Arrowhead – yet another peak which most people assume is only frequented by the core climbing group…
This peak lies to the east of McHenery’s. For a day with good snow conditions, one could conceivably get both peaks.
This outing begins at the Glacier Gorge Trail Head and make your way to Black Lake. From here, the approach can go from slightly strenuous to very enjoyable very quickly. On the east end of Black Lake, there is a medium sized slide path heading up to the base of Arrowhead which hugs a line of trees to looker’s right. This area will slide so be very cautions. After booting up, traverse to your right under Arrowhead until you come to Solitude Lake. Skin straight into the basin. Powell will be directly in front of you and Thatchtop will be loming to your right for most of the skin in.
(Above: the line you are looking for is in the right hand third of this photo.)
Once in this basin, there is a sporty couloir which will take you to the saddle between Arrowhead and McHenery’s. It should be fairly obvious where this line begins. It is a sustained snow climb in the 50 degree range with some very steep sections to it. Roughly a quarter from the top, you will come to a rock band which will be in variable shape depending on snow cover. You may choose to rope up here, but be aware that this section exists because the area beneath it is significantly steeper than what you have been climbing up to this point.
As you crest the couloir, you will be closer to The Northwest Passage on McHenery’s than Arrowhead. Traverse to skier’s left and Arrowhead will be directly in front of you although you will not be able to see the true summit.
On this traverse, the snow to your left is somewhat south facing, so be mindful not to get too deep into it as there could be significant slides.
From the summit, there are three lines that seem to present themselves. The first two are almost directly under you and the third would be the couloir you just climbed.
As we stood on the summit of Arrowhead, a familiar and daunting sound started to fill the cirque around us. As our eyes dialed in on what our ears were hearing, there was no doubt that the snow was starting to slide. We watched Big Mac slough half a dozen times in 30 minutes and as the sun continued to move, McHenery’s let loose several slides large enough to take us out. The day had taken on a new sense of urgency. Due to the rapidly deteriorating snow conditions, we decided to give the lines below us a go.
(Above: this is the south face of Arrowhead a few weeks after we skied it. You can still see two prominent gullies under the summit. We were able to ski the one two looker’s right)
Our intended line for the day was Deborah, which had only been skied once, but given the conditions and the lack of info on the Third Class Gully and, what we called the Fifth Class Gully, we decided to check out other safer options for a descent.
At the time of our descent we had only heard of the Third Class Gully being skied by Taylor Brown. We however, had our eyes on another line skier left of this which we call the Fifth Class Gully. It began as the third class gully does, but traversed skiers left a few hundred yards before the large cliff. There is a clear line here and a rappel is necessary for a sheer cliff two thirds of the way down the gulley. After this, there is a tight gully leading back to Solitude Lake.
From here, we were able to ski the trees back down to Glacier Creek. This line takes a bit of route finding as there are numerous large boulders strewn about the area. You may choose to retrace your skin track back to Black Lake should the conditions dictate.