North America, United States, Pacific Northwest, Ascent of the E. Face of Mt. Index
Ascent of the E. Face of Mt. Index. Visible from the Stevens Pass Highway (Washington State Highway 15) near the town of Index, the E. Face of the N. Tower of Mt. Index is a seemingly vertical 2300-ft. wall. In 1941 Fred Beckey and Tom Campbell succeeded in gaining almost half the height. In the summer of 1951, with characteristic enthusiasm, Beckey encouraged several of us to renew the assault. Expecting the climb to take more than one day, we planned to spend several days putting a “fixed” route up the face.
On the first day Beckey and I walked about three-quarters of the way from Lake Serene to the N. Tower col and then, in sneakers, established the route, fixing 5/16-in. ropes, to a point near that attained in 1941. The first 300 ft. brought us to the end of an indistinct ledge which led upward to the left. This we negotiated with the aid of several scrub-tree belays and, for additional security, a few pitons. The upper end of this ledge lay at the base of a 40-ft. chimney, which we climbed after placing a Rawl-drive anchor in the extremely hard rock. We could drill a hole only by taking advantage of a small fissure. We broke one drill and came to realize the importance of protection for the eyes against flying particles of rock. Above the chimney four more long leads took us over rock of various degrees of difficulty to the top of a second, longer chimney. Thence we made an almost level traverse to the left (S.) and gained another 100 ft. by a steep, narrow, brush-clogged couloir. This terminated on a rib just to the right of a deep, bowl-shaped couloir on the left middle of the face. Being now close to the high point of 1941, we established a cache and rappelled down.
Dick McGowan and I, the next pair on the face, pushed 400 ft. higher, without extreme difficulty, to an outcrop of rock on the right wall of the bowl-shaped couloir. The route seemed to continue to the head of the couloir, where a large and obvious ledge slanted upward and to the right across the entire face. But the 300 ft. to the ledge proved to be exceedingly tricky: even with the help of pitons, McGowan and I advanced only 150 ft. above the outcrop before the lateness of the hour prompted a series of quick rappels downward.
The final party included two pairs: Dick Burge and Beckey; Jim Henry and me. We started early, mounted the fixed section of the route, and then—taking time and care—climbed the 150 ft. to the ledge. Repeatedly, thanks were offered up for the scrub trees that served as belays along the exposed section of the route. We fol
lowed the large ledge, with ease, to the middle of the face. There it is split by a small but steep couloir that leads to the summit. Luckily, we found an intricate route up the right side of this couloir and soon stood on top