Summer at Index 2015
Index is a remarkable place and we owe it to ourselves, to other visitors, to the town, and the land managers to help take care of the environment and the climbing experience there.
A fire caused a closure at the Upper Town Wall and surrounding crags in July and August 2015.
Brad Hill photo.
Max Dufford on Clay, 5.11d, Index Town Wall.
Photo by Larry Kemp.
The crags at Index lie on, or are accessed via, a combination of Washington State Parks, Burlington Northern Railroad,
and private land. Generally speaking, the Upper Wall and the Country area are on State Parks land and the Beetle Bailey area is on private land. The Lower Town Wall is owned by the Washington Climbers Coalition.
Kevin Lease, Park Ranger
Wallace Falls State Park
P.O. Box 230
Gold Bar, WA 98251
Index is open year round but there is a seasonal nesting closure for falcon nesting in the Spring.
In March, 2009, there was real question about future access at the Lower Town Wall and some nearby crags; we raised money in 2010 and 2011, and we've bought the land on which these crags stand. The Washington Climbers Coalition owns the Lower Town Wall and we are preparing to donate it to State Parks for permanent management as a climbing park. For more
information: area update.
At the request of Burlington Northern, climbers are urged not
to walk along the train tracks; instead, stay off to the left side as you head north toward The Country. Further, please DO NOT drive beyond the gate
blocking the access to the tracks.
Holomon Ridge and some other outlying crags are off Forest Service Road #62, about five miles west of Index and
south of Highway 2. The land up this road is a combination of private property and Forest Service land. There's
been a logging operation in the area. If you're exploring in this area, please stay out of the way of any logging.
There's an unusual hazard of large falling objects at the Upper Town Wall. The top of the Upper Wall is accessible
by motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Some visitors like to amuse themselves by throwing large items off the cliff,
including car bumpers and medium sized trees. The landing zone for most of this seems to be between Backroad and
Weather cam (Skykomish,
east of Index)
WCC area contact:
||The Index Town Walls sit just off Highway 2 near the town of Index. The area houses
a high concentration of the state's finest granite crack climbs, along with some remarkable face climbs and some
Index has a reputation for tough, steep climbing. Of the over 600 routes, only a few of them are below 5.10. Some
of those few are quite excellent, however, and Index should not be overlooked by climbers of all abilities. The
climbing season is nearly year-round, although the dark and wet months of December and January can be rather grim.
After construction of the railroad in the late nineteenth century, part of the Lower Town Wall was quarried. Index
granite can be found as curbstone and building stone throughout the Puget Sound region, including the steps of
the state capitol building in Olympia.
Index contains dozens of crags lined up in two more or less parallel bands, one above the other. Routes on the
lower crags are from one to five pitches, all within a ten minute walk of the car. The main wall here is the Lower
Town Wall, with several easier climbs on the formation known as the Great Northern Slab.
The upper crags are more spread out and some can be difficult to find. The Davis-Holland route on the 600+ foot Upper Town Wall was established
on the Upper Town Wall in 1964, and several large aid routes were established later in the 1960s. These include
some very popular climbs. More recently, many more sport-bolted face climbs have been added on the Upper Town Wall
and nearby formations as well, mostly in the 5.11 to 5.12 range.
The land ownership at Index is a little complicated, with parts of the climbing being sited on railroad company
land, parts on private property, and parts on land owned by the Washington State Parks.
Throughout the long history of climbing at Index, there were never any specific access threats until the private property
owner of the Lower Town Wall, an heir to the family that had quarried granite there in years gone by, threatened to close
the area and market it for renewed quarrying activity in 2009. The WCC has purchased the property, and it will be donated to
Washington State Parks for inclusion in the Forks of the Sky State Park which has been managed as a climbing park for
nearly 20 years. On the whole, there have been few issues affecting climber access and opportunity at Index.
Parking can be a problem, however, and climbers are urged NOT to park in a way that interferes with traffic along
Reiter Road or, in town, parking or travel near the Index school.
With the help of the Washington Mountain Alliance, local climbers have worked to replace old hardware and remove
the formerly highly visible sling rappel anchors on the Lower Town Wall. This has drastically reduced the visual
footprint of climbing, especially on the main portion of the Lower Town Wall. An old rusting hulk of a bread truck
was removed from the parking lot in 2002, another significant improvement in the area's ambiance. A porta-potty
would be a welcome addition here.
Working with State Parks, the WCC sponsored an Index trail project/clean-up day in April 2005. You can read about
the project here.
There is no camping at Index proper, although climbers sometimes stay overnight in the parking lot or along the
river nearby. Forest Service campgrounds are located several miles on up the North Fork road, beyond the Index
Clint Cummins has posted his old guide to Index on the Internet, and it is available for download.