


another thank you
10/02/2015 07:55
I will have to look for the shortcut to Black Lake. There were cairns everywhere coming down off Stone Man and next time I will look for the ones on the shortcut.

Camping and shortcut
10/04/2015 17:04
Having done it, I would definitely ascend the shortcut from black before descending it. Makes the path much more clear.

Also you can pick up the edge of the hunters creek cross country zone to camp. Still requires a permit but much easier to get. The unnamed lake near 11,200 just south of Pagoda’s Crescent Ridge (just below your path through that area) is in the zone.


10/04/2015 18:18
thanks for the info on the shortcut and Hunters zone, although in defense I did stop at the backcountry permit cabin and asked about backcountry permits but from Glacier Gorge. I camped once in Hunters when I did Longs via Keplingers a number of years.

10/05/2015 09:28
Yeah, I have not found the backcountry office to be very helpful.
I can’t even get a straight answer as to what climbs qualify for bivy permits other than "it has to be in the book" (points to binder).


10/05/2015 18:03
I did meet a couple of climbers that had bivy permits and they said there about 25 of those. I looked at the rules for bivy permits and they are supposed to be for climbers, bivy on rock or snow, have to bivy at certain spots, gone before morning, etc. It would not have been any different for my purposes since I just wanted to hike up and sleep to get up early. A small one man tent and a sleeping bag no bigger than some of the bivy’s I have seen. Oh well.

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