In Search of Snow in the Big Park – McHenrys Peak

Peak: McHenrys Peak (13,327′) – Rocky Mountain National Park
Date: October 30, 2016
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge (9,180′)
Approach: South Slope via Stone Man Pass
Distance:  ~ 13 miles
Elevation Gain:  ~ 4,200 ft.
Participants: Will Robnett, Dillon Sarnelli
Route Overview (click to enlarge).

Rocky Mountain National Park has seen 4,000,000 visitors to date this year. On Sunday there were 3, including Will and myself. I counted.

First it should be noted that we survived the gale force winds that come standard with parking in the Glacier Gorge lot. Visitor number 3, in his Levi’s sporting a TX license plate, wasn’t so lucky. Dude didn’t make it past the TH sign.

Approaching Black Lake. Photo by Will.
The approach to Black Lake. Photo by Will.

The approach to Black Lake went like clockwork. We utilized the top secret shortcut to the west of Glacier Knob to shave a mile. Four miles later we arrived at Black Lake where we rounded the north shores (opposite the “standard” route) into the boulder field to the west of the lake and began our ascent towards Arrowhead. There’s one weakness in the rock (when not covered in ice and/or snow) that provides somewhat easy access to the upper ramps below Arrowhead and eventually into the upper Glacier Gorge basin. If you find it, you’ve done good. If not, you just lost an hour+ walking in circles. I’ve been on both sides of this spectrum. From here make a dash for Stone Man Pass.

Ascending Stone Man Pass.
Will, pictured lower front and center, ascending the Stone Man. The sheer lower portions of Arrowhead’s walls make a nice backdrop.


We had no idea we’d be boot packing up a filled in couloir, but we were ready. Will, why are you carrying my crampon?


Taking it to the rock when possible.

Stone Man Pass (12,506′) made us work, but the saddle came quickly, as did the forecasted 40 mph wind gusts. Buckle up.

Once over the pass on the backside of McHenrys (south west side) the snow relented somewhat. The Stone Man himself can be seen to the right in this picture. The pass is the notch just below Mr. Stone Man. Longs, (Meeker behind), Pagoda, and the Chief (L to R) make it pretty hard to take a bad picture out here.


Doing a little route finding. Ice covered ledges and snow filled gullies kept us guessing. Photo by Will.


The Park Warden keeping a watchful eye as we traverse some of the snowy ledges.


Will, look at yourself.


Photo by Will.
Rime makes for bad @ss pictures. Photo by Will.

Pass to summit can probably be kept to class 3+. Snow and ice add another dynamic. Staying ridge proper could be a whole different ballgame.

The elusive McHenrys summit, all to ourselves.


Summit of McHenrys Peak - Elevation 13,324' - October 30, 2016
Summit of McHenrys Peak (13,327′) – October 30, 2016


Will, great day out! You set the bar pretty high with all of your Gore outings up there in Vail. This is how us chumps roll down here in Denver. Come back soon man. This was a classic day on an underrated peak and super fun. Thanks for hanging. And how about that bacon chicken burrito… Mountains are great and all, but I’ve talking about that burrito for 4 days now. Cheers!

In other news it turns out I finished the RMNP 13ers on this one. Personally, aside from the 14er list, I think lists are dumb (to each his own!), but I figured I’d use this monumental achievement to reminisce on a few Park 13er favorites:

Attempt #1: Blyth and I en route to McHenrys from Arrowhead - September 20, 2015.
Attempt #1 at McHenrys – September 20, 2015. Blyth and I en route to McHenrys via Arrowhead. 200 feet from any icy summit in trail runners with no traction and no ice axe, the mountain had other plans for us (me!). JB are you still up there? Mountain Sun was a nice consolation.


Ogalalla Peak (13,138′) – August 21, 2016. Derek (L), Russell (R), and I all smiles on the summit of Ogi this summer.


Isolation Peak (13,118') - November 9, 2013 w/ Miller, Steve, & Zambo.
Isolation Peak (13,118′) – November 9, 2013. A 20 mile RMNP classic w/ Miller, Steve, and Zambo back in ’13.
Mount Alice (13,333') - June 22, 2012. Descending Alice along the saddle with the Chief after a successful hazing of my buddies from back east. w/ Dana, Kevin, Migz, Nate, and Ray,
Mount Alice (13,333′) – June 22, 2012. Descending Alice after a successful day of hazing east coasters Dana, Kevin, Migz, Nate, and Ray. Colorado wants you back in 2017 boys.


Mount Chiquita (13,069′) – October 4, 2015 - The day my Fitbit exploded.
Mount Chiquita (13,069′) – October 4, 2015. Solo – The day my Fitbit exploded.


Summit of Pagoda Mountain (13,258') - December 14, 2013
Pagoda Mountain (13,258′) – December 14, 2013. Myself, Brian K, and Emily (L to R) above the clouds on the summit of Pagoda.


Not a 13er.
Longs Peak – June 24, 2012. Not a 13er.


The Ranked 13ers of RMNP.
The Ranked 13ers of RMNP.



Thanks for reading!

16 thoughts on “In Search of Snow in the Big Park – McHenrys Peak

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