Mount Index Scramble: A Most Unfun Day

18 hours in the rain and fog, crazy bushwack, sliding boulders, 50 ft rappel on 60 ft cliff, clambering over talus in the dark. Did I mention the waterfall?
David Shema David Shema
December 08, 2014
Mount Index Scramble: A Most Unfun Day
East Ridge of Mount Index, late Spring
September 9 - Mount Index, 5979
Injury: None.  Use of rope
Cause: Wet Rock on a High End Scramble



I (the scramble leader) had to pull out my scramble rope (100 ft, 7mm) to help protect a descent down a wet rocky section.  It added an extra hour or so to the trip, but it was the safe thing to do. The total round-trip time was 18 hours for this S5-T5 scramble.

We did not to do the common "SW Route" from the logging roads, instead we decided to do the more difficult "E Route" from Lake Serene. The only snow we encountered was a tiny bit of hard snow on the south end of Lake Serene.  

We left in the dark, and got to Lake Serene in good time. We went counter-clockwise around the lake to the south end, where there was hard snow, but it was flat near the shore so crampons not needed. From there we bush whacked east up to the saddle. 

The next 400 vertical ft SSW was a crazy bushwhack and super steep with a really difficult rocky section (we actually used a rope for it on the descent). This section really sucked! 

After that it leveled out around 3600 ft, and there wasn't any brush after that. It was kind of pleasant on the talus, but some parts were really steep and lots of big rocks were sliding down. We went up the gulley to about 4800 ft or so, and encountered the waterfall so we knew we were in the right location. 

But the rock to the right looked more than a scramble (5.x) and since it was wet there was no way we were going up that. Grrr. So we turned around. 

We went back the way we came. When we got back to that rocky section at about 3400 ft, I pulled out my 100 ft rope. There was already a sling around a solid tree, so I added another sling to it and I stuck a descending ring in both slings. Everyone used their prusik to descend, then I used my belay device to rap. It was about a 60 ft section we all went down, I wish my rope had been 120 ft  :-) . 

We found a boot path down to the saddle, so we were able to avoid some of the bushwhacking we had on the way up. Our goal was to get to the trail on the north side of the lake before needing headlamps, but we only got as far as the south end of the lake. So it took a long time to go over all the boulders and talus around the lake via headlamp. 

It drizzled and misted the entire day, and we were out there for 18 hrs. We were all pretty much all soaked after about hour 5. It was cold-ish, and totally foggy with very bad visibility which actually impacted route finding quite a bit. This could be one of the most unfun days I've ever had out in the mountains.  

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Eva Schoenleitner
Eva Schoenleitner says:
Dec 18, 2014 12:00 PM

Thanks for sharing. Do you think this could be done as a scramble (without lead climbing) on a dry day?

David Puerto
David Puerto says:
Jun 28, 2016 05:07 PM

Turned around taking the Eastern route at 3200! I wish we'd kept on going now that I've read this. Paddled across Lake Serene with music in a raft enjoying the echo chamber of the area and that was the most enjoyable part. Next time will be trying to go up where those waterfalls are with a rope just in case. I don't think you can do this as a pure scramble but maybe someone can. It looks pretty intimidating as we studied and explored the wall facing the lake and tried to imagine how to get up there. Totally going to happen someday soon though!