Peak(s):  McHenrys Pk  -  13,327 feet
Powell Pk  -  13,208 feet
Otis Peak - 12486
Hallett Peak - 12713
Date Posted:  05/17/2012
Modified:  05/18/2012
Date Climbed:   05/16/2012
Author:  Furthermore
 A Partial Glacier Gorge Traverse.  

McHenrys Peak 13,327
Powell Peak 13,208
Otis Peak 12,486
Hallett Peak 12,713
Flattop Mountain 12,324 (unranked)

May 16, 2012
~16.5 Miles, ~6,200 Gain
Trailhead: Glacier Gorge Trailhead.

Thanks to Ryan, Monster5, I received some valuable beta the day prior that allowed me to sleep a few extra hours as he warned me that the Bear Lake road is closed from 8 PM - 6 AM, Sunday-Thursday. I ended up crashing at a friends place in Lyons and we woke up and made the short drive to the Glacier Gorge trailhead. Sure enough the road was torn up and was just opened as we arrived at 6:15 AM.

After sorting through gear and the slow drive, we started hiking up the Glacier Gorge trail around 6:45 AM almost 2 hours after I would have liked to start. With favorable weather in the forecast, I wasn't too worried about a late start. Keith and I made excellent time to Mills Lake before things really slowed down. Ryan had mentioned some downed trees but I entirely underestimated how horrible they were going to be. Within a quarter of a mile of Mills Lake, the downed timber bushwhack began. I was surprised at the amount of snow in the area compared to the Cristos or Creede.

Pagoda Peak from our approach.

Downed trees and high angle trails.

Half a mile later Keith was ready to call it quits as there was no end to the downed trees. Shortly thereafter, Keith pulled a muscle in his back trying to crawl over some deadfall. We took a break and discussed our options. Climbing up and over some peaks sounded like a better option rather than re-bushwhacking back to Mills Lake with a questionable back.

Due to snow being unconsolidated, we left the "trail" ~10,400 and started an ascending traverse on the east slopes of Arrowhead. The upward traverse wasn't easy travel with snow and granite slabs. Around ~11,600 the snow finally consolidated for enjoyable travel. We ended up doing a snow climb up to Stone Man Pass which was energy consuming as it was near ankle deep stepping. Got to love the late start for snow climbing.



McHenrys Peak.

Once at the top of Stone Man pass, we took a break. I was hoping for Chiefs Head but it wasn't going to be realistic considering our delayed start, nasty approach and road closure at 8 PM. We started up McHenrys and to make things more interesting, we stayed directly on the southeast ridge. The climbing was mostly class 3 with some short class 4 sections on some delightfully solid rock. We arrived on the summit of McHenrys at 12:50 PM.

Mt. Alice. The Rabbit Hole Couloir looks pretty good!

McHenrys from Stone Man Pass.

Keith making his way up to Stone Man Pass.

Hiking up McHenrys. Chiefs Head in the background.

Gaining the ridge proper.

Gaining the ridge proper.

Direct line on McHenrys

Some class 4 action. (Photo by Keith)

Keith making his way up the ridge on McHenrys.

Longs from the summit of McHenrys

Now for the famous McHenrys notch. We carefully worked our way along the west-northwest ridge of McHenrys looking down several gullies for rappel anchors. Working our way directly to the notch we found our descent gully (the last one). It started with some questionable class 3-4 down-climbing on wet and icy rock. Being a bit sketched out by the wet rock, we set up our first rappel off of a rock horn on the right side of the gully. Both Keith and I brought 1 30 M rope which worked out great for our rappels.

Keith working his way towards the notch.

Scouting around looking for anchors. (Photo by Keith)

I took the first rappel which was ~70 feet to a small ledge before the final drop off into the notch. Keith followed. For our second rappel we used another rock horn on the left side of the gully and made ~80 foot rappel to the base of the technical difficulties. From the base of our second rappel, we down-climbed another 40-60 feet on some talus blocks into the notch and then traversed west into the gully leading up to Powell's summit.

First Rap. (Photo by Keith)

First Rap. (Photo by Keith)

Keith coming down the first rap.

Keith starting the second rap.

Me coming down the second rap.

Keith traversing into the gully for Powell.

The climb up to Powell was a mix of rock and snow and we arrived on the summit at 2:20 PM. Just as we were going to take our break, we heard some loud thunder. Weather was starting to roll in from the northwest. Although, not immediately threatening to us, our stay was short and we started hiking quickly towards Taylor. One option of bailing was Taylor Glacier but Andrews would have made a safer descent; we both decided on Andrews Glacier. Since I had already summited Taylor and there was an impending electrical storm in the Mummy Range we traversed around the west side of Taylor and descended to the top of Andrews Glacier.

Some snow action on Powell.

McHenrys from Powell.

Lurking T-Storm.

By the time we reached Andrews Glacier, the weather had cleared out and the sun was trying to shine. Back to plan A. Finish the traverse. Keith and I both decided that after descending Andrews Glacier the probability of an epic posthole to The Loch was highly likely being so late in the day.

Keith didn't have much energy left so we agreed to meet on the summit of Flattop Mountain while I bagged Otis and Hallett. I continued up the west slopes of Otis where I arrived on the summit at 4:10 PM. Great views of Taylor, The Sharkstooth and of Longs Peak.

Sharkstooth from Otis.

Longs-Pagoda-Chiefs Head-McHenrys from Otis.

I hiked down the grassy class 2 slopes of Otis and started up the southwest side of Hallett where I arrived on the summit at 4:40 PM. In the distance I could see Keith following a trail around Hallett but it appeared he was heading for Ptarmigan Peak.

View from Hallett.

Moving quickly, I ditched my pack on the summit of Flattop and jogged along to the trail until I caught up to Keith to tell him he was heading the wrong way. He had underestimated how little prominence Flattop Mountain had and just assumed Ptarmigan Peak was Flattop. We returned to Flattop and hiked down the Flattop trail, post-holing in spots, eventually arriving at Bear Lake. The weather deteriorated significantly on our descent as we had several short snow squalls. From Bear Lake, it was a short hike to the Glacier Gorge Trailhead where we arrived back at 7:10 PM. Outstanding day despite the horrible approach.

Route Map.

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 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

 Comments or Questions

Right On Derek
05/18/2012 01:19
Nice job. Always have wanted to do the full traverse from flattop to longs. Good photo's. Jealous!


Image #24
05/18/2012 01:24
It looks like he could fall off the edge of the Earth. Nice report!


05/18/2012 04:10
This has been on my list for a while.. thanks for the report!


couple things
05/18/2012 06:00
1 - How downclimbable would you say the notch from McHenry's to Powell would be? Or, in other words, how glad were you to have a rope? Or, did you use a rope because you brought one and figured you might as well? I only ask cause I was very glad I had one and I've run in to people that think it is downclimbable. Just trying to get others perspectives.

2 - Being that deep in that region with impending t-storms in all directions must've been pretty unnerving i imagine. And yes, Andrews would've been quite a bit better bail option than Taylor, haha.

3 - Thats funny re: your buddy thinking Ptarmigan as Flattop. I guess it wouldn't have been as funny had he tried to downclimb the Ptarmigan Fingers and then have nearly 2.5 times the mileage to hike out of there from Lake Helene. Good thing you caught him.

4 - Thats a badass shot of Sharkstooth. Did you get a look at the €Flower Power Couloir€ on Otis? Rabbit Hole Couloir just made the short list, preferably when the approach holds quite a bit more snow.

Thanks for the report.


05/18/2012 06:43
Brian - If down-climbing from McHenrys to Powell, a rope would be required; IMHO. Your report enforces that as well. It would be just silly not to have one. You left a yellow anchor right? (we didn't find anything) If traveling from Powell to McHenrys, and one was solid on low 5th class, one could get away without a rope. A bit sketchy though.

Fortunately, he would have waited for me on Ptarmigan since we were meeting on ”Flattop.” I joked he really wanted to get Julian.

I didn't get a glance at Flower Power. I believe I am shooting for Rabbit Hole this year since it looks that good.


Glacier Gorge
05/18/2012 15:28
Truly amazing place, enough said... This TR has it ALL, thanks for the report. BTW, I would have soiled myself with weather that close, but that's just me.


05/18/2012 15:43
I agree with the helmut on the Sharkstooth pic. Awesome little peak. Rabbithole looks pretty enticing as well.

A solid day out, despite the closure, weather, and trees.

Chicago Transplant

Fantastic Place
05/18/2012 19:22
Hallet and Flattop were the first peaks I climbed in Colorado, back when I was still a Chicago ”Resident” instead of a ”Transplant”. Hiked to Mills Lake that trip too and Glacier Gorge/Bear Lake area always reminds me of why I moved here. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Steve Knapp

A fun day
05/18/2012 19:57
Very nice and good work getting this in so early. That is one of the best loop hikes in the Park, in my opinion. I did the opposite direction a couple years back. Going the other way allows you to leave the rope behind (if one is comfortable scrambling), pretty easy low 5th climbing on solid rock going up where you rapped. But I agree almost everyone would want a rope in the direction you travelled.

Nice day out in the Park!


Well done
05/19/2012 13:39
Great photos. I especially like the shot of the Spearhead through the trees. I also like the perspective on Alice and the Rabbit Hole.

05/21/2012 00:53
What a great loop and report.

I was thinking of hiking to Black Lake this Tuesday...bad idea with all of the downed trees and snow near Mills Lake and beyond?


Black Lake
05/21/2012 16:10
If you don't mind some bushwhacking, you can probably make it to Black Lake. I would add an additional 1.5 hours each way due to the trees. They are no joke.

   Using your forum id/password. Not registered? Click Here

Caution: The information contained in this report may not be accurate and should not be the only resource used in preparation for your climb. Failure to have the necessary experience, physical conditioning, supplies or equipment can result in injury or death. and the author(s) of this report provide no warranties, either express or implied, that the information provided is accurate or reliable. By using the information provided, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless and the report author(s) with respect to any claims and demands against them, including any attorney fees and expenses. Please read the Safety and Disclaimer pages for more information.

© 2021®, 14ers Inc.