Index at Last
Mount Index is one of those things I've wanted to climb ever since moving to the Cascades. The first picture was actually taken many years ago while driving past Index in early spring on the way to Leavenworth. Index really does look like it was picked up from somewhere in the French Alps and dumped by the side of Highway 2. In my book anyone who claims to be a mountaineer and doesn't want to climb it isn't being truthful on at least one count.
Stuart Taylor and I went in to check out the west face of Mount Index on Friday, planning to climb the Eve Dearborn Memorial / Supercouloir route (EDM). The approach wasn't that bad although the ‘shwacking up the lower part of the face was pretty tedious. We soloed the lower gully and bypassed the second step up mixed terrain to the far left. From there we simul-climbed the left hand fork of the couloir where it is split by the small rock spur.
We climbed higher but moved left too early thinking we were higher on the face than we really were. Essentially mistaking a lower snow patch for the upper one described in Nelson. Call it ineptitude or an inexplicable enthusiasm for steeper terrain.
The route we took leaves the EDM approach couloir and climbs an ice step before heading up an ice runnel on the left side of the couloir. This is where the routes divide and is the start of the technical climbing. The runnel leads to a snowfield level with the EDM bivi site (as marked in Nelson). We bivied on the top of the snowfield, below a rock buttress.
It wasn't possible to continue up the runnels - the next pitch being discontinuous snice. Failing upwards we traversed left about half a rope length across the snow patch and climbed another ice system on the left side of the buttress. From there the route stays to the right and climbs steep snowfields and ice smears for four pitches. It finishes immediately to the climbers left of the North Peak, another rope length leads to the summit.
After a brief trip to the summit, to make absolutely sure we were descending the right way. We traversed the ridge to the false summit of the North Peak. This requires a short but awkward rappel to get across a notch in the ridge. We made it about 200’ below the false summit before nightfall and bivied. The following morning we descended as per Nelson's description, rapping off trees almost the whole way. We used some existing fixed anchors lower on the face.
Grade: V, snow and ice to 80º, steep mixed ground.
Notes: We found tracks from some other parties low on the mountain but didn't see any signs of anyone else on the summit ridge. For the most part the ice conditions were poor, aerated ice and snice – OK for climbing but bad for pro. It was, as forecast, very cold although grew less windy by Saturday afternoon.
Props to Forrest Murphy for his company on at least one recce in lousy weather and for telling me this was “the” Index weekend even thou he was off skiing.
Thanks also to John Scurlock
for providing the aerial photo for the topo.
The topo included here is very foreshortened. The traverse pitch from the bivi is less than a rope length whereas the ground above it is four to five pitches. The best picture of the face is in Beckey 1, p227 (on which the EDM is not marked). Nelson 1, Ed. 1 also has a picture p104. Its worth noting that the picture in Nelson shows only the upper half of the terrain depicted in Beckey, which in turn only shows the climbing above the first bypassed ice pitch. The top of the Beckey photo seems somewhat foreshortened based on the amount of climbing we did there.
Gear Notes: Rock gear to 2”, KBs and LAs, ice screws and lots of slings. 60m ropes.