Toxic Shock

Page Type
Washington, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Less than two hours
Rock Difficulty:
5.9 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Toxic Shock
Created On: Jun 29, 2013
Last Edited On: Apr 7, 2014


Toxic Shock is a classic Index 5.9. Located at the Inner Town Wall, it is a little farther of a hike than the Lower Wall, but still not more than 20 minutes. In part because it is one of the easier Index 5.9s, the route is very popular, and it lives up to its popularity – this kind of route is why I love Index. 
If 5.9 is near your limit, there is an excellent warmup climb just across the gully - Corner Flash (5.7) on the Agent Orange Buttress, a short hand crack widens about halfway up but all the off-widthing can be avoided with face moves on the right; despite appearances gear larger than 4" is not needed.


Follow the directions on the main page to the parking lot for the lower town wall, and then walk up over the railroad tracks. When just below the Great Northern Slab area a trail cuts off to the left and begins to veer uphill. Although narrow and steep in places the trail not not difficult to discern and will take you straight to the Toxic Shock area (on your left) if you avoid the turn off to the right, which lead to other Inner Town Wall crags.
The rectangular shape of the Toxic Shock area is impossible to miss, but if you see a large cave on your left you have gone too far.

Route Description

Some people split the climb into two pitches, but it is not necessary and a 60m rope easily reaches the bottom from above the second step.

First step
Right variation - a 5.8 splitter double crack; staying mostly in the left crack, a variety of hand-jam sizes  lead to a ledge and a large horn.
Left variation - starts with a 5.9 lie back, after which the difficulties ease up.

Shirley on Toxic
Lie-back crux of the left variation.
5.8 Splitter
Entering the wide-hands portion of the right variation.
5.8 hands
Keeping to the right crack of the right variation.

Second step
the two variations meet at the ledge with the horn, which is also where the 5.11b finger crack Even Steven splits off and climbs the face to the right of Toxic Shock. The upper portion of Toxic Shock itself is mostly a left-leaning, slightly positive, thin-hand crack with a somewhat easier finish. 

Just leaving the crux thin-hands section
Close up
Lower part of the crack takes a #2 C4, upper part a #1

Anchor bolts can be found at the top of Even Steven to the right, but the large tree directly at the top of Toxic Shock is a more than adequate anchor and has been slung with several lengths of cord and equipped with a rap ring.

Essential Gear

Mid-sized cams are key here. Double C4s 1-3 work well with a few smaller sizes thrown in. I used one nut in the Even Steven crack to protect the traverse because it was wet, all the other spots that would have taken passive gear were at the top of each section and were too easy to bother with protecting.

External Links

Index Weather