Peak(s):  McHenrys Pk  -  13,327 feet
Arrowhead 12,640
Date Posted:  08/16/2020
Date Climbed:   08/15/2020
Author:  Stee
 Arrowhead McHenrys Traverse  

I've tried to keep my adventures local to the front range this year considering our current environment. Admittedly, I have escaped a few times to the Bells and Sawatch to get my climb on. It has been fun to focus on what's close to home and tackle the less trafficked climbs that I would likely never complete. This has also been my first real push into solo hiking which has been rewarding with many positives - speed, no group decisions, and unlimited options. On the other hand it is pretty lonely, especially in the dark. I do miss all my hiking buddies. Sharing any summit with a friend truly is special.

I got the idea for this climb from Cooper's Scramble Guide. He suggests McHenrys has the reputation for being one of the most difficult high peaks in RMNP via the standard route and a fine mountaineering challenge. Sign me up! After researching it on the map, I remembered Arrowhead was also close by Mchenrys. I had ice climbed the West Gully above Black Lake last November and was amazed by the view of both of these peaks. The idea of linking them up was intriguing.

Black Lake in winter with a view of Mchenrys

Furthermore, I had some inspiration from Tommy C. and Alex H. who recently completed the Continental Divide Ultimate Linkup (CDUL). A small part of their journey included the Airplane route (5.11A) up Arrowhead and the traverse over to Mchenrys. No thanks on the 5.11A. Fortunately for us mortals, there is a mostly class 3 route (with some class 4) up Arrowhead! Game on!

Distance: 12.5 miles
Elevation gain: tracks in Google Earth say 5,593 ft. But GAIA was closer to 4,500 ft. Bottom line, it's a big day.
Start time: 6AM
Finish time: 3:50 PM
*You can cruise on the approach but budget extra time for route finding. Sticking to class 3 requires some thoughtfulness. I stopped at the summits and Frozen Lake for a while so there is room to do this a lot faster. In fact, I think three runners that passed me early on the trail were already on Mchenrys when I started scrambling on Arrowhead.

Google Earth shot of my route.

Once you get to Black Lake, you get a good view of your route up the South side of Arrowhead. Take a trail on the north side of Black Lake that is easy to follow. I got lost a few times but eventually found my way. You mainly want to travel up and to the left until you get out of tree line. There is evidence of a trail and a few cairns so just do some bushwhacking and find your way to some slabby class 3 moves.

Three climbers circled as they work their way up.

A zoomed in shot of the grassy/slab area.

After traveling southwest/west for a bit, you will eventually start making your way up Arrowhead. There are a few cairns on the way and evidence of traffic on class 3 slab. Your goal is to eventually find this cracked leaning rock. Climb through it. Right past this is the crux of Arrowhead with some Class 4 moves. Some say you could do class 3 slightly to the left but it looked pretty exposed. I found the class 4 moves to be fun.

Look for this leaning cracked rock.
Looking at the class 4 crux move after the leaning rock.

The rest of the climb is class 2 on a ramp up to the summit. I added a shot of Arrowhead from Mchenrys to give a better view of the route.

Easy Class 2 ramp to the summit.
A view of the climb up Arrowhead from Mchenrys.

The view from the top is worth the effort. Excellent views of Longs, Pagoda and Spearhead. Don't forget to sign the summit log.

Longs, Pagoda, Spearhead

No signatures of Tommy or Alex but some funny commentary on the summit.

At this point I felt pretty fresh. I had lost some time route finding but it was only 10 am and the weather was perfect. It was time to head on over to Mchenrys. The journey looked rough but most the beta I read mentioned that it was Class 3-4 as long as you picked the right route. This turned out to be true. It started off as leaning class 2 as you made your way to the saddle. It then progressed to Class 3 with only a few spots of Class 4. If you got too far right from the ridge it was a lot of slab so I tried to stay close to it while avoiding the steep rock towers.

A view of your route.
Looking back the awesome wave! Stay close to the ridge but avoid the towers. I went to the right of them on terrain I was comfortable on. No cairns but you see evidence of traffic.
This is what a lot of the climb up Mchenry's looks like. It always looks rough until you get close and start working the weakness.

Avoid slab! Nice class 3 rocks on the right.

Eventually you find a trail up a gully that leads to the summit. This picture is looking back down the trail.

Looking North from the summit at the fire growing.

Fortunately no smoke to block these views.

I got to the top around 11 am so it took a little over an hour to make the traverse. I rested for about 30 minutes, even closing my eyes thinking I would take a nap (which didn't happen). I ran into two other climbers that I saw earlier in the morning. They had done the standard route up Mchenrys which I would be using to get down to Stone Man Pass. I won't go into details as it's pretty easy to get down. There are a lot of cairns and a dirt path in some places. Just head to the Stone Man!

The Stone Man!

Stone Man Pass is a little bit before the actual Stone Man himself. In my opinion, this was the worst part of the whole trip. Maybe I took the wrong way down, maybe I was tired. It was one of the worst scree/dirt descents I have done. You have to butt slide in places and try and hold the rock on the side. There is a little bit of snow left at the bottom too and the only way to avoid it was to climb some sketchy slab. Maybe bring microsprikes for the snow? You make the call.

Sliding down the scree!

My route down Stone Man with a finish on some slab to avoid the snow.

With the hard work done, I took my time to get back with a long break at Frozen Lake. The hike out offers great views of the hard work.

Black Lake with views of the entire traverse.

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

 Comments or Questions
that stone man pass descent
08/17/2020 09:12
Excellent report! great pics with overlays of route! My son and I were the 2 you saw on top McH. BTW the pic you took of us was great!
When we told you about the way we had come up from stone man we were focused on ensuring you didn't make our mistake and end up on the wrong side of the rib. In hindsight we should have mentioned our disdain of the gully below the pass itself. I had decided at the top that I was not going down that if I could avoid it. Your description of your descent of it is exactly what I expected. It is indeed notable that someone who was comfortable ascending Arrowhead alone found that gully to be the worst part.
I had been up to stone man before and knew the ascent right to it was fine so we planned to go over to the man and down from there. Sorry we did not mention that option to you. I don't know why there seems to be no mention of that option. We found it wonderful!
Again, excellent report!


Nicely done!
08/17/2020 15:25
I've always wanted to attempt this exact route but was unsuccessful in two tries. Great beta and pics! Thanks for sharing!


08/17/2020 17:37
This looks really cool thanks for sharing


08/17/2020 17:43
@ronbco - Nice meeting you guys and glad the picture came out OK. I thought about heading to the Stone Man just to take a look but got lazy. When I return, I'll go for that better option. Looks like you are almost done with the 14ers...that is exciting!

@MtnHub - Thanks. I think it is time for you to try a third time. Get after it!

08/18/2020 01:02
What a wonderful report.
Congratulations on a successful long day.
Glacier gorge is one of my personal favorite places in Colorado.
Thanks for all of the great photographs, especially the shot of the wave.

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