Index is a granite climbing area renowned for its traditional and aid climbing located approximately 1 hour northeast of Seattle in the Sky Valley along highway 2. The routes at Index are spread out over a dozen or so cliffs ranging in height from 70 feet to over 700 feet. This area offers easy access with the parking lot located only a 1 minute hike from the closest cliff. The total number of routes on the various cliffs is approximately 400.
The climbing at Index is on a superb fine grained low friction granite that is world renowned for its quality. Index is the finest climbing destination in the state of Washington. Many of the best short routes and best pitches of the grade in the state are located here. Over the years, many famous climbers like Todd Skiner and Peter Croft have visisted these walls to sample classic climbs like Godzilla / Sloe Children, Japanese Gardens, Davis Holland / Lovin Arms, and City Park.
The climbing here uses a different quality rating scale than the other rock climbing locations in the state. Because of the extremely high quality of the rock and routes, excellent routes can be had that are only given 1 to 3 stars. A visit here should include the classics for sure, but some of my favorite climbs I've done ever are not highly rated in the guidebook. Having a sense of adventure and getting off the beaten path of the popular climbs on the Lower Town Wall will be rewarded.
The rating system at Index is also unique. Routes range from right on to very stiff, so much so that you expect to be surprised one way or another when hopping on the routes here. Fortunately, the climbs are mostly well protected and the walls are steep here, so falls tend to be clean. Index is not a good place to push your grade. In fact, I would recommend trying routes a couple below you usual level until you get used to the slick low friction rock, strenuous climbs, and generally stiff grades.
HistoryThe first climbing done at Index was in the 1950s. More serious climbing began in the 1960s with ascents of Roger's Corner, Iron Horse, and City Park on the Lower Walls. Several multipitch aid climbs on the Upper Walls were done too including Town Crier, David Holland, and Golden Arch.
The 1970s saw a greater emphasis on free climbing with the first free ascents of many former aid climbs, including Rogers Corner, Thin Fingers, and David Holland. Index was still mostly a training ground for aid climbers heading to Yosemite. The 1980s saw more of the same. One major achievement was the first free ascent of City Park (a 5.13c tips crack) by Yosemite veteran Todd Skinner.
The 1990s saw the development of many more bolted face climbs as the sport climbing revolution swept accross the country. Free climbing on the Lower Town Wall received only some attention.
The 2000's saw a new generation of climbers head to Index, cleaning off old lines and reclaiming many of the old classics. With the rising level of abilities of climbers, difficult testpieces that were rarely done are now being regularly free climbed. Index has finally come into its own. A beautiful place where steep, hard, and classic climbs keep you clammering for your next visit.
Getting ThereIndex is located a mile from the town of Index along highway 2 just northeast of Seattle. From Seattle or Spokane take highway 2 to approximately 40 miles west of Stevens Pass or 20 miles east of Monroe.
Index is located on the west side of the Cascade crest receiving the full brunt of Washington's bad fall through spring weather. Good climbing can be found on the shady walls nearly all summer. During the fall and spring, good climbing can be found during dry spells. The steep nature of the walls allow many of the routes to dry quickly after rains.
Red TapeNo permits, parking passes, or fees!
CampingThere are several options for an overnight stay at Index. There is some nice camping spots along the river just accross the street from the parking lot. Another popular option is to just "bivouac" in your vehicle in the parking lot. Some better campsites with less train noise are located approximately 5 miles up the Index Galena road. These are called Troublesome Creek Campground and San Juan Campground. Another option is one of the many campsites located in the highway 2 corridor. Money Creek Campground is located very close to the east along highway 2.
For more plush accomodations, try the Bush House in the town of Index. There is the small Index General Store in town to get food and climbing supplies from. The closest major town with a supermarket and normal hotel is Monroe, located approximately 20 miles to the west.
GuidebooksThere are 2 recommended guidebooks to the area. The first is Sky Valley Rock by Darryl Cramer. This book was published in 2000 and includes all of the climbing at Index, as well as Static Point, Zeke's Wall, and a few others. This guidebook can be difficult to find online (and very expensive) Amazon.com. Your best bet is to pick this book up in a climbing shop in Seattle like REI, Feathered Friends, or Pro Mountain Sports.
Another guidebook option is the highly regarded Clint Cummins book from 1993. This guidebook is available for free online from Clint's website. Another way to get a more organized version is to pick up the bound copy at the Index General Store.
Weather linksForecast at Weather.com
Forecast at the National Weather Service
Forecast at Intellicast