Peak(s):  McHenrys Pk  -  13,327 feet
Date Posted:  07/26/2017
Date Climbed:   07/23/2017
Author:  koeffling
 A fine day in the park   

McHenry's Peak via Stoneman's Pass from Glacier Gorge
15.5 miles
~4300 feet gain
11 hours

I was hesitant to write up this trip report. Some mountains are so special you want to keep them all to yourself. After finishing the 14ers, it's still nice to have a list to pursue so now I aim for all the 13ers in the national park. It's a modest list of about 16 or so, but most have long approaches and are fairly isolated. I've spent a lot of time in the national park but to see a lot of it, you have to devote some time getting back to these peaks.

McHenry's Peak is a gorgeous sight from Black Lake. I'm pretty sure there's a photo of this peak in my parent's basement circa 1990 and I've wanted to climb it since my last outing to Black Lake several years back. It is said to be one of the most difficult non-technical 13er scrambles in the park, so I was a little nervous on route finding. As with a lot of 13ers, the route description in guidebooks are fairly vague but it turned out to be a fun scramble on good rock and easily navigable. I'm a sucker for a good ridge line or a fun scramble and this route has it all: a forest approach, a short snow climb, lots of solitude, lakes, and super fun scrambling in additional to some amazing summit views.

We got a 4am start from the Glacier Gorge trailhead. There's a shortcut just before the second bridge crossing, about 1/3 or so mile into the hike but apparently I was too busy yapping to notice it. This shortcut takes you more directly to the Loch. So we took the scenic route (in the dark) past Alberta Falls, into Glacier Gorge and ended up at the Loch adding about a half mile or so, I think. It's an easy and well maintained trail to Black Lake, about 5 miles into the hike. We hit Black Lake shortly after sunrise, getting to see the pink alpenglow on McHenry's, gorgeous.

Alpenglow on McHenry's just below Black Lake

We chose not to climb this headwall, instead heading south

The guidebooks and standard route up McHenry's direct you to cross the east side of Black Lake and head up grassy slopes and granite slabs to the upper basin above Black Lake. There was a lot of snow melt and runoff and I seem to have a difficult time on wet slabby slabs with slipping and sliding. We opted to head south from Black Lake on a well marked trail and circle around into the upper basin below Spearhead. This also adds maybe a 1/2-3/4 of a mile or so, but the scenery was well worth it. You settle in right below Longs, Keyboard of the Winds, Chief's Head, and Spearhead. We saw a pair of climbers headed up Spearhead but that was about it for people sightings today. There was a mostly cairned route through the granite slabs, grass, and willows to the base of Stoneman's pass but the direction is obvious, if you get off route you'll just have to deal with a bit of bushwhacking. A couple of snow crossing on firm snowpack and we were at the base of the pass. The upper part of the pass was mostly melted out, my partner only had micro spikes so I led to kick steps up the steeper part of the slope. We climbed towards the wall on the right and were shortly on dry ground. A quick jaunt up the slope and we were on Stoneman's pass, which is actually more north than the Stoneman himself and is not the low point on the ridge. Stoneman's pass is a worthwhile destination and the views to the west are spectacular.

Arrowhead and McHenry's from the upper basin

Looking back down

McHenry's looks massive from above Black Lake. Our route hugs the snow on the left near the wall

Spearhead looks like a fun climbing route. Pagoda and Keyboard behind

A couple of these snow crossings before the base of Stoneman's Pass

Pass is the low point on the right. Stoneman can be seen more left

The upper part of the pass, we quickly ditched the crampons

Kicking some steps

Looking north towards the summit shows a rocky scramble. You can stay ridge direct for a more challenging route, we followed a cairned path lower on the slope and found the scrambling to be pretty fun on solid rock. Looking for a keyhole we circle around a western rib buttress and pick a route up to the summit. If we encountered terrain that seemed too crazy, a step back and you could redirect onto easier scrambling.

At the Pass with views to the west, Alice and Chief's Head

The remaining route from the pass, snow free

These views! Can you see the Stoneman?

Some of the early scrambling, climber towards the upper right

And don't forget to look around. Mt Alice looking impressive

Beyond the keyhole, mostly just up from here

Nearing the summit

Summit views were fantastic and we arrived at 10am. Looking east toward Arrowhead we admired the Arrowhead Arete route, and Chief's Head to the south seemed to tower in the foreground. Mt Alice looked delightful. We also saw a pair of climbers heading up the east side of McHenry's early in the morning, but did not run into anyone else on the peak or in the basin the whole day. We spent about 20 minutes on the summit before the clouds over Longs started building and looking dark. We heard some thunder and decided to get down quickly. We followed our ascent route, of course getting off route a bit but was easy to pick a solid line down towards the pass. Back in the upper basin it was smooth sailing. We hit some rain and graupel at the Loch and arrived back at the car at 3pm.

Summit- to the east and Arrowhead

Summit views, Longs et. al.

Summit to the west-ish

On our descent. Someone's getting wet up there

Heading back into the upper basin

Long's peak, keyhole route


Upper basin goodbye

We quickly encounter the masses at the Loch and below. Lots of fishermen, families, and day hikers: each lake and destination as you descend through Glacier Gorger is a beautiful stop.

From above Black Lake. Pretty as a postcard!

I look forward to the remaining RMNP 13ers, a super fun and rewarding summit today.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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Comments or Questions

nice work
07/26/2017 12:43
good luck with the rest!


07/26/2017 12:46
Incredible pics!


A cool RMNP 13er
07/26/2017 14:38
Haven't been up McHenry's, but I have been in upper Glacier Gorge
a couple of times and and it is truly a beautiful place. Your pics
and narrative do a nice job of portraying it.

Just out of curiosity, did you find it essential to use crampons,
or would spikes have sufficed with proper route selection?


07/26/2017 16:32
@mathguy- I was glad to have crampons. My partner had microspikes and I had to kick steps in for him, he wasn't getting any purchase and in the morning it was too firm to kick in. I'm sure if you wait for the snow to melt, it would be a fine summer climb without snow gear. We were on route up to the pass, I'm not sure how loose a dry alternative to the south would be.


Nicely done
07/26/2017 21:00
I was the one who posted the Longs condition update the other day that you commented on. I had no idea the other side of the mountain got so dark! Yikes. Glacier Gorge is a great place. I ran a loop to most of the lakes last year and the upper basin near Spearhead was great- no people and right in the thick of all the peaks.


Nice outing, nice project...
07/26/2017 21:52
Good luck the rest of the way. Some of the routes are long but the trails are cruiser. And with ample water supply available, you can travel light.


Great report!
07/27/2017 09:06
Well written, great pics, thanks for posting!

I'm working on the Front Range 13ers, have most of the RMNP 13ers to go.
This one is on my short list for the summer.

Congrats on the summit!


Last Picture
08/04/2017 14:09
That last pic is incredible. Cheers to that!


Right on!
08/30/2017 15:17
Sweet report and nice work! Looking forward to seeing what you saw

Mills Lk
07/28/2018 18:51
Great report.
Did you mean Mills Lake instead of The Loch on the way to Black Lake?

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