American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, Traverse of Mt. Index

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1951

Traverse of Mt. Index. The grim precipices of the three peaks of Mt. Index, just S. of the Stevens Pass Highway, have long been a challenge to climbers. The S. (main) summit has several easy routes; but to the N. a steep cliff separates it from the middle peak, which is connected by a sharp, curving arete to the N. peak, looming directly above the highway. In August 1950, with special interest in the unclimbed middle peak, Hieb, Schoening, Dick Widrig and Beckey devised a plan for a traverse of all three peaks.

Early in the month, prepared for a two-day siege, the party ascended most of the 2400-ft. N. peak in sneakers, but halted when the weather began to threaten. On the week end of August 12th, only Schoening and Beckey were able to return, but these two found the skies clear. Having reached the summit of the N. peak about noon on the first day, they descended to the notch separating it from the middle peak by a series of short cliffs and winding ledges. A prominent gendarme was one of the chief obstacles. Another obstacle, farther on, was a steep wall rising out of the notch to the N. ridge of the middle peak. The first of two leads was the more difficult; it required four pitons for safety. The ridge to the false summit was long and had some delicate stretches, but it was less difficult than a traversing rappel off the first summit. From here the middle peak was quickly accessible. Since evening was now approaching, the climbers picked a bivouac site, with an eye to the availability of water and scrub wood.

They passed the night watching headlights on the road 6000 ft. below, eating and dozing in the tentsack. From this point, next day, a rappel brought them to the notch beyond the middle peak. Here difficulties again became acute—this time unexpectedly. On a long, vertical lead, the leader had to place four pitons for protection. Soon the climbing eased a bit, although two precipitous heather slopes were awkward. Farther on, an exposed ridge crest gave some difficult belayed climbing, especially across some little gendarmes. Eventually the route worked right across a steep rock gully, up a broken face, around a hidden corner, and up a 100-ft. chimney. Shortly before 10.00 A.M. the route became a scramble, and the summit of the main peak was quickly attained by this new route.


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