Index contains possibly Washington's best granite climbing. It definitely is the most accessible and has the most variety, with cracks, knobs, friction slabs, bucket hauls, and thin edging.
The main attraction of the area is the spectacular crack climbing on fine-grained granite (not as abrasive than J-Tree or Leavenworth), but there is also sport climbing and many aid routes. The routes range from shorter single-pitch routes to long 500'-high walls. Index is known for its hard climbing, but still has many climbs of 5.9 and lower. And a lot of the harder climbs have more moderate first pitches (see below for a partial list).
Although rain can be more of an issue here than on the east-side, some steep routes can still be done in the rain. Moreover, summer conditions are often ideal, with cool shady spots for midday climbing. As most cliffs are partly south-facing, one can also climb here in winter.
The small mountain town of Index, just below the cliffs on the Skykomish River, provides a picturesque place to relax and enjoy other things as well.
Drive east on Highway 2. Several miles past Goldbar and soon after crossing the Skykomish, turn left onto the road that leads to Index. After going under the railroad, turn left on the arch-style bridge over the North Fork of the Skykomish. Go straight past the general store and town park to the T intersection at the second stop sign. For the Lookout Point Area, park somewhere around here in town. For the other walls, go left past the Bush House, over the tracks through town, taking a right where the road hits another T. Continue along the shaded road, which parallels the river. About a hundred yards or so past the camping spot is the Lower Town Wall parking lot on the right. In another hundred yards or so is a pull-off on the left for the Lower Lump.
Seasonal falcon closure at the Upper Town Wall
See image below.
Falcon closure. Submitted By: Jon Nelson on May 4, 2013
Free and scenic camping exists just 100 yards or so towards town from the Lower Wall parking area. One can camp near the river or near their car.
Though known as a place with only hard routes, Index has plenty of moderates (i.e., 5.9 or less). If you use the tool on the left side of this page, you can find over 50 full-length moderate routes. More exist in published guidebooks.
But in addition, quite a few of the harder multi-pitch routes have moderate first pitches. Some of these include
This is the second pitch of Roger's Corner. Take the obvious handcrack next to the tree. Straightforward, fun jams. You'll wish this went on for another 150 feet. A bonus is that it stays dry in the rain. There is an anchor on the ledge above, and you can toprope Marginal Karma, the 11b immediately to the right, from those bolts. You can also approach this from the top of GNS if you don't want to go up Roger's....[more]Browse More Classics in WA
Everybody should get Darryl Cramer's excellent guide to the area, Sky Valley Rock. But for a temporary guide if you can't find his, try: www.stanford.edu/~clint/index/ Not as user friendly, but gives you an idea of the area.
The FA dates for routes in the 1980s in both the Smoot and Cummins guides are for the most part very inaccurate. For example, the FFA of Clay was after 1984 and Sonic Reducer was climbed well before 1984.
Edit: I took the FA dates out of most of the routes I've added because I have no independent knowledge of when they were climbed. I'll stick to giving first hand info about routes I've done or have had experience with.
Anyone have any information on EARLY spring climbing at Index? A buddy and I were thinking of heading up either late Jan or early Feb... What is weather typically like this time of year? Climbable? I appreciate any info!
Mike - I've climbed in a T-shirt and fully bundled up for winter conditions at Index this time of year. Usually it's pretty wet and not too cold. If the weather hasn't been clear for a week I would say it would not be worth the trip up from Smith unless you wanted to aid climb. You can free climb pretty quickly after the rains stop, it's just that your choice of routes is pretty limited.