The Index Traverse

We started out early the next morning by rappelling into the notch between the North and Middle Peaks. Unfortunately, we misjudged the location of the notch and wound up well below and to the side. We then spent half of the day doing very difficult climbing to get back on route.

I was determined to do the route “free,” which is to say: using the rope and pitons for protection, not to gain an advantage. On an extremely difficult and rotten section going up the Middle Peak, I felt around with my foot and finally found something to stand on. I looked down to see I was standing on a piton I had used for protection, and had to find another foot-hold before climbing on. While climbing this pitch, I kept hearing rocks bouncing down the steep narrow gully below, with the clack-clack-clack increasing in frequency as they fell, seemingly forever. This was quite disconcerting, as I assumed I was knocking the rocks off as I climbed and I would soon be following them. Finally, Brad yelled: “Hey, listen to this!” and threw another rock down to listen to its long fall. I was not kind in my reply.

On the steep pitches, we were hauling our rucksacks using our reepschnür. With all the leading, hauling and belaying I was doing, the jumars were invaluable for conserving my ability to grip small things.

After two or three long pitches of rotten rock and poor protection, I reached a tree and felt safe for the first time in hours. We were out of water and my throat was dry. When Brad reached the belay point, he pulled an orange out of his rucksack, gave it to me and declined a share. I forgave him for the rock throwing incident.

Now re-energized, I continued on; the pitches were getting easier. We soon reached a snow patch (just below and right of center in this picture from the North Peak). As we sat and ate the snow I recalled that Fred Beckey had mentioned this small patch of snow as a welcome relief to their thirst in his account.