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North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, The Town Wall

The Town Wall. Behind the town of Index, northeast of Mount Index on the Stevens Pass highway, there are several large cliffs. The ones on the left are just quarries, and those on the right have too many bushes and trees; but the main, very wide cliff in the center has excellent rock and not too much vegetation except for moss and grass. This main cliff is highest near the right end, where for part of the year there is an active waterfall. The first person to climb it started his route up this longest part of the wall during dry weather. Only when he returned to finish it, did he learn it was in the path of the waterfall. So early last summer with the wall still unclimbed, John Holland and I bushwacked toward the bottom of the face. From the car we had chosen a route on the right part of the wall about halfway between the waterfall and a prominent mossy chimney to its left, about fifty yards left of the fall. The route was five and one half pitches long. On the first pitch we nailed up a wide although fortunately narrowing crack (the first piton was a three-inch bong-bong) to a ramp which led right a few feet to bushy ledges. From the left corner of the higher ledge we pitoned up a continuous crack to a semihanging belay stance immediately below an overhang. The third pitch took us up under the overhang, around its left side and then left to another crack, which we nailed for about 100 feet to a large ledge. The fourth pitch began with a short rappel off the left side of the ledge and then was mainly a left traverse on a bushy ledge to its end, where it intersected the previously mentioned mossy chimney. The fifth pitch climbed a twenty-foot crack at the end of the ledge, angled right to a ledge, climbed a ten-foot step with the aid of two knife-blades, and then angled right up some delicate slabs to a gully or chimney where a belay was set up a few feet higher. The last pitch simply went up the chimney above and over a few steps to the first good belay spot. About seventy pitons were placed, most of them angles between 1 and 2½ inches, and ¼-inch bolts with hangers were left at the near-hanging belay, at the rappel spot, and at the belay in the chimney. Future ascents should be considerably more pleasant since we removed several pounds of dirt and moss from the piton cracks. The climb was a good exercise in placing pitons for direct aid. NCCS IV, F6, A3.

Dan Davis