Lake Catherine from Taylor Peak. This is one of the most isolated lakes in the park. In a short time, I'd see another.
Chiefs Head on the left and Mount Alice on the right.
McHenrys. I'd say this is one of the more difficult peaks in the park, with sustained class three climbing from the easiest route, which was on the opposite side of where I was. From the Notch, I've read 5.3. I got my helmet out, because from here on I'd be in some loose terrain.
I've read a few other trip reports where it sounded like people had some trouble finding the correct gully to get to the notch. From the summit of Powell, move toward Alice. You should find the gully in just a few steps. Here's what it looks like from the top.
Powell Lake at the bottom of the gully. Like Lake Catherine it is a long approach to get here.
I looked at the climb up out of the notch. Imposing, yes, but I have read many trip reports from people who I think have a similar level of experience and ability. I wasn't too worried.
The first fifty feet or so are solidly in third and fourth class. Then, you hit the first crux. I'd agree with 5.3, though the holds are large and there are quite a bit of them. Enough really, that you can kind of choose precisely which way you want to go. Just make sure you stay on the SW side of the ridge, as that is the path of least resistance.
And the summit of McHenrys, what an oddity! After all that difficulty it seems like you should get to a towering pinnacle with room for one cheek at the top with bald eagles circling all around, looking at you and thinking, "Jolly good show human. You're pretty cool!". But, like on Longs, there is a fairly flat and broad summit plateau. I've read about the shock of encountering this from others, and they were right.
Longs, Keyboard of the Winds, Pagoda, Chiefs Head, and The Spearhead. It's been awhile since I've visited Upper Glacier Gorge, and I've forgotten how beautiful it is.
For those of you who've followed this website for a few years, you may remember July 22nd is an important date to me. This was the day in the year 2010 that a friend of mine lost a several year long battle with cancer. On or around that day every year, I get to some place amazing and remember her. This year that place was McHenrys Peak on July 25th. I wrote a message to her in the register, and said a few words before continuing down. Liberty, much love to you now and forever.
I had a few options from here. My first plan for the day was to continue to Chiefs Head Peak, and then descend the probably very loose Chiefs Head/Spearhead Couloir, and then climb The Spearhead, one of the last two places I have to visit in Glacier Gorge. But I wasn't able to get a clear view of the couloir from where I was during the day, and time was moving on. It was now a bit after noon, and while the weather still looked good, I felt like I was taking a risk. Thus I decided to descend into Glacier Gorge and stay high to ring around Frozen Lake and at least take a look at The Spearhead.
I looked to The Spearhead, and could see a party descending one of the non-technical routes to the top. I felt maybe I should still go for it, but I was also playing a game with the weather. Given the terrain and class 3-5 I would encounter on the route, I thought it might take me as long as an hour to get up and an hour to get down. That would leave me exposed above treeline for quite awhile, as I still had to find the trail and get back down toward Black Lake.
A second thought was that even if there wasn't any lightning, any rain could certainly make the route much more difficult and treacherous.
I lounged in some sweet smelling grass and had a snack. I really wanted to reach the top of The Spearhead, and I know some of the things that I write about on here will certainly seem risky or dangerous, but you never see the planning, training, and preparation that happens on the backside.
Thus, I relied on years of experience, years of looking at the sky seeing what happens in the future. Years of observation and predicting what will happen in the next hour or two with the weather. I was disappointed to head back to the trailhead, but I am not disappointed to have to make a return trip to Glacier Gorge.
In fact, I felt pretty upset. I really want to finish up RMNP this year. I am hoping to finish in early September when my parents will be visiting. Though I only have ~50 things left to go, it seems unlikely that will happen. Like I said earlier, I have a few things to visit that will take a whole day to get to for one or two destinations. Case in point- this day!
I felt pretty down about this as I hiked back through Glacier Gorge. But then I looked around and remembered where I was.
Why? That's a question I ask myself sometimes. Why do I do this? There are alot of reasons, but I guess in the end most of those boil down to or add up to because it's fun and something that I really enjoy. It's the way I recharge mentally. It's a way I challenge myself physically and mentally to go farther and longer. It's a way I see god (read more on my thoughts on god here).
And while I could drive to a closer trailhead to visit some of those singleton destinations, I've already planned what I think will be pretty fun and challenging days to do so. In short, it's not about checking something off a stupid list, and I lost sight of that on this day.
On that note, as of this week I will now be working a four days on/three days off schedule. I am relaxing today on one of my days off, and will have to do some errands on one of the other, but until the time they get here, I may be able to get two days a week out and about. So maybe it will happen after all. We shall see.
I started seeing some people at Black Lake, and passed maybe 20 on the way down. I remember one couple in particular. When I passed, the girl sarcastically (in my mind) remarked to the guy she was with that I looked like I was dressed to do a marathon. By that time, I was getting close to mile 16, and had climbed 6 peaks and visited one alpine lake. Not *quite* a marathon, but I'd also done over a mile of vertical gain, and climbed up to 5.3! And I'm fully aware that the clothes I wear make me look like a total dork!
As Dan once said to me upon viewing my coincidentally completely tan ensemble, there are no dorks in the mountains.
As I thought, this was a very fun and satisfying day. It's always special to get to spend some quality time above treeline, do some fun and exposed scrambling, and visit those pristine lakes. As for McHenrys Notch to McHenrys, I'd say it breaks down into a few sections. Right out of the notch, you'll find some third to fourth class. Then the first crux, a section of 5.3. This comes to some wide ledges, which are third class, and then gets a bit more difficult again, with some fifth class moves to the top, where you find the wider third class talus ledges I took photos of above. I've seen this called about 400 feet of climbing, but it's around 500 feet of total gain from the notch to the summit. I'd suggest it's around 250 feet of actual climbing before you break out onto easier and flatter terrain.
As always, I'll give the disclaimer that this is dangerous, and not a good place to learn. Just because you've done Longs doesn't mean that McHenrys via the notch is a good idea. But if you have the experience and skill, this was certainly a fun climb! I would be happy to repeat it in the future.
Link to hike map and GPX file on Caltopo.
McHenrys Notch via Flattop Mountain (distances as part of the hike):
Flattop Mountain, 12324 feet: 4.6 miles, 2874 foot gain. Second class. Moderate+.
Hallett Peak, 12723 feet: 5.4 miles, 3263 foot gain. Second class. Moderate+.
Otis Peak, 12486 feet: 6.7 miles, 3036 foot gain. Second class. Moderate+.
Taylor Peak, 13153 feet: 8.5 miles, 3703 foot gain. Second class. Strenuous.
Powell Peak, 13298 feet: 10.25 miles, 3753 foot gain. Second class. Strenuous.
McHenrys Notch, 12820 feet: 10.5 miles, 3370 foot gain. Third class. Strenuous.
McHenrys Peak, 13327 feet: 10.8 miles, 3877 foot gain. 5.3. Strenuous+.
Stone Man Pass, 12500 feet: 11.2 miles, 3050 foot gain. Third class. Strenuous.
Frozen Lake, 11580 feet: 12.25 miles, 2130 foot gain. Second class. Strenuous-.
Black Lake, 10620 feet: 13.6 miles, 1170 foot gain. Moderate+.
Jewel Lake, 9940 feet: 15.4 miles, 490 foot gain. Moderate.
Mills Lake, 9940 feet: 16 miles, 490 foot gain. Moderate.
As a whole, this day covered 18.3 miles with 6460 feet of elevation gain and a maximum technical difficult of 5.3. Strenuous+.
In loving memory of Liberty Rebekah Dagenais. October 9, 1980- July 22, 2010.