I really enjoyed the hike up to Shelf and Solitude Lakes proceeding on up to Thatchtop. I'd love to capture Powell but avoid the same ol Andrews Glacier or Bear Lake approach with long walk on tundra. This northeast ridge route caught my attention. I was wondering if you could give me any idea what the nature of the scrambling was like on the ridge and if it would be possible without ropes. The description makes it sound pretty solid. Any info. on your trip would be helpful.
The northeast ridge of Powell, followed by the traversal of McHenrys Notch, is harder than any Class 4 scramble I've done in the Park. This includes the Arrowhead Arête to McHenrys, which is already a couple of notches harder than the Stone Man Pass Route, the Loft and Keyhole Routes to Longs, the Knife Edge to Meeker, the Northwest Ridge to Chiefs Head, the East Ridge to Pagoda, the East Ridge to Ogalalla, Solo Flight on Lone Eagle (which is not in the Park, but is reasonably well known), and so on.
On the other hand, the roundtrip is not very long, the rock is mostly good, there isn't much bushwhacking, and in the summer there is no snow or ice to negotiate--unlike Kieners, for instance. If the weather deteriorates, one can return via Andrews Glacier.
It's difficult to recommend whether to rope up or not. (In summer, because in winter I'd definitely carry a rope.) What is difficult for me is easy for someone else, and vice versa. I was unroped, but others may feel safer otherwise.
That's an impressive resume of scrambles. It'd be great to hear more about them. Especially Arrowhead Arete and Solo Flight.
I highly recommend both. Great scenery guaranteed. Lone Eagle is justly famous and the view from Mirror Lake is not to be missed. The Solo Flight route is spectacular, but there are maybe 30 feet of Class 4. The approach is very long, but quite enjoyable. I'd suggest late September, when the colors are peaking.
The Arrowhead Arête is shorter, but has a lot more scrambling. The line--I'm sure you've noticed--is extremely elegant.
We carried a short rope to Lone Eagle. If you miss the right spot where to downclimb, you end up in a palce from where you can rappel. We found the downclimb, and didn't break out the rope. You may want to check out Andy's movie attached to his trip report.
I didn't carry a rope on the Arrowhead Arête, and never missed it, but the rock was dry. Besides, on my way back, passing under the Arrowhead, I ran into people who had turned around at the Class 3 stretch of the Summit Ramp because they weren't carrying a rope. It's a personal decision that depends on many factors.