Henderson Peak

August 2, 2010

An exciting climb to a rugged, remote, forgotten summit

"Great Needle" at sunrise

The impressive pinnacle known as the "Great Needle" or "Garnicks Needle", formerly G-16, as seen from Summer Ice Lake at sunrise. This peak wasn't on our agenda but Dominic and I ended up climbing it on a whim later in the trip.

Henderson Peak

Adam and Jim take a breather near Summer Ice Lake as the top of Henderson Peak basks in the early morning sun. Our intended ascent route is the southeast ridge (the left skyline) which can reportedly be gained at the lowpoint.

Henderson Peak & American Legion Peak

Dominic enjoys our first morning of climbing in the Winds. Henderson Peak (left) and American Legion Peak (right) are nicely lit by the first rays of sunlight.

American Legion Peak at sunrise

American Legion Peak reflected in Summer Ice Lake as seen from the outlet of the lake. Summer Ice Lake is located on a bench at 11,170 feet on the west side of Titcomb Basin, only a few hundred feet higher than our camp above upper Titcomb Lake.

Summer Ice Lake & Mount Helen

Looking back at Summer Ice Lake as we begin to climb west toward the Henderson - "Great Needle" col. There is only a small amount of ice left at the north end of the lake and we found it to be completely melted just a few days later on a return trip to climb neighboring American Legion Peak. Mount Helen is the rugged peak in the background. The early morning rays projected over the Continental Divide made for an interesting light show.

Approaching Henderson Peak

Above Summer Ice Lake we do an ascending traverse up easy snow toward the Henderson - "Great Needle" col.

Seeking the SE ridge

We rope up for a bit as we transition from snow to steep low 5th class rock. Here Teresa climbs past a dirty ledge as the peaks at the head of Titcomb Basin look on.

Steep rock below the ridge

Teresa continues up steep but easy rock above the snow.

What next?

After two short pitches straight up we're back to scrambling territory and put the ropes away. Ummmm... what next? The peaks around Titcomb Basin are so steep that once you're on them its often the case that you can't tell where the heck you are or where you need to go. Where is that col now?

Exploring a bit north

Adam, Jim & Teresa decide to explore a bit to the north. They report that it "may go" but it looks fairly difficult to Dominic and I from afar and we're pretty sure it doesn't lead to the col, but rather a huge gendarme northwest of the col.

Rubble mess to the south

Dominic explores what seems to be the only other possibility, a large stack of rubble complicated by some old snow. It looks absolutely treacherous but he is triumphant after applying some modified canyoneering techniques. He scrambles around the corner and reports the col is within reach.

View north from the rubble mess

View north to the large gendarme the rest of the crew intended on trying to reach before Dominic found the route. Here they are making their way over to Dominic and I.

Funky snow obstacle

Jim gets a belay from Dominic as he climbs the funky snow obstacle atop the pile of rubble.

The saddle in sight

Finally the saddle is in sight! The climbing here is 3rd or 4th class but the looseness of it all and the exposure justify keeping the ropes out. Teresa carefully traverses over and leads up the mess.

The southeast ridge at last

We coil up the ropes after landing in the col and prepare to explore Henderson's southeast ridge.

Titcomb Needles

Looking south from near the col to the awe-inspiring Titcomb Needles.

Scrambler's bliss

The start of the ridge is a scrambler's bliss.

Can't stop gawking back

I can't help myself from pausing dozens of times to gawk back at the Titcomb Needles. This was my favorite eye candy of the trip.

Steep and airy

We stay on the crest or just a bit to climbers left and find plenty of steep, airy scrambling on good rock.

Dominic in action

Dominic in action on Henderson's southeast ridge.

"Great Needle"

The "Great Needle" beckons as we gain altitude on Henderson's southeast ridge.

False summit

Jim and Dominic scramble toward a false summit decorated by peculiar clouds.

A happy Adam

A happy Adam on Henderson's southeast ridge.

Working the knife edge

Bonney's route description is vague: "follow ridge above a knife edge". We keep wondering whether we have passed THE  knife edge as much of the ridge had been pretty dang narrow and airy. Well, this puppy sure put our pondering to rest: a true 5th class knife edge, nothing like that pansy 2nd class one that makes Capitol Peak so famous.Wowsers! Jim leads across placing pro for the rest of us. The best technique is to use the crest for a handrail and smear with feet on the west side in a layback sort of fashion ... unless you didn't change from boots to rock shoes... in that case Dominic demonstartes that straddle and scoot is the method of choice.

Climbing past the knife edge

After the knife edge the ridge rises in a short, steep step. We climb around the step on the west side and back to the crest on good but nontrivial rock. The climbing is more difficult than anticipated but still manageable. Here Teresa cleans the route as she traverses the side of the ridge.

Finishing up the technical climbing

Jim belays Teresa as she regains the ridge crest above the step. Meanwhile Dominic has scoped ahead and makes the call to put the ropes away; its scrambling terrain for at least a bit.

Looking down the gully

The ridge steepens dramatically and  we traverse left around the west side of the ridge on 3rd class ledges and find a big, dry gully system leading toward the ridge high above. My routefinding passion kicks in and I charge ahead to piece it together. The gully isn't that loose by gully standards.

Nearing the summit

Jim nears the summit of Henderson Peak. Mount Sacagawea and Fremont Peak dominate the background.

First ascent register!

The summit register goes back to 1936 when members of the Appalachain Mountain Club made the first ascent via the southeast ridge! At that time the peak was known as G-15. Kenneth Henderson, for whom it has since been named, was the leader of the team. Other information in the register leads us to believe we made the 22nd ascent. Nobody had signed in for years.

Team on the summit

Jim, Adam, Teresa and Dominic on the roomy summit of Henderson Peak.

American Legion Peak

American Legion Peak as seen from the summit of Henderson Peak. Dominic, Jim, Adam & I would climb it a few days later.

Downclimbing from the summit

Dominic climbs down from the summit of Henderson Peak.

Rigging a rappel

Jim rigs a rappel above the knife edge. We'll rappel down to it and then traverse it once again.

Descending the ridge

Jim prepares to lead across the knife edge for a second time.

Recrossing the knife edge

Dominic cleans the route as he traverses back across the knife edge.

Finishing up the knife edge

Jim belays Dominic as he finishes up the knife edge.

Descending from the saddle

We choose to remain unroped for the inital descent from the col and stick to trickier but more solid rock. Here Adam is traversing past a slight bulge.

Back down the rubble mess

Four of us rappel the funky snow obstacle and then Dominic cleans the anchor and downclimbs unprotected. He's got the moves memorized by now.

Heading back to camp

After two more rappels we head back toward camp under blue skies.

Crossing the slabs in Titcomb

Dominic, Teresa and I waded barefoot across slippery slabs to cross Titcomb Basin. Jim resorted to boots and crampons, and Adam did some daring rock hopping. In subsequent trips Dominic, Jim and I learned Adam's rock hopping moves.

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