Solo Via Proctor Creek Drainage
I have made several attempts on the Persis-Index traverse route, and always turned back for lack of time to make it in a day.
This day I summited Index, and left yellow flagging and cairns along the route. It took 17 hours to travel the 17 miles. Although I did not take any breaks, I spent a lot of time tying flagging and stacking cairns. I have had trouble finding my return route in the past, and wanted to be assured I would find my way back to the truck.
After perusing satellite maps, I thought I could cut a few hours off of the Persis-Index traverse by coming up the dry creek bed of Proctor Creek Drainage, starting just south of where NFD RD 310 intersects NFD 6220.
I started up the dry creek bed, 2,600' at 04:37 AM (Alpine Start), using an LED headlamp. I could hear water rushing on either side of me, but none in the main creek bed.
Things proceeded smoothly until around 3000'. It was starting to get light at around 6AM. I was in the bottom of a steep valley, and a trickle of water was coming from the first snowpack seen thus far. Above, massive boulders and a waterfall blocked the way through a steep valley. It was not feasible to scramble up the creek bed any further. However, to my right was a steep slope with sparse brush, which seemed possible to ascend. I made the tricky climb up the wet brush and over some stairstep wet rock out of the valley, and then started a long climb over talus.
Finally at the top of the talus slope, I arrived at the location shown.
East of Persis-Index Traverse
This is about 3,600'. I countoured south around the peak in the photo, donned crampons, then ascended a steep snowfield through a narrow gulley. Emerging through brush at the top of the gully, I then countoured south again around a peak of around 5500'. (in retrospect, a northern contour would have hit the Persis-Index traverse more expeditiously). However, there is some beautiful terrain up there that I was glad to have seen.
After contouring around the peak, I entered a verdant area with mild slope, and filled with tarns, pools and a small streams. I followed this gentle slope up to a waterfall, ascended a steep brushy slope to a snowfield, which emerged east of the Persis-Index traverse, where I started to contour over to the ridge connecting Persis and Index.
I connected with the Persis-Index traverse at 47D 46.5617N and 121D 36.5179 W, at 3084'. That's about halfway along the traverse between Persis and Index, where there are a couple of cirques. Here is an image from an earlier attempt, August 19 2011.
Cirque on Persis-Index Traverse
I had run out of water, so I stopped to filter out a bladder full from the tarn shown.
I joined with the traverse trail, which starts on the south side of the ridge in a steep, wooded slope. It then crosses over and runs just below the ridge on the North, and crosses the ridge a few times. There are a few peaks to contour around, but heading towards Index the route is obvious. (Not so much on the way back). Here is an image of Index from the traverse ridge, an earlier attempt August 06 2011:
Index from Persis-Index Traverse
I descended the last gulley on the ridge traverse, traversed the south face of the last bit of ridge, and then started contouring around to the south of Mt. Index.
after passing through some snowfields, woods, and valleys eventually scrambled up to the summit at 2:20 PM.
I just want to get home!
While struggling through some brush on the way back down from the summit, I must have lost my crampons. After coming back up the first major gulley and regaining the traverse ridge, I noticed they were missing from their attachment point at the rear of my waist. You'll find out later how fortunate I was to not have those daggers attached to my body.
Although I flagged the route on the way up, and had a GPS track, I did have some trouble route finding along the Persis-Index ridge, and in a couple of spots later. I have done the ridge three times, and in each case route finding is relatively easy on the way out, and tough on the way back. I'll put up more flagging if I go this way again.
I now had to descend some snow fields with an ice axe, but no crampons. I slipped one time, started sliding and was able to quickly self-arrest with the ice axe. The softer snow later in the day is a blessing.
I arrived back at the tricky down-climb through wet brush into the valley containing the Proctor Creek drainage about 7PM. I saw my rock cairn on a big flat boulder which emerged from the brush, and knew there was a yellow flag leading to the route down, but could not locate the flag. Rather than getting out my GPS and finding my track, I elected to proceed. Next thing I know, I'm attempting to traverse south using wet roots and tree branches above a cliff. My feet slipped out, and I immediately lost my grip and slid/fell to the creek bed below. I was wearing a helmet, had lost my crampons, and by the time I landed my ice axe, so I was fortunate to end up at the bottom with severe bruising on my legs, gravel rash overall, and tweaked right shoulder, but functional legs. I walked the rest of the way to the truck through the pain on Elvis legs, and arrived back at my truck at 09:45 PM.
This route is not recommended. If I do it again, it will be via Persis, with extra batteries for the headlamp. The time I spent flagging and stacking cairns ate up the potential time savings of this route.
A week later, I went back to see if I could find my ice-axe. Once again arriving at the trailhead before dawn, about 5AM this time, I started out under the starlight. Reaching the riverbed, I turned on my LED headlamp and started up the river bed.
As I get near the top of the river bed, this is the scene:
After climbing up over this step and a couple more, I arrive at the end of the box:
I scouted around a bit, and found my ice-axe. It had arrived not far from where I landed.
Here is the location I fell. The pruner pole (7-1/2') is in there for scale. You can see some long roots near the top, if I recall correctly I was attempting to traverse those.
Here is what faced my on the trip back, some downclimbing and a long walk on the river bed.
After down-climbing the three sections, I noticed my LED headlamp missing. Drat! Index will charge a toll for all those whom pass. It is easier to replace the headlamp than the ice-axe.
I'm back home, with the ice-axe hung up (for the season?) and I'm icing my right thigh. It is still swollen from the bruising it took. Will I go back for the crampons next week? Stay tuned!