Washington Climbers Coalition P.O. Box 77315, Seattle, Washington 98177

Index Town Wall: June 2014 area update

The Washington Climbers Coalition owns the Lower town Wall and plans to donate it to the surrounding park that includes the Upper Town Wall. This page has news about planning efforts and work toward a permanent toilet.

Ten Percent Meteorlogical Vinculation on the Lower Town Wall at Index. Ben Gilkison climbing. Photo by Andreas Schmidt.

In March 2009 NO TRESPASSING signs appeared at the crag. Photo Ryan Bressler.

This overlay on an aerial photo shows the approximate location of the parcel that the Washington Climbers Coalition owns at Index, as well as surrounding State Parks and National Forest land (click the photo for a broader view with a legend).
  The area known to climbers as "Index" is really several areas in one. Boulders are strewn throughout the forest below about a mile and a half of hillside and cliffs ranging from thirty feet to over 600 feet in height. Climbers have come here since 1964 or maybe earlier and there have been generally few restrictions on access and opportunity so that the area has become both a local training ground and a nationally known climbing destination.

Most of the area has been included in Forks of the Sky State Park since 1993. However, the most popular cliff in the area, the Lower Town Wall, stood on private property that became threatened with closure in March, 2009. Along with the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund, and a variety of partners including local climbing clubs and gyms, the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) was able to raise money to purchase the property. The WCC now owns the Lower Town Wall and is preparing to donate it for inclusion in Forks of the Sky State Park.

Climbing Management Plan:  Our purchase of the Lower Town wall and the pending donation to State Parks gives us a unique opportunity to work with State Parks to help shape the long term vision for climbing management in Index. The WCC feels that a clear and climber-oriented climbing management plan will help assure that climbers continue to enjoy access and opportunities to climb at the level that they have enjoyed for the last fifty-plus years. To that end, the WCC is working with State Parks to formalize a climbing management plan for the entire Index climbing area before the newly purchased property will be transfered into State Parks ownership. The climbing management plan will apply to the entire Forks of the Sky State Park and not only to the Lower Town Wall parcel.

The climbing management plan is in the drafting stages but highlights include:

-Overnight bivouacing is allowed

-Route development and maintenance, including route cleaning, is allowed

-Glued-on holds, chipping, etc. is prohibited

-Bolts and other fixed anchors are allowed but State Parks does not monitor them and takes no responsibility for them

-Power drills may be used for bolt installation

-All area cliffs and boulders are to remain open unless specifically closed as required to protect the "health, safety and welfare of the public, park visitors or staff, or park resources."

(Note regarding the Lower Town Wall: as owners and donors we are able to impose specific requirements there to a greater extent than we might be able to place upon the surrounding area even though State Parks has agreed that the surrounding Park is to be managed as a climbing park - read "Lower Town Wall Transfer," below).

Toilet Planning Under Way:  As of June 2014 we continue to work on site analysis and cost analysis for a permanent toilet. Current efforts concern wetland issues and issues related to the railroad company right of way. Meanwhle, we will provide a temporary toilet at the site for the 2014 climbing season.

Parking:  The parking lot for the Lower Town Wall saw virtually no maintenance for 25 years. In the Spring of 2013 we had the lot regraded, and we are continuing to work on landscaping the area in a sustainable manner.

Lower Town Wall Transfer:  The transfer of the Lower Town Wall property to State Parks remains pending. Meanwhile, the WCC has negotiated certain conditions of transfer in preparation for our donation of what may be Washington's most popular single crag and is certainly the state's most famous crag for incorporation into the existing climbing park known as Forks of the Sky State Park.

The deed itself will contain a specific statement that "the primary purpose of the Lower Town Wall property is to provide a high quality venue for technical rock climbing and bouldering." It will contain a provision that recreation management conflicts shall be resolved in favor of that primary purpose, and it will include a provision that all portions of this property shall be open to the public year-round unless an emergency condition requires closure.

There is precedent for such conditions on transfer to remain enforceable and followed for 75 years in at least one Washington Park, Beacon Rock State Park. There, the original donors specified that the trail to the top had to remain open and had to be maintained for public access forever. We don't seek expensive and ongoing maintenance of the Lower Town Wall. We only want to be able to continue climbing there. We look forward to seeing climbers enjoy climbing at Index forever, even if the State might suffer budget woes or other conflicts might arise.

Partners in Management:  The town of Index, the managers of Forks of the Sky State Park, and Burlington Northern Railroad have all been very hospitable over the years. The town has hosted climbing-related celebrations in recent years and the town council has been helpful with permitting and other support. State Parks personnel have been working with the WCC on planning for an expanded park and have worked directly with climbers on stewardship projects for over ten years. Burlington Northern has granted an easement right for climber parking and for pedestrian crossing of the tracks adjacent to the parking lot. The Outdoor Adventure Center has hosted events and works with us on issues important to recreation in the Index area.

The Washington Climbers Coalition has worked with these and other local parties and will continue to do so with the goal of maintaining our remarkable fortune to climb at such a fine area.

More on Index climbing area.

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