ApproachThe Northeast Arête of McHenrys Peak is accessed from the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. The route starts from the low point of the ridge connecting McHenrys Peak to the Arrowhead, which can be reached in more than one way. We consider here four options. The first ascent party (C. Ehlert, P. Ritterbush, C. and P. Sawyer, 1957) climbed the south wall of the ridge directly to the saddle. The route is known nowadays as The Shaft and is rated 5.6.
This approach has the disadvantage of turning a sustained scramble into a discontinuous technical climb. The same drawback affects the approach that uses the east face of the Arrowhead (or any of the many Class 5 routes on the south face). Of the two more logical approaches, one climbs the Arrowhead's Northeast Face from Solitude Lake; the other uses the Summit Ramp. Please, refer to those pages for details of how to get from the trailhead to the Arrowhead. My vote goes to the Summit Ramp. From the summit, a few minutes' scramble takes you to the saddle where the arête starts.
Route DescriptionIn summary: straight up avoiding the difficulties to the right.
More in detail: the ridge is characterized by two gendarmes. They are not very hard to climb, but descending from them while staying on the ridge's crest is difficult. Hence, they are bypassed on the right (north). Directly to the west of each gendarme is a pronounced notch. The easiest way to pass both notches is on the ridge's crest.
With these two exceptions, you'll find easier terrain if you stay a bit below the crest to the right, while the more fun is to be had on the crest. Beyond the second notch the arête gets steeper and a shallow gully separates it from the north face of McHenrys. The gully appears to be Class 3, but I stayed on the ridge to enjoy some good Class 4 and avoid loose rock. The ridge leads you directly to the summit.
Descent is usually via the Stone Man Pass, though it is possible to downclimb the arête. In terms of difficulty, all Class 4 moves appear to be optional, but the length of the scramble, the complexity of the approach, and the fact that the best rock and the most logical line go through Class 4 terrain suggest an overall rating of Class 4.
The Northeast Arête is easier than both Powell Peak's Northeast Ridge and the traverse from Powell via McHenrys Notch, but significantly harder than the Stone Man Pass Route. This is not the route to be on during a thunderstorm: Keep an eye on the weather, leave early, and try to move quickly.