McHenrys At Last!

I had been looking at McHenrys Peak with great desire for many years and had been close twice, but had never quite set out to bag it.  And McHenrys is not a peak to climb on a whim, or is it?


Close but no cigar on McHenry


Close but no cigar:

  1. Spring Climb of Stone Man Pass; no thought of trying for summit
  2. Rock climb of Dog Star route (climbs the center of triangular buttress on McHenrys NE face); ran out of time for attempt on summit

On June 2, 2002, Brian and I decided to visit Stone Man Pass for a bit of exercise.  We didn’t think we’d move fast enough or weather would stay good long enough to do more.  But we were mistaken.

We left the parking lot at 6am and hiked 5 miles to Black Lake by 8am.  The trail was in good shape even though it was mostly snow covered.


Looking toward Chiefs Head from above Black Lake


We decide to take a shortcut to the pass by heading directly toward Arrowhead, and by 10am we reached the bottom of the snowfield reaching toward Stone Man Pass.  This snow was also in good shape and we reach the top of the pass at 11am.

The conditions had allowed us to finish early; and the weather was too good to think about going home.  While resting at the pass we looked around for something interesting.

I looked to the summit of McHenrys, but hesitated.  I thought it looked hard, even technical.  But it was on the top of my wish list, so eventually I suggested we give it a go; Brian agreed.


Looking back down toward the Stoneman from McHenrys


We didn’t have any route info aside from a vague memory Brian held of a descent of the route some years before (after climbing NE ridge), and snow covered anything that might look like a trail or a trail marker. We figured we’d just wander on up and see what we can see.  I didn’t have any concerns, at least not at first.


Our ascent (red) and descent (green) routes. Photo taken from climb of Chiefs Head.


We wandered low to get around the first major buttress, and then went straight up the gully toward the summit.  This path worked fine until near the top where the climbing got hard.  It was big blocks and pillars that we had to climb up and around; I’d call it 4th class in spots.  It was 5th class if not careful; I was not careful.

I got stuck on a ledge with no good way off.  I had made hard-to-reverse moves to gain the ledge thinking that I could escape it; but the only move I found was a dynamic one that would be fatal if I missed the mark.  I just didn’t like it in my Makalus, so I just kept looking for anything else; and perhaps just delaying the inevitable.

To my delight (and relief), I found a less risky move and took it.  A short while later, I joined Brian on the summit.


Brian atop McHenrys enjoying the spectacular views of Longs, Pagoda & Chiefs Head


It is far better than any summit in RMNP; completely awe-inspiring. The valley floor drops away dramatically from all sides.  It is a must climb.


Our routes on McHenrys Peak; Red for ascent, Green for descent.


The decent was easier and exhilarating.  We found a better path on the way down (isn’t it always so?) to Stone Man Pass and then glissaded down from Stone Man Pass and later down the bench below Arrowhead to reach the Black Lake area.

Another 2 hours of hiking got us back to the car for an 11 mile, 11 hour round trip.

It was a great day!

But I don’t recommend climbing McHenrys Peak on a whim.  It is a peak that deserves respect, and some preparation.


The long trek to Stone Man Pass & McHenrys Peak


See Solitude Lake Cirque for another route up McHenrys

See all trip reports

See RMNP trip reports


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2 Responses to “McHenrys At Last!”

  1. Dog Star on McHenrys Peak « PeakMind Says:

    […] It was over except for the clean up (the boring hike out).  We had done it, sort of.  I regretted missing out on McHenrys Peak’s summit, but I knew I’d come back eventually (in 2 years, actually: see McHenrys At Last). […]

  2. joelavelle Says:

    I thought I would add that since my climb of McHenry via Arrowhead Arete, I would say the Arrowhead path is no harder and much shorter than the Stoneman path.

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