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Routes in Shelf Cirque

Shelf Cirque Traverse T Easy 5th 1+ 3 I 5 M 1c
Type: Trad, Alpine, 19475 ft, Grade III
FA: unknown
Page Views: 4,856 total, 60/month
Shared By: Bill Duncan on Apr 15, 2011
Admins: Leo Paik, John McNamee, Frances Fierst, Monty, Monomaniac

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Seasonal Closures Details


This has 4 summits, excellent exposure, tremendous views, and some climbing. Start at Solitude Lake. Climb Arrowhead. Traverse west on the McHenry's-Arrowhead ridge, and then climb the NE Ridge of McHenry's. Descend from the summit to the NW, then off the west side of the ridge to the upper reaches of the gully behind McHenry's Notch. 1 rap gets you into the gully. Climb Mt. Powell. Descend to the NW until you can drop on to the NE ridge that leads to Thatchtop. This ridge is amazing in its exposure and views of the Cathedral Spires. Continue to the summit of Thatchtop, and then descend back to Solitude Lake, or to the north if you are familiar with the descent for All Mixed Up.

This is an excellent 1-day outing, or bivy at Solitude Lake for a treat.


You may want to bring ropes and some webbing for the rap into McHenry's Notch. If you are not comfortable soloing easy fifth class with exposure, then bring a light alpine rack.
  Easy 5th
  Easy 5th
This is a great outing, the downclimb to McHenry's notch was not bad at all, just gotta watch out for loose blocks. Crux was undoubtably finding the Solitude Lake trail cutoff in the dark.... Aug 3, 2013
Andy Novak
Golden, Co
Andy Novak   Golden, Co
Not Grade IV. Jul 15, 2013
mark felber
Wheat Ridge, CO
  Easy 5th
mark felber   Wheat Ridge, CO
  Easy 5th
The rangers would prefer that you bivy in the Solitude Lake bivy area, not at Solitude Lake itself. The folks in the backcountry office were a little upset when they read the route description.

The Solitude Lake area is a great place to bivy, but I'm not sure how much you save by doing so. The trail up Shelf Creek has a good number of downed trees on it, and dragging bivy gear through that stretch is a bummer. Once the Bear Lake road construction is finished and the road closures stop, leaving the Glacier Gorge trailhead early enough to hit the trail up Shelf Creek at first light would be a good option. Aug 23, 2012
joe lavelle  
Here's a trip report for any looking for more details.
Solitude Lake Cirque Trip Report Jul 10, 2011