The intention was to try and do the Mt. Persis - Mt. Index traverse, but due to a couple of missteps early on in the day it became obvious that we'd only reach the summit of Mt. Persis this day - but what a spectacular day it turned out to be! Our first miscalculation was the time it would take to get from Monroe to the trailhead - the roads were snow free, but it still takes almost 45 minutes to drive to the trailhead. If you drive all the way to the trailhead. Which we didn't. Error two: Do not start this climb by parking a half mile short of the trailhead and walking along a short spur of what looks like abandoned logging road! Woe, misfortune, devil's club and lots of lost time are all that await you down this path! After almost an hour of moderate bushwhacking, we managed to emerge back on the logging roads, about 5 minutes from where we parked the cars. Instead of our approach, drive all the way to the trailhead - saves a lot of time, and there's no bushwhacking involved!
Once we actually found the climber's trail, the climb was very enjoyable. The first section of the path passes through an old clear cut, and there are some logs to climb over, but they're not too tough if you're over 6 feet tall. Creative uses of an ice axe serves shorter people quite well. Eventually we climbed out of the old clearcut and started winding our way up an opened timbered slope. There was enough snow on the ground that we couldn't see a trail anymore, so we just followed a path of least resistance, proceeding easily up the left side of the slope. We were treated to a couple of spectacular views north down some gullies that ran from where we had climbed down to the river valley floor - no one wanted to get too close to the edge, but the panoramas of the peaks to the north were quite something. We continued our ascent through open timber up to the false summit, which gave us impressive views of the sheer north face of Persis. Shortly after this, we broke out of the trees onto perfect untracked snow, ice and snow covered trees (looking more like they'd been coated in vanilla frosting than snow), intensely blue sky, and almost unlimited visibility in all directions.
The only thing blocking our view was the awesome north face of Mt. Index to the east, barely a mile away. Knowing we no longer needed to rush, since the traverse was no longer on the agenda, we prudently spent the next two hours of our lives basking in the sun on the summit, playing "name that peak", taking lots of pictures, and just enjoying what was one of the most beautiful days I've ever had in the mountains!
On the way down, we circled around to the south side of the summit plateau (to check out the traverse route for the next trip up there), and ended up walking along the top of a small corniced ridge. The ridge wasn't more than 15 or 20 feet high on the corniced side, and with the snow so perfect I was unable to contain myself, and leapt from the cornice into powder snow below that was at least hip deep! My ear to ear grin as I came up coated in powder was enough to convince two more of my co-climbers to abandon themselves to gravity, and take the plunge! The rest of the descent was uneventful, with stops here and there to admire more stunning views and take advantage of photo opportunities. A stop at Zeke's on the way home for burgers and shakes capped off a great climbing day.