The Index Traverse

Brad wanted to climb the North Peak of Index, but I told him I would only do that if we continued on to do the entire traverse. Partners for a North Peak climb are difficult to come by, so he agreed. For research I prevailed upon a pilot friend to fly me around the mountain to take pictures. I also found vantage points from which I could take pictures of the mountain in Winter. And I read Fred Beckey's (1st Traverse, 1950) account in Challenge of the North Cascades.

I consulted Dave Christensen, who had done the route a short time before and I talked to Bill Sumner (2nd North-South Traverse, 1967). Sumner told me once one attained the summit of the North Peak, 90% of the people in Mountain Rescue could not reach you. Once one rappels toward the Middle Peak, 100% of the people in Mountain Rescue could not reach you. Combining the difficulty, lack of easy escape routes and length of the climb results in the rating of Grade V (on a scale of I to VI).

In this Winter picture of the North Peak, the large snow patch immediately above and right of center is commonly referred to as “The Basin.” In the Summer, it is a patch of greenery and one imagines strolling through it as a break in the difficult sections one encounters below and above. The Middle Peak is to the left and behind the North Peak.

Years after our climb, in his Cascade Alpine Guide, Fred Beckey wrote:
[The Middle Peak] is certainly one of the most inaccessible spots in the Cascade Range, offering no practical route aside from the difficult traverse from the North Peak (route of first ascent).... Only a very competent team should consider the climb by any route; the consequences of either accident or bad weather could be serious.