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Persis-Index Hike to the Persis-Index Col and "the Perfect Place"), Washington
It was hard to find a partner. First I estimated that the hike was maybe 10 miles - so a bit long - and there's no trail on the vast majority of it. In fact it wasn't even clear that there was ANY trail on ANY of it. Plus there's this idea of putting in a lot of effort to climb Persis ! Persis ! After all it's just a nondescript lump next to Mount Index which is more akin to the citadel of the gods. Persis is the ugly step-daughter to Index's Cinderella (is that mixed metaphor?) Why climb Persis at all? Well because it's on the way I guess. Anyway, I also have something of a reputation amongst my hiking buddies for creating uh... "more adventure" than everyone might be up for.
Finally in 2009 I found a partner: She's fast, she's fearless, she's gutsy and she doesn't know me very well ;) We start to put together our plans when almost immediately word comes that the access road has been closed, gated and locked (see nwhikers.net report). We contemplate mountain biking the approach (in retrospect this would have been a big mistake). We talk to the logging company who, despite all the smoke and flames in the nwhiker.net report, is quite willing to do whatever it takes to get us the gate keys but as it turns out, it's late in the summer, we've lost the long days and then there's an early snow. So we decide to bag it till next year.
A year later we're making plans again. We pick our day amidst busy schedules. And a couple weeks ahead I decide to check the road status and find a new thread on nwhikers.net saying the road is supposed to open in mid-July. That's the good news. The bad news is that no one seems to believe it. I'm monitoring the reports up to the day of our hike. People report the road open... but no one believes it will stay open.
So, on Thursday 8/5 Chris S. and I head off from Seattle at 7 AM hopeful but not certain. The plan is to hike to the Persis shoulder, tag the summit, cross to the "Perfect Place" at the PersIndex col, continue to the Index summit, and then reverse our path to the Persis shoulder where we could follow the trail down in the dark if necessary.
Ok so plans immediately start to go awry. Some poor planning and then bad directions for the trailhead cost us time and we don't start till 11 AM. Ok. Ok. Yah I know... We revisit our plan. I'm estimating 2 hours to Persis, 2 hours to the Perfect Place and 2 more to the Index summit and 6 more to get back. If we can get back to Persis by 9pm and find the trail we should be able to come back OK in the dark. We have lots of practice on TNAB hikes with coming out in the dark ;)
|Looking approx NE||Our first view of Index (and snow)||Summit shoulder of Persis|
Wow. The hike up Persis is a mofo - steep, and unrelenting, and steep. I'd like to say it was a crisp, cool morning but by now it's hot. We sweat our way up ugly clear cuts for about 1000 feet before reaching shaded forest followed by enticing views of a spectacular, rocky ridge to our left. Here the trail angle lessens and by the time we reached the Persis shoulder, the hiking is downright pleasant. Here we enter the alpine zone - this is why we hike: bare rock, moss, tarns, cliffs, tiny creeks. heather, flowers, snow It is gorgeous.
|We must be going the right way||Tarn below Persis||ditto|
We reach the 2 tarns below the Persis summit. Here you head up and left a short ways to the top where the view is simply stunning. (There's a reason to climb Persis!) Way below to the right, the valleys of the Skykomish wind into the mountains and to the left into the haze of civilization. A sea of peaks stretches to the north. And of course the spectacular 3 summits of Index.
|Panorama from Persis summit (Index, Sky valleys,
Gunn, Merchant, Baring et al)
see map of corresponding visible peaks below
Click here for larger map
Peaks visible from Persis summit looking NW-W (16-130 degrees) corresponding to the panorama pic above
We grab some food and head on. The trail down splits immediately, the left branch heading out onto the spectacular, massively cliffed ridge that runs all the way from Persis to Index. It looks awesome but it can't possibly be the right way to go. We backtrack to the two tarns and then up a wide talus field that ends in a line of dense trees. It's clear that the trees guard a short, cliffy entrance to a huge talus slope that parallels the Persis-Index ridge... what's not clear is how to get through. We look for a cairn but find none. So we pick a likely spot and claw our way through. It isn't really the right way to go but we push through anyway out into a sea of Winnebago boulders.
It takes a while to get to the bottom of the boulder where we follow what might be a trail high up under the cliffs to the left. We trend down and to the right into forest which eventually opens into a small talus field and then lots of rocky, heather meadows. We are back in alpine highlands again and it's beautiful - creeks and moss and heather and rock... There are massive (really massive) cliffs everywhere! We follow the path of least resistance crossing at least 2 tricky creek gullies. There is no trail and we pass no cairns from this point onward.
|Cliffs to the south||Cliffs to the east|
The third creek flows out of a blind notch. Above we can see steep looking snow. We contemplate other routes before deciding to go up the third creek in what turns out to be, for me, one of those rare (correct) route finding decisions ;). The notch is full of snow which, except for the worry of falling into the creek is easy going. At the top of the notch is a gorgeous little tarn! It's on our map so now we're certain we're going the right way.
We pause to asses our progress. It's about 3pm and we still have a long ways to go. If it doesn't get noticeably easier we're going to have to consider giving up Index. The snow gully is less steep than it looked from below and does make easy going all the way to an obvious top. I climb out of the gully expecting to find the Perfect Place but no... it's not here. Is something wrong? Chris S. exited the chute closer to the top and is a little ways ahead of me. I call out "I expected to find the Perfect Place here" disappointment in my voice. She just stands there and points. Huh? I take another 3 or 4 steps and there it is!
But we don't have time to stay and enjoy it?! :( From here there's a VERY faint trail which we follow. It seems to trend left toward the huge cliffy ridge and that just doesn't seem right, yet the alternative of dropping way down doesn't seem right either. This isn't filling us with confidence. We stop for a snack, examine our maps, and recalculate the time and decide we're not going to make it to the summit... but that gives us the opportunity to hang out at the Perfect Place.
First Chris S. climbs a short way up through the woods to the top of peak #5308. She yells for me to come up and that she thinks she can see the trail. Sure enough, a thread seems to wind in unlikely fashion across and amongst the tops of "islands" on the ridge. Oh yah - more glorious views of Index and the Sky valley.
We beat feet back to the tarns and relax, bake in the sun, chow, swim, enjoy the view, bask in beauty.
|Index from Peak 5308||Chris S||P.P.|
We reverse our path on the way out except at the top of the big boulder field we are determined to find the correct way through the trees. We find two cairns. Chris S. explores one while I take the other. Neither are correct but they get us to the top. We explore some more on the upper side of the tree belt and find the real route farther north. oh well, next time.
We find the Persis trail in the dusk and hike out in the dark without event - except for when I trip and do a double summersault through steep brush escaping unscathed, except for scratches. Yikes. Lost my headlamp but found it below in the middle of the trail. Hmmm last place we looked.
Car to car with less and less hurry as the day went on: 11 hours.
Other cool TR with directions to the summit.
The best path from the Persis shoulder through the dense trees to the big boulder field is on the left side looking uphill from the upper Persis tarn. Once you pass through to the big boulder field, look back for a landmark to guide you on the return trip.
Hiking earlier season when there would be more snow could make the hike easier and faster... maybe... maybe.
Oh yah. Get started earlier.
Photo Credits: Chris M., Chris S., Mark (Mesahchie) S.
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