Trip: Mt. Index - Traverse: North, Middle, Main Trip Date: 06/25/2023 Trip Report:
This last weekend, 6/24-25, @geosean and I climbed the Index Traverse as an overnight trip. I won't go into great detail or provide heavy beta as I think there is already plenty out there, but I will provide some emphasis on areas where we were briefly stumped. Overall the 2021 and 2014 trip reports on this site are a great resource along with the brown Beckey descriptions.
Sean and I originally had loose plans to climb the Price Glacier after getting linked up by @JasonG, but a rainy weekend pushed that back. He had mentioned he had wanted to also do the Index Traverse and asked if I had wanted to do that instead. I said yes definitely as it's something that can sit on the back burner or in your back pocket until you find someone else who is eager to do the same.
We met, for the second time ever, at the trailhead that Friday evening and I must not have scared him away because we made plans to get up at 4am and get hiking at 5am. As we planned we got moving around 5am and maybe saw two other people on the trail on the way up to the lake. We made it to the lake around 6:45 and filtered a bit of water to start the day. It was foggy at the lake when we started but soon busted out of the clouds as we ascended the talus field and initial scrambling to start the north face of the north peak. There are mentions in trip reports of a two piece anchor comprised of a nut and a piton and to head left under roof features from there, until you arrive at a dihedral to climb. After that dihedral feature theres a big heavily slung block to cut hard right around a corner to progress to the bowl in the face.
We eventually found that nut/pin anchor in what is a sea of bail anchors on the lower north face. What we had done wrong is climbed too far left, not really realizing that we had passed the mentioned dihedral, and had to improvise on an exit pitch. That error left some doubt but we were able to connect back to the bottom of the north bowl after one simul block through heavy, but not insane, brush. Key take away here is when you see a large, maybe 5 gallon bucket sized horn with many slings on it, cut right hard. Our improvised exit was maybe harder than it needed to be but was more heady than strenuous. Some of the features that get described in other trip reports will sound an awful lot like what you are looking at.
From there Sean led a big block through the mossy slabs through the bowl like a boss and got us to the notch at the north rib. I led us through the north rib and up through the false summit and then finally the summit of North Index. From there we followed the 2021 trip report's descent beta to the North - Middle Notch. We made the committing raps in to the North - Middle notch and I led the 5.6 chimney out left from the notch. Overall pretty fun and secure climbing. Sean led the simul block to the false summit of Middle Index. We rapped down to the notch between the false summit and true summit of Middle to set up the bivy for the night. There was a large snow patch at the bottom of the rap that got us enough snow for essentially a gallon of water. We stuffed stuff sacks, ziplocks and our actual water containers full of snow and did a roped up scramble to the bivy ledge trough steep heather and trees around 8:45pm. The bivy spot has great views and is pretty cush compared to the terrain along the traverse. I didn't sleep super well but boy what a treat it was to be able to lay down for hours on a route where sitting can be a novelty.
We got up the next morning and started moving around 6:15 and got to the true summit of Middle Index shortly after. We followed the 2021 descent description as close as we could but there are lot of left's and right's, east's and west's to keep track of in that description so read carefully. We couldn't find a rap anchor into the Middle - Main notch so we made our own with a big broad horn with a huge loop of orange tat. Sean got us to the other side of the notch up and to the left of the pinnacle in the middle of the notch. I led the 5.3 pitch out of the notch to a big comfy tree belay spot and soon led a few simul blocks, mostly due to the zig zag nature of the ridge, to the wedge gendarme. From there Sean took over and got us to the red dike through the north face of Main Index. We did a rap hard west to the other side of the dike and set up and anchor to simul to the notch. From the notch we maybe crossed 2 or so gullies until we ascended a broad heather gully. I must have stepped on a moss patch just right because out came a cantelope sized rock tumbling at Sean. He stopped it with his hand, luckily only cutting his palm, and served as a reminder that it wasn't over yet. Not long we rolled over to the southwest slope of Main Index and hiked to the summit around 1:30pm. We stopped for a bit and signed the register and started the descent down. The hourglass, which I climbed in 2017 two weeks earlier, was insanely melted out. So much so that I didn't even believe it was it at first. We made two rappels down to the snow. The snow as way harder than expected and required tedious step kicking. We reached another moat in the Hourglass which forced us to a big heather bench on the north side of the hourglass. Here we found a large tree with a few pieces of tat to get us past the moat, but we weren't sure that we would be able to make it down from there in one shot. I sussed it out and got immediately stoked when I saw the rope tails slap the snow with maybe no excess without rope stretch. This was beautiful because the intermediate anchor options weren't exactly amazing. We down climbed more tedious hard snow until we discovered we could finally plunge step in our approach shoes. We got down to the notch below the East Ridge at about 5:30. Not much to say about the exit from there. Some low angle snow, some boulder hopping. Finally we were back at the trail and got to pound our tired feet against that until we got back to the trailhead around 7:45.
This is an incredible route with great climbing that comes with a bit of moss and choss price. The position is insane given the nature of the route with the popular Lake serene, Highway 2, and train pretty much always in sight and audible. Sean and I have both climbed the NE Buttress of J'burg and we both agreed this was much more challenging and severe. The complexity of the terrain doesn't really let up for long at all along the way. We were roped up pretty much the entire time except a few spots early in the trip and after the notch off the north face of Main Index. Theres spots where unroping wouldn't be crazy but they don't last that long.
Thanks Sean for the great trip and partnership on this one! Let me know if I made any mistakes in writing this up as some stuff is already kind of blurry.
The photo dump:
Searching for our exit pitch while off route. We ended up taking the crack in the very top left of this photo:
Our Improvised pitch:
At the north rib of North Index:
Second of three raps in the hourglass:
What we brought: Ice axe. 60m half rope (maybe bring a 70m if later in the season for rapping out of the hourglass). Single rack of cams .2 to #2. Set of nuts. 8 draws and 6 runners. *Could maybe drop the #2 and add more small/ micro cams as they will get placed way more often. Add more runners, bring less draws* **Crampons are definitely worth bringing. I brought aluminum ones but they were inaccessible in my pack in the hourglass (dumb)** Approach Notes:
Lake serene to NNE rib of the north peak.