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[TR] Mt. Index Traverse - North -> Middle -> Main


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Trip: Mt. Index - Traverse - North -> Middle -> Main


Date: 7/7/2010


Trip Report:

The Mt Index Traverse – North, Middle, and Main


Wayne's trip report can be found here.


Wayne and I linked up on Monday for a great traverse of the three summits of Mt. Index.


The trailhead was packed when we pulled up, due in no small part to decent weather and it being the tail end of a four-day Fourth of July weekend. Lucky for us we spied a parking spot right next to the TH sign, and saddled up. We arrived at Lake Serene a little over an hour later. People were everywhere, but our destination was the W side of the lake which appeared to be deserted. We made camp on a flat slab and went to bed early.


Tuesday morning, we were up at 6:00. It was a perfect bluebird day.. just what we needed to dry out the wet vegetation that existed from the days prior. By the time we were moving at 7:30, the sun was blazing and things were drying out nicely. We ascended talus slopes to the NW end of Lake Serene, where we crossed over a rib and began to ascend a steep drainage running off of the N peak. We encountered very steep brush and heather slopes with rocky steps. The rock was surprisingly solid where we needed it. We roped up at the beginning of the NE Rib arete, and remained roped up until the false summit. The climbing was exposed and enjoyable.




CIMG0001_resize.JPGWayne preparing to tackle the brush on the N Face of N Index.



The view up the N Face from low on the route.



Looking down.



The town of Index and Index Town Walls from the N Face.



Typical climbing on the N Face of Index.



Mt. Persis from somewhere on the N Peak of Index.



Wayne climbing solid rock on the NE Rib of N Peak.



Wayne approaching the summit of N Peak.



The summit of N Index.



Impressive relief.




Once on the false summit, we traversed class 3 terrain to the true summit. The views from the summit are amazing, revealing a huge jumble of jagged rock and steep, relentless and incredible cliffs. The traverse to the Middle summit looked improbable at best – very steep, very rugged everywhere. We looked for a summit register, but could not find one. We stayed for about 15 minutes on the summit drinking water, eating, and enjoying the impressive views.





Looking down more than 4000’ to the valley below.



Wayne readying the rappel. Notice the old tat behind. None of it was fresher than 5 years old.



Steep traversing.



Wayne rappeling on the way to Middle Peak.



More downclimbing.






Views along the traverse from N to Middle Peak.









A long way down.



A view of the Middle Peak from the traverse.



Wayne on the ridge crest.



Good grief, more relief!






Middle to Main.




Soon we were packed up and heading down towards the Middle Peak. We descended about 200’ of class 3 into a W-facing fully. From here, we found a ledge that traversed around to the SW side of the 1st gendarme below the N summit. From here, we made a very committing rappel into the abyss. Rigorous routefinding ensued and after three more rappels and quite a bit of downclimbing, we finally made it to the intimidating N-Middle notch. It is hard to describe the ruggedness of the N-middle notch. Vertical walls surround and drop away 4500’ to the valley bottom. Of all the places I’ve been in the mountains, this is one of the most rugged places I’ve been.


From here, we didn’t have a whole lot of info on what to do next, but a steep wall directly in front of us looked like it might offer a good route. Wayne led off (thanks Wayne) up mid-fifth rock with sparse pro (solid, but few fractures). After about 50’ of climbing, we came to an overhang. The overhang looked difficult, so we descended about 20’ and gained a gully system to climber’s right. Super sketchy, fairly sustained and difficult climbing ensued (~5.9) under sparse pro. This pitch was a full 60m and we were glad to have our ‘A’ game on this day.


After this pitch, we worked our way up and over a gendarme, before dropping down to a most perfect bivy platform on a flat slab between the two summits of Middle. The views from here were amazing, and we we fortunate to get a lot of time before the sun set to enjoy them.





Sunset from our bivy spot.



The view to the N from our Bivy.




This morning we were moving by 7:45 and summited Middle via some involved routefinding, but generally staying E of the crest. We found two summit registers on Middle Peak, one from Don Goodman and Chris Robertson in 2004, and one buried below the summit rocks in an old Kodak film cannister.





Routefinding our way to the Middle Summit.



Wayne approaching the summit of Middle Index.



Steve who?



The Main Peak as seen from Middle Index.




From the Middle peak, the terrain doesn’t relent one bit, and we were once again working hard to find a good route. It seemed like there were seldom ever two ways to climb something, it’s either you find the magic door or you don’t. We wound up mainly downclimbing Middle Peak, but did a few raps too. We found running water here.





A little moat crawling between Middle and Main.



Running water below Middle and Main.



Wayne on solid rock.






Lake Serene framed through the gap.




The last notch between Middle and Main is also in an amazing position, and the views are unbelievable. Here, we climbed up and left on relatively easy rock (5.5), and then up again to a belay. From here, we stayed on the crest of the Wedge Gendarme until we could climb up and right towards a prominent gully on climber’s right. We crossed the gully high on a loose bench, then continued on up steep heather slopes to the summit of Main.





Traversing ledges below Main.



More enjoyable climbing on solid rock.



A look back at Middle from Main.



More solid rock!


CIMG0133_resize1.JPGWayne approaching the summit of Main Index.



One last look at beautiful Lake Serene.




This traverse epitomizes (to me) the ruggedness the Cascade Range has to offer. It is unbelievable to me that the first ascentionists ventured onto this traverse with archaic gear and no information whatsoever, not even the knowledge that the route would go. It is an extremely impressive alpine route – one that will test every skill you have.


The trip out to the car was hot, but we eventually made it. Thanks to Wayne (again) for being such a great partner.

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@kevbone.. relief meaning vertical relief.


@bronco.. Mt. Index is not in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness nor is it in the N Cascades. It is in CAG 1 (brown) where the Alpine Lakes peaks can be found. Mt. Index (exactly on the King-Snohomish County line) lies N of Steven's Pass (which is South of the King-Snohomish County line), so technically, this is the forum it belongs in if the guidelines are as stated on the forum index page "anywhere North of Steven's Pass and South of the US-Canadian border".

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Relief has a number of different meanings, two of which are: 1) sharpness of outline due to contrast or the state of being distinguished by contrast ("a roof in relief against the sky"); 2) the elevations or inequalities of a land surface (from Merriam Webster)


Tom and Wayne, nice job and thanks for the pictures. Looks like there's plenty of water on the route now.


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Congrats on getting that one ticked off the list guys. Very impressive, give new meaning to "traverse". Tom, now you can quit eyeballing that thing everytime we drive by on the way to L-worth. Good write-up Tom, nice bumping into you last night.

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Nice that you did it when there was snow and water available. Me and Mike Adams did the traverse in August 1977(?). We started from our car, went up to Lake Serene (where we got all of our water)and climbed the North Face of the North Peak and bivouacked on its very summit and ran out of water not long after. I recall a rappel followed by sketchy traverses to find the correct ledge to another rappel to the North/Middle peak notch. As you note, climbing out of the notch was probably the crux of the whole route, and was barely protectable..there was one fixed pin and it was maybe 5.7...maybe 80 feet, veering a bit to the right. I'm glad Mike led it. Traversing the Middle Peak was fun and mostly unroped until the Middle/Main notch where there was some easy and fun climbing with some tricky routefinding to the generally flat summit of the main peak. We had left the summit of the North Peak at dawn and climbed without water all day which probably slowed us down. There were a few little rain pools on the Main Peak, some with mosquito larvae in them, but we were so thirsty that we just laid flat and drank out of them. The descent down some gullies to get to Lake Serene was pretty funky,and involved at least one rappel, and we returned exhausted to the lake where we passed out on some rocks and hiked out the next day. (And that was the old trail, which some of you might remember as a vertical root scramble.) We did sign a register on the North Peak summit and it might be up there somewhere. There were a few,but not many,names listed in it back then.

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Anyone remember the old Honeymoon Silver Mine that was at the Lake Serene trailhead hidden back behind some trees? It was the coolest old mine to explore, something right out of the Hobbit, with deep shafts covered with boards with a hudred feet down, caved in spots from the ceilings, air shafts with ropes hanging from logs, many passage ways, just an amazing old mine. Quite dangerous. Does anyone know did they fill it in or cover the entrance as i could not find it when I was up there last year?

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  • 10 years later...

So great @Marcel LaPerriere!!  Would love to see more photos from the past and the stories with them!  Feel free to start a new thread with anything you'd like to share.  I know many of us love stories of the the days of yore in addition to what is going on now.

Love Steve's shirt and his Mieje (sp?) pack.  When I first got into the mountain thing, my parents lent me their Meije's from the early 1970's that they had bought in Chamonix.  Most of my first summits were using a pack similar to Steve's above!

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