In Search of Snow in the Big Park – McHenrys Peak

Summit of 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

    1. Mike, thanks man! Honestly I didn’t get a real good look over at that side. The wind was kicking my ass on the summit buddy! I’d say coulies and gullies would probably be comparable to Stone Man. There were 2 sections where we even had to face inward to climb down the snow on the decent.


  1. As a fellow PSU fan I too was shocked at the #12 ranking. Upsetting OSU was great, but I’m not delusional.

    Impressive work! Thanks for the TR and inspiration. RMNP is 2.5 hrs away–why haven’t I been there more?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bob, Thanks! I was at the PSU OSU game. It was quite a seen. Took me about a week to recover. 🙂 Looking forward to seeing what these boys are made of in the next installment tomorrow night! If you’re originally from PA or back east, you know how lucky we are to have a National Park in our backyard out here. Get in there, haha. GO PSU!


      1. Wow! What a game to be at. I’m originally from Mechanicsburg, although I’ve never been to a PSU game. Hopefully another blowout win tomorrow night. Oh yes, very thankfully to be in CO. Looking at Pikes every morning on the drive to work never gets old.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Very nice TR, buddy! Wonderful pics as always and congrats on them Nittany Lions! Good to see you enjoying the snow…I, however, will stick to the rock and dry trails until the snow really falls.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brando – Did you get Rainie a PSU sweater yet? yeah buddy! Winter Triathlon? Lets’s do it. Ski/Board/Shoe, ice fish, and snow ball fight. Bam. Sawyer called me last night. She thinks her parents need to hang with more Italians that live in Denver.


    1. Ross, hey there buddy! You posted this comment during tax season. I’m really bad at life during tax season! And this comment just made me lol. Hope you’re having a great summer!


    1. Jenny!! Sorry for the 3 month hiatus! 🙂 Thank you very much! I need to get cracking and do some more reports (and the trips that go along with them) this year. Hope you’re getting into the Park this summer and all is well! RMNP is a heck of a place.


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