Peak(s):  Index, The  -  13,420 feet
Little Finger  -  13,220 feet
Date Posted:  10/10/2020
Modified:  10/11/2020
Date Climbed:   10/03/2020
Author:  Boggy B
Additional Members:   blazintoes
 Little Finger and The Index   

Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ibuprofen


Good conversation and visions of mountaineering apocalypse passed the time quickly as Purgatory receded further with each mile. Our progress was measured in creeks: Purgatory, Cascade, the Animas, Needle. We pitched the tent on a rise above the junction for Twin Lakes and Columbine Pass.

Day two dawned cold and hazy. We lazily packed away our camp and set off again up the path towards Twin Lakes, where we left the trail and hiked up steepening grass to Twin Thumbs Pass. Descending off the north side proved spicier than usual due to lingering snow and frozen hardpan, but the traverse to upper Ruby was otherwise mellow. On gaining the pass at the head of Ruby Basin we startled two goats in full winter dress sunning on the south flanks of Peak Twelve. A scuffle ensued and the winner took the high ground. They surveyed our descent to the Ruby Creek feeder lake; beyond, we continued down to 11,850', where we pitched the tent in a ring of willows across from the Little Finger approach gully, allowing us to gaze intently upon the object of our eventual affliction. Before dinner we scouted the willow-choked approach to The Index, which we would make in the dark next morning.

The following day validated our reconnaissance, as we passed through the willows by headlamp with ease. From the low end of the boulder-strewn meadow beneath the Animas-Monitor cirque, we made an ascending traverse north, towards the 'W' we had identified the prior evening. We had thought this to be the 'W' referred to in Peter Blank's description, but the latter is visible only from the southwest; our Royal 'W' forms both the saddle and the head of the major south-facing gully between The Index and Animas Mountain. The path of least resistance crosses this gully and climbs steep tundra towards a deep notch in the southwest ridge of The Index that becomes more obvious the higher one climbs. At 13,000' we pedaled unpleasantly up the short, sandy chute guarding the notch and by a few tenuous 5th class moves gained passage to the upper west face of The Index, where after a brief scramble up grassy ledges and slabs the sun graced our arrival at the northwest end of the complex and airy summit ridge.

We racked up in the sunshine and started the business. Amy took the first technical pitch up a short face to a ledge and a fist crack leading through a skylight to the ridge (5.5/5.6). Tower 1 is really a huge diamond-shaped boulder balanced precariously on its end. We passed beneath it and stepped around a block on the right side of the ridge, downclimbing to the left 15 feet of exposed low 5th class to access the Tower 2 crack. I took the lead and loved this pitch, which consisted of fun chimneying up a dihedral with a hand crack (5.7), with a few 3rd class moves to regain the ridge. At the south end of the tower we found mangled rappel slings with two rings and a rusted piton which I extracted by hand with no effort; we repaired the slings (of which we knew the newer green webbing to be from Peter's and Steve's ascent in 2011) and rappelled to the saddle between Towers 2 and 3. Though not as intimidating as I had expected, the final obstacle is formidable. Attempting to suppress my uncertainty, I gathered what few wits I had about me and started up the wide crack directly from the base, reaching the pocket halfway up without too much trouble. I then launched up the wild five- to six-inch-wide crack which neatly cleaves the tower in two, allowing the climber to peer through to Ruby Basin while ascending. Though I labored I enjoyed the battle, but deficient in both strength and technique I eventually ran out of steam and made the decision to aid the last ten feet on the big cams. I had thought I would despair at resorting to aid but instead felt my effort, as my first 5.9 (or A0 in my case) trad lead, was worthy of the summit. Amy is a strong climber and demonstrated this on her go, which she managed with a minimum of struggle, bootying a plastic stopper from the lower crack en route.

After a brief summit celebration, we found two pitons with more green webbing at the base of the summit boulder opposite the side we had come up, added a length of red webbing, and rappelled the north side of the tower to a ledge that extends from the saddle at the base of the final pitch. Amy had located three solid pitons here, on which we installed an anchor and were able to make a single 100-foot rappel back to the approach ledges. Stoked to have made the climb, we basked in the sunshine and obscure glory of The Index, reflecting over a snack; we agreed the relatively straightforward, mostly grassy approach and the engaging route on solid rock make it a worthwhile climb, even worth repeating.

We descended grassy ledges to the crossover gully, which we rappelled on a solid rock pinch above and (descender's) left of the notch, and scooted down the sandy chute to grass below. Though it was early in the afternoon, the October sun had already begun to set behind the Turret Needles, whose long shadows snaked across the valley and engulfed our campsite before we arrived.

As we ate our dinner, a mouse emerged from the willows and scampered towards Amy. I looked at the open door of the tent and thought about saying "hey, don't let that mouse go in the tent" but it seemed ridiculous. For a brief moment, the mouse and Amy locked eyes; the varmint blinked, corrected its course 90 degrees, and hopped right into the tent. We sprang to action, yanking our bedding out until only the mouse remained trapped in an orange nylon world. Amy crawled in and gently shooed the critter out.

Twin Lakes birding (photo Amy)

Amy takes a bonus lap on Twin Thumbs Pass

To upper Ruby

Toxic masculinity. The dark rings at the base of the horns on the left goat are scent glands that swell during the rut.

Approaching the crossover notch (left)

Looking back down

Approach ledge scrambles on upper W face

Summit tower above approach ledges

Summit ridge with all 3 towers visible at top

Amy leads P1

Descent to Tower 2

Up P2 (photo Amy)

Tower 2 rappel

Up summit pitch (photo Amy)


View down summit pitch

View down summit ridge (Towers 1 and 2 visible)

Summit rappel (photo Amy)

Rappel to approach ledges

Final rappel down crossover gully

V marks the crossover gully, W can be seen from the southwest

Only the crossover notch is visible from farther down

Approach overview (Index center)


"I've made a huge mistake."


This was the clearest and coldest night of the trip. Given our proximity to the Little Finger approach gully, we had elected to start an hour later and woke up at 6:30. This may have been a poor decision, but we were not inspired by the thought of navigating frozen hardpan by headlamp. In cold morning shadows, the lower portion of the gully climbed easily on loose boulders in a dirt runnel. At the constriction about halfway up, we traversed left to avoid the broad streaks of snow lingering from earlier storms, tip-toeing up hardpan and patchy snow to the east wall of the upper gully, which eventually forced us onto a chossy ledge system in order to stay off the bulletproof snow. After a bit of sketchy 3rd class, we escaped the ledge and hiked up easier scree to the saddle. Though already we weren't excited about descending what we had just climbed, our tribulations had only begun. Loathe to give up elevation, we traversed west to the butt of the stout ridge that protrudes east from the Little Finger. Here we found a system of gravel-covered ramps that morphed into a chossy flume higher up and after a short, heinous 4th class headwall, forced us into a junky tight corridor to gain the ridge. From here we scrambled across, down, and up crumbling slopes to reach the southwest corner of the Little Finger proper.

The west chimney is fairly obvious, and we could see a rappel anchor 150 feet up. We staged below the chimney, and Amy again took the first gravelly pitch to the alcove (5.4/5.5). At this point I could feel the weight of the routing decisions--and the successful execution of thereof--which would be demanded of us to return safely below, and I was not incredibly psyched about upping our commitment to this endeavor. Thankfully Amy was, or pretended to be, and volunteered to tackle the crux. She clipped the piton ten feet up and worked her way upward, placing marginal pieces in rapid succession (the best of these was probably a tricam in a pocket four or five feet past the piton) until the climbing eased. At some point I realized she had gone too far and hollered up that she should descend to exit onto the massive block that forms a roof over the right side of the alcove. After downclimbing a bit, she found good protection and deftly made a few sporty moves to escape the chimney (5.8), and set a belay in the rotten boulders atop the roof block. This pitch does not much resemble rock climbing, as it's basically a 70-degree choss flume, in which I found it unreasonable to employ any recognizable technique. Above the crux the climbing is technically harder but feels easier as climbing techniques apply. A hand or fist crack on the right wall and a few physical stemming moves helped me exit to the belay. I then took the lead, downclimbing around the exposed corner to the (climber's) right into the adjacent chimney, scrambled up 30 feet, moved right across a ledge and stepped into the east chimney, which I climbed to the end of the rope a few feet shy of a decent stance below a huge chockstone. This pitch affords the opportunity to experience the curious essence of Little Finger: it is simply a huge gravel sculpture, crafted by the eons, and bound together by a magic spell that is broken only by human touch. Regretting that I hadn't just led on one strand of our twin rope as the pitch requires 100 feet of rope, I spent some time fiddling to build a passable anchor at my position and then belayed Amy up. I then took the short, relatively enjoyable fourth pitch up a wide chimney past a chockstone (5.3/5.4), passing through a small gap to easier terrain on the backside. We stepped up to a broad, flat platform, where I took another short pitch to the summit ridge (5.0). Finally we took turns on belayed scramble to what Steve Gladbach aptly described as the "sphincter-scratching apex." We congratulated each other on not dying thus far and turned our attention to the descent.

We toyed with the idea of rappelling the northwest corner to the Peak Sixteen-Little Finger saddle, but we decided to stick with the devil we knew, so we mended the red webbing on the summit boulders, closed our eyes, and rappelled into the top of the west chimney. With plenty of rope to spare I stopped on a large chockstone, fearing the rope would get stuck if we tried to pull it past the obstruction. I tied off a boulder pinch to the (climber's) right with new cordage for the next rappel while Amy worked on the pull. She seemed confident in her abilities and I wanted someone to blame for the inevitable rope-cutting epic to follow, so this division of labor seemed equitable. The rope got hung up anyway, requiring a quick scramble to free it. Another short-ish rappel led us to a good four-piton anchor with (Peter's and Steve's 2011) green webbing intact, and from there we made a 100-foot rappel to the crux alcove. A final short rappel off a mangy tat cluster deposited us at our packs at the base of the west chimney, whereupon Amy estimated her Weighted Mental Age (WMA) to be 50. Nonetheless relieved to have reached this point with the rope intact, we had a snack and debated descending the south gully, but we chose instead to retrace our precipitous, but known, steps. We thus returned tediously along the ridge to the east and down at last to the Little Finger-Eolus saddle. The harrowing hardpan gully yawned before us, already consumed by the chilly shade. We again teased out circumnavigating the Turret Needles to achieve an easier descent over the Pigeon-Turret saddle, but again we decided to stick with the unpleasant but familiar route, and so we downclimbed the upper gully with extreme tedium. Sketch Factor 5 was reached; Amy declared her new WMA of 65. Upon completing the descent we were both years beyond our wisdom.

Back at camp we scarfed down a ton of calories before packing up and starting our return to Chicago Basin. I had hoped for daylight on the climb back up the north side of Twin Thumbs Pass, but we crested upper Ruby at dusk and finished the traverse between the sun and the moon, arriving at a nice campsite around 10 pm, where we treated ourselves to a second dinner of bacon-infused mashed potatoes with chili Fritos.

With no train schedule to dictate our movements, we slept in til 7 before starting the long blurry walk to Purgatory.

Little Finger stoke

Up N gully (photo Amy)

Sketch Factor 3

View down N gully (photo Amy)

Little Finger west chimney

Amy leads P1

Following P1 (photo Amy)

Amy leads P2


Following P2 (photo Amy)

Starting P3 (photo Amy)

On P3 (photo Amy)

Amy follows P3

Up P4 (photo Amy)

Amy follows P4

Up P5 (photo Amy)

It's a bird! AND a plane!

Sketch Factor 4

3rd rappel (photo Amy)

E ridge "descent"

Down gravel ramps

Sixteen and Little Finger

View down N gully

Sketch Factor 5

Sunset over Ruby feeder


On The Index, our rack consisted of BD cams sizes .1, .3, #1, #2, #3, two #5's, a set of tricams, a Totem offset cam size 1/2 (?), a small rack of bail nuts, three alpine draws, a couple of double and quad-length runners, 40 feet of cordage, and a 60 meter half rope. I believe only the BD cams were used, and we wished we had the .75. A strong leader at the grade could probably get by without doubling up on #5's, which is otherwise necessary to protect the offwidth crux. A #4 would have been useful, but not critical, on the first and summit pitches.

For Little Finger, we brought the same rack except for the two #5's. Tricams were used on the first three pitches and the Totem was used once or twice. A single rack of BD cams .1 - #3 could suffice, perhaps making the crux pitch slightly more PG-13.

MVP goes to the BD #3 C4 as it was used on every pitch or anchor. Much thanks to Mr. G for loaning us a couple of lightweight cams and other implements.


I reached my first high Colorado summit in late 2009, discovered this site, and decided soon after to climb every one of the now-767 13ers on Bill's list. This list is a superset of the 696 ranked and "unranked" (but officially named by the USGS) 13ers, and it includes most or all of the soft-ranked peaks as well. In the natural course of list inflation I determined to climb all 727 Colorado 13ers that are currently ranked, soft-ranked, or named, regardless of inclusion in Bill's list. Our ascent of Little Finger represents the completion of both objectives (By a stroke of great fortune, Bill boosted Sunlight Spire, which is neither ranked, soft-ranked nor named, to the 14ers list, thus saving me the work for now. Thanks, Bill!). Purely because there is only one soft-ranked 14er (North Massive), I conveniently extended this goal to encompass all 786 Colorado peaks over 13,000' that are currently ranked, soft-ranked, or named.

Unknown hobnail-booted, wool-clad hardmen and hardwomen may well have completed these objectives under different terms prior to the information age. Certainly the mountaineers of yore displayed a zeal for adventure in unappealing venues that is scarce nowadays.
Much more recently, Peter Stabolepszy is believed to have completed all ranked and then-named Colorado peaks over 13,000' (754 as of this writing).
Steve Gladbach in addition to his many mountaineering achievements hoped to (and surely would have) become the second person after Stabolepszy to complete that list.
Mike Garratt has completed all ranked and soft-ranked Colorado peaks over 13,000' (686) but appears to have stopped a few peaks short of the named 13ers.
There are probably others who are pursuing or completed similar goals but do not record their ascents publicly.

Whatever the score, my years spent in pursuit of these and other highly arbitrary goals have been filled with incredible experiences in many unique and beautiful mountain areas, with partners who have meant far more to me than the peaks, and it has been my great privilege to have shared the time with them.

Thanks for reading.

Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 3 6 7 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19 21 22 24 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 42 43 47 51 52 53 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

Comments or Questions
10/11/2020 06:49
Great TR and pix and congrats on an impressive, albeit somewhat arcane, accomplishment!

I want to double like it
10/11/2020 06:56
But a comment will have to suffice...congrats Michael & Amy on these two, and to you Michael, that's a helluva list to complete! It's been great inspirational fun reading about your adventures and thanks for sharing them.
Once again though, how did you come up with Boggy B as your username? (coincidentally, your summit photo on LF looks like you may have had boggy drawers...haha...I know I would have)

that's the face I know and love
10/11/2020 08:28
Thanks for taking summit photos guys!!

Amy, you've got some serious gumption to take on this wild adventure and to take the crux on Little Finger to boot!


Roses are red
Violets are blue
Proud of your accomplishments
Named, ranked, soft-ranked, & ranked unnamed too

10/11/2020 08:44
Now this is my type of TR. Thank you for writing. One great quote:
"it's basically a 70-degree choss flume, in which I found it unreasonable to employ any recognizable technique. "

10/11/2020 12:53
That is quite an accomplishment in Colorado Mountaineering. I appreciate you posting a trip report about your adventure, too. Keep it up. Stay motivated with this stuff

Flight or Shite
10/11/2020 20:44
Few people achieve self actualization but the great sense of responsibility and duty to complete this mission by both has etched in my mind as one of the best alpine adventures I‘ve ever had! And now that my WMA is truly 65 I can retire.

Amazing Colorado Mountaineering achievement
10/11/2020 22:09
God made you earn the last one. No train? Plenty of extra miles, rope and lots of gear. I don't think you would have wanted it any other way. Never enough (Class 2 fun)
Since 2009 add, West coast 14ers, Multiple trips climbing huge peaks in South America, Alaska bush plane ice climbs.
I get a sore scrolling finger working my way to the bottom of your San Juan 13er list. All the bush wacking, no trail, no route, rarely climbed garbage rock peaks. Absolute Character builders. Not to mention all the unsuccessful turn arounds that you humorously called "recon missions". Thank You for dragging me along for so many. You have come a long way. No one I would trust more in the mountains than you.
Congratulations!!! And huge WOW


10/12/2020 06:26
Roses are red
Violets are blue
This has a lot of slogging
For a pitch or two

Actually, this is pretty sweet. Nice job both of you.

Chicago Transplant
10/12/2020 09:14
Congrats Michael! I saw the ticks on LOJ and hoped you would follow up with a trip report on these rarely climbed peaks. Those summit pictures on Little Finger show it is very appropriately named. It was nice chatting with in Montrose a couple of weeks ago, hope to get to climb with you sometime soon!

Boggy B

10/12/2020 11:43
Thanks everyone. It takes at least two to finish these goals and credit (among many others) goes largely to Kylie who, despite not caring at all about lists or accolades, has been my willing and capable partner for hundreds of these peaks and a supportive motivator for the rest.

@Darin, that was my handle during my mountain-deficient midwest upbringings, back when I had a bright future in professional gaming. Ha.
@John, thanks buddy. Looking forward to seeing you all soon and for your centennial finish on Meeker!
@Amy, you may yet recover, since WMA decreases by 1 year per week spent doing unsketchy things. Sadly I forgot to work in a FoS reference but that would have required we pay obeisance to the Master:
@Ryan, good one. 0.18 pitches per mile, to be exact. I think 0.75 is the threshold between Peakbagger and Rock Climber.
@Mike, likewise. Psyched for you to finish in style on Star.

Lord Baelish
10/12/2020 13:21
As disappointed as I am to not see any GoT references, this was a great read and awesome trip! What a way to finish off the big list!

Little Finger: Yup, sounds familiar...
10/12/2020 18:37
Amy: I too was suckered into climbing too high in that LF chimney, pretty gymnastic to downclimb and reverse direction, no? Good memories, I was with Steve G for his first attempt. Fwiw, we bailed off at the leaning pillar above your belay. Congrats on your safe ascents! Well done!!


Great job and Congrats!
10/14/2020 10:50
Great job Mike and Amy and congratulations on completing your list Mike! Love that "Sketch Factor 4" look atop Little Finger. I always wondered where the name Boggy B came from.

Boggy B
Winter is coming
10/14/2020 11:07
@aholle, not sure how that happened.

@Tom, were it not for your beta we'd have probably gone more wrong on the 2nd pitch. It's hard to tell exactly where to exit once you're in the chimney but it's only 20 or so feet above the piton. We overshot by 10 or 15 feet, so not too bad. Your recommendation to not bring big gear was also useful; though we brought and used the #3, it was nice (and wise) to leave the #5's at camp. Thank you!

@Jed, thanks. Looks like we just missed you by a few days. Impressive stats you put up there!

super awesome
10/14/2020 14:20
fun read and good job on finishing that many effing peaks dude!!

I gotta ask tho, did you jam your knee in on that summit pitch? Able to get a heel/toe in there? Is that a puffy you are towing on your harness? Love me some climbing details....

Also, your utilization rate matters not in my head as long as you two didn't elevator door those poor cracks the whole way up, something I'm certain neither of you would subject any beauty to.

Boggy B

10/14/2020 14:44
Yeah man, I read the brochure. Went prepared to heel-toe, arm bar, and chicken wing like a boss.

The meat of it was perfectly parallel and never too wide for the #5. With the disclaimer that I was surely doing it wrong: Too tight to heel-toe. Kind of slick (and also narrow) for arm bars. Was working a great knee jam until the outside of the crack narrowed and I couldn't get my knee past it. I think fist stacks would have worked but I've never executed that successfully, thus it got pretty physical just staying upright and that's when I decided to ice climb it while I had the juice.

Yes that's a puffy and some snacks. Puffy was not deployed.

Fuck yes!!
11/14/2020 07:53
Great report and insane climbing, thanks for the read/great pics

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