Mountain Project Logo
To save paper & ink, use the [Hide] controls next to photos and comments so you only print what you need.

Index

Washington > Central-W Casca… > Skykomish Valley
Access Issue: The Novel Coronavirus & 2020 Seasonal Raptor Closure Details

Description

                          About the novel coronavirus and Index residents. (3/20/2020)
Residents of Index are very concerned about visitors spreading the virus to them. So please be considerate by taking some serious precautions such as

  •  Be extra safe to greatly reduce the chance of needing a rescue. (Choose partner carefully, just TR routes. Triple-check setups...)
  •  Do not interact with the people in town or on a trail. (Choose an obscure crag & route. Drive carefully through town.)
  •  In case the above two precautions fail or you come across someone on a trail or crag, bring a facemask and gloves to wear to prevent spreading the virus from your breath or hands. In lieu of a facemask, a bandana or scarf over the nose and mouth can also reduce the spread of fine droplets from your nose and mouth when you speak. Also, try to keep the 6-foot recommended distance from other people.  
 Please treat their concerns with respect while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. Thank you.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Roughly midway between Seattle and Leavenworth lurks the sweeping, fine-grained granite of Index.

The climbing consists of a collection of walls and crags rising out of the forested hillside around the small town of Index. Various granite boulders also lie clustered here and there in the forest and along the Skykomish river.
What a view. (Endless Skies, Duck Wall) Photo: Ryan Hoover/Stamati Anagnostou
The granite provides a wide variety of routes, many of them within 15-min of parking. Other than its rugged mountain and river scenery, Index is also known for the heavy sounds of the trains that pass through as well as the quaint little town setting with its old mining and quarrying history.

Historically a place mainly for crack aid-climbing, Index now has more free lines than aid. Through the 80s, most of the free lines were trad, but sport climbing accelerated in the 90s, and now Index has nearly as much sport as trad. In addition to cracks, there are lots of face climbs and a few friction slabs.

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).
Jack Andrew on the alternate pitch 3 of DGS (5.9) at the Upper Town Wall. Photo credit Daniel Jeffery.

Weatherwise, summer conditions are often ideal, with cool shady spots for midday climbing, though some walls will bake in the midday. Winters are generally wet, the area being wetter on average than regions east of the Cascades. But, as most cliffs are largely south-facing and the elevation relatively low, winter can have some very nice, though somewhat short, climbing days.

As the rock angle tends to be slightly less than vertical, and many cliffs top-off onto a sloping hillside, most routes get wet in a rain, with many continuing to seep for a few days after a heavy period of rain. However, a few steep routes stay dry in the rain. Most of these are on or near the Cheeks at the Upper Town Wall.

The small mountain town of Index, just below the cliffs on the Skykomish River, is a picturesque place to relax, hanging out near the river, park, or general store. When open, check out the displays in the historical society, just across from the general store.

For the latest conditions and happenings at Index, check out the "Climb Index!" Facebook group.

Angela Wang moving to the anchor, end of p3 on Walking Legend (Lower Lump Area)

Getting There

From the west, drive east on Highway 2. Several miles past Goldbar, soon after crossing the bridge over the Skykomish, turn left onto Index-Galena Road.
Derek on the final moves of the slab on And Say (Lookout Point area)

From the east, drive over Steven's Pass, about 13 miles past Skykomish. Turn right on Index-Galena Road.

After about a mile and a sharp S-curve that goes 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 and Diamond Area you'll want to park somewhere around here. More details of parking below.

For the other walls, go left past the Bush House, over the tracks straight through town, taking a sharp left toward the river, then a right where the road hits a T-intersection and stop sign. 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.

For some of the bouldering, you may need to drive further west after going by the Lower Town Wall, or continue driving further east along the Index Galena Road.

Parking and Camping

For the Lower Town Wall, Inner Walls, Side Walls, Mid Walls, and Upper Town Wall, park in the large lot south of town, just below the LTW. You might also be able to find a place to park at the camping location, which is a few hundred yards closer to town.
Closing in on the anchors on Plum Pudding (5.9).
For the Lower Lump, park at a pull-out along the road, just across from the Wart area of the Lower Lump, about a hundred yards south of the LTW lot.

For the Diamond and Lookout Point areas, you can often find parking in town. But please be very respectful of the residents! Drive slowly. Obey stop signs and parking signs. Do not block private or public facilities. Do not be loud, especially at early or late hours. The residents have already voiced concerns about excessive parking and traffic.

If the available spots in town are filled, consider parking at the parking lot for the Heybrook-Ridge trailhead, just over the bridge and off the Index-Galena Rd. Parking here adds only about 3 minutes of walking as compared to parking near the school. (The gate may be closed early in the morning, but if you came that early, you'd find spots in town.)

Free 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. This area has become known as the Wagonwheel.

Moderate Routes

Jeff Matsushita leading Senior Citizens in Space (5.8).
Index has a reputation for hard routes. But it also has plenty of moderates routes under 5.10. Even better: it has potential for many more -- just find a possible line and start cleaning off your own> (If new to cleaning-developing, you might ask an experienced person for suggestions.) If you use the "Best climbs for YOU in this area" tool below (blue box called "You & This Area"), you can find over 60 full-length moderate routes. More exist in published guidebooks.

But in addition, quite a few of the harder multi-pitch routes have fun moderate first pitches. Some of these include
The crux of Freight Night (5.8+).
Lower Wall:
Sagittarius 5.9+.
Japanese Gardens (to 1st anchor) 5.9+.
Tatoosh (original finish) 5.9.

Lookout Point Area:
Rattletale 5.9.
House of the Seventh Bobcat 5.9.
Bowling to Biscuits 5.9.
And Say (left variation) 5.8+

Upper Town Wall:
Davis-Holland 5.9.

Inner Walls:
Even Steven 5.8.

Toproping

If you'd like to set up some topropes without having to lead an adjacent route,
Starting up Hag Crag Crack (5.6). consider these areas:

1) Private Idaho.

2) Hag Crag.

3) Upper Wall Lower Cliffs (various spots).

4) Upper Wall, Lower Cheeks.

Grandeur Buttress at the Inner Walls, The Wart at the Lower Lump, and Garden Rock at the Side Walls also have a few possibilities. To find all labeled topropes, use the tool at left, and instead of "Show all route types", select "Toprope". You'll probably find other unlabeled topropes as well.

Route development and maintenance

Due to the very moist and moderate weather conditions for much of the year, routes that have not been sufficiently cleaned or rarely get climbed tend to re-foliate over a period of 1-2 years. Thus, some routes get recleaned every year or two with a dirt-scraping tool and brush. If you see a route in need of recleaning, please take the initiative and reclean it. If you decide to clean an entirely new line, consider that the extra effort to make it completely foliage-free may pay off in the long run. An excellent article about the methods used and general ideas behind cleaning areas like Index is here:
https://gripped.com/articles/the-first-rule-of-dig-club/ 

Photos [Hide ALL Photos]

This is Index!
[Hide Photo] This is Index!
Index
[Hide Photo] Index
Derek Pearson, pitch 4 of Little Fire on Duck Wall. Mt. Baring and the town of Index in the background. (Wide-angle lens has distorted the angles, making wall look less steep.) Photo by Matthew Van Biene.
[Hide Photo] Derek Pearson, pitch 4 of Little Fire on Duck Wall. Mt. Baring and the town of Index in the background. (Wide-angle lens has distorted the angles, making wall look less steep.) Photo by Matthew Van…
Base Jumper over Index<br>
Taken by S. Gellespie
[Hide Photo] Base Jumper over Index Taken by S. Gellespie
Mt. Index  (Photo by Blitzo)
[Hide Photo] Mt. Index (Photo by Blitzo)
Index sectors
[Hide Photo] Index sectors
Route cleaning
[Hide Photo] Route cleaning
Pulling the steep roof on P3 of The Brett Thompson and Scott Fuller Memorial Route (5.10+), Upper Town Wall.
[Hide Photo] Pulling the steep roof on P3 of The Brett Thompson and Scott Fuller Memorial Route (5.10+), Upper Town Wall.
jeff ranish on one of his brilliant new routes at index!  photo by bissell hazen
[Hide Photo] jeff ranish on one of his brilliant new routes at index! photo by bissell hazen
January 2013 sunshine finally
[Hide Photo] January 2013 sunshine finally
Chris and his sign.  August/2003
[Hide Photo] Chris and his sign. August/2003
a warm march day on the UTW
[Hide Photo] a warm march day on the UTW

Comments [Hide ALL Comments]

[Hide Comment] This is probably one of the most underrated climbing areas around; I hope it stays that way. I learned to climb there; I hope the climbing and the town never change. Mar 21, 2006
Darryl Cramer
Seattle
[Hide Comment] 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. Dec 30, 2008
[Hide Comment] 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. Dec 31, 2008
Paul Shultz
Hudson, Ma
[Hide Comment] I climbed here on the way back to Bellingham from the Bugaboos. I didn't do to many routes but its a gorgeous setting and I'd love to go back! Mar 15, 2009
Mike Rowley
Vanlife
[Hide Comment] 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! Jan 21, 2011
Darryl Cramer
Seattle
[Hide Comment] 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. Jan 21, 2011
[Hide Comment] Looking to do a mid summer trip (middle of July) and this looks to be a good cool option which isn't baking. Thoughts? Jun 30, 2011
geoff georges
Seattle, Wa.
[Hide Comment] in the suggestions for 1st pitch moderates Davis Holland being a 5.8 is off. Even if you are a solid 5.9 leader this is pretty challenging.
But some other moderates that are worth visiting:

Timberjack 5.8. *** I replaced the anchor here. Winky Dinky cliff
K dihedral 5.8 *** K Cliff
Plum Pudding 5.9 **** Middle wall ( recently cleaned 2012)
Hips and Valleys 5.8 *** Middle wall ( recently cleaned 2013)
Toxic Shock 5.9 **** Inner Wall
Lizard/ Taurus 5.8 *** Great northern slab
Rogers Corner 5.9 **** Lower wall
Princely Ambitions 5.9 **** 2P, Lower wall ( Skyvalley calls it 5.8)
Godzilla 5.9+ **** Lower wall
Quarry Crack 5.9 ** Lower wall
Morning Star 5.8 *** The Country wall
GM 5.9 **** 3P, The Country
Peanuts to serve you 5.9 **** Lookout Point
Battered Sandwich 5.9 *** Private Idaho
Wet Dream 5.9 *** Private Idaho
Magic Fern 5.9 ** Private Idaho Jun 25, 2013
[Hide Comment] A little while ago, I posted my intent to publish a new edition of sky valley rock (New Edition of Sky Valley Rock is the forum title). I had been trying to get in touch with Darryl for most of the summer, and it was fortuitous that I was able to through that post.

After receiving his go-ahead to publish a new guide, I recontacted Wolverine - who was originally interested in the guide - only to find that they had committed to other books, and now no longer had the financial resources to publish this year. But as a happy medium, they directed me to rakkup.com/, a Seattle based company putting out the only climbing guidebooks in the world currently downloadable as a smartphone app.

I've decided to team with them to work on getting the download released by next summer. For those not familiar with the product, I'd encourage contacting Rob or Todd (from the website above), or possibly downloading Exit 38, or 32, etc. But in brief, you download the app for a fixed amount of time: (2 months, one year subscription, etc), for a pretty nominal amount of money. In return, you have gps guided navigation (does not require cell signal to function) to anywhere at Index you want to go (Ever wonder where wall of 10,000 insects is? How to get to the Diamond? where an Act of Strange Boar is located? Etc). Once there, you can click on a variety of classic, distinguishing lines for the area, and get beta on them, as well as Rakkup's new "Belay View" which shows a detailed photo of the first 20 feet or so of the climb. This is one of the major advantages of the app, as you can have really as many beta photos as you would like, whereas a print book is limited in that regard.

My main interest is still to release an updated print guide that focuses on aesthetics, first ascentionists profiles, interesting blurbs about history, full-page spreads on some special routes, and basically doubles as a coffee table book. A big advantage of starting with Rakkup is that for many people, they won't have to wait as long as they would have to for the print guide to come out to get good beta on Index routes. The other advantage is that all the work done for Rakkup will be directly exportable from their software into the Adobe publishing suite used to create modern style guides.

I encourage anybody with good beta, or questions, to message me on this website. I can definitely use all the help I can get! Just today, I found my trusty and well-loved copy of Sky valley rock insufficient to find many routes at Lookout Point's walls, and the Diamond Wall area; as well as discrepancies between route and wall names between SVR and mountainproject.com. So I really have my work cut out for me!

Thanks ahead of time for the support! While I cannot give definite ETA's of the new books, Rakkup and I hope to start releasing the Index download around May - and I hope to be printing and publishing about this time next year. Wish me luck!

-Chris Sep 26, 2013
Sean C
SLC
[Hide Comment] Coming from Arizona I had heard great things about the climbing at Index so we decided to go check it out. The climbing was awesome, and having camping right there made it even better. The over all experience here was nothing I've ever run into though, and not in a good way. I will say the majority of the people we talked to here were friendly, but we had multiple instances of people being complete jerks to us or witnessing arguments between other climbers for what seemed to be little to no reasons at all. A little disconcerting but nothing to keep us from coming back. However, after having a couple brand new cams stolen out of my backpack at the base of a climb I will say I'm probably not going to return to the area. I had heard Index was a little rough around the edges but this is just wrong. Unfortunate because this area has some great climbing. Just wanted to give a heads up to others that these are some of the things you may encounter at Index... even after only being there for a couple days.

Sean Jun 25, 2014
Jon Nelson
Redmond, WA
[Hide Comment] Oh geez Sean, that sounds really bad. Sorry to hear it. And I wish there was some way you could get the cams back.

I haven't heard about Index being 'rough around the edges', just a little different. There were the squatters camped out indefinitely across from the parking lot for awhile, and Andy DeKlerk mentioned some strange things in the woods awhile back, but I haven't experienced anything rough or impolite about the climbers.

But it certainly wouldn't hurt for all of us to be extra-welcoming to visitors from afar.

Jun 25, 2014
[Hide Comment] I went to Index on 07/18/14 and was very impressed with the climbing, friendly locals and amazing beauty that surrounds the area but.... For those who do not know there has been a lot of break ins into peoples vehicles lately. I happened to witness a rock being thrown at a local climbers rear window while he was around the vehicle. The strange thing is that it was dark and they were in the woods without any light chunking rocks. If you go to the lower wall there is a railroad you have to pass to get to the wall. The locals say that when the train passes it is the best time for the crooks to break into your vehicle because it may take the train 5 minutes for the train to pass. Stuff like this happens all over crags all over the world but this is just a WARNING for travelers like myself who drive over 2000 miles to find some of the best climbing around. Jul 23, 2014
[Hide Comment] ---WARNING---
My car and several others were broken in to today at the parking lot along the train tracks. Don't have anything in your car to be stolen or park over by the campsite maybe. Also, if you have deer cameras or others of the like, it would be great to put these up (concealed of course) so the thieves are caught. Apparently, there have been many break-ins here this summer. Help stop this! Sep 7, 2014
Guy H.
Fort Collins CO
[Hide Comment] We stopped here for a short afternoon on a road trip. We came back to our truck, as it was being scoped out. There was a lookout on the trail with a cell phone texting the person in the parking lot. I would think twice before leaving any gear in your car in this area. Jun 18, 2015
[Hide Comment] We spent a few days here. First day on the walk in a forest ranger warned us not to leave any valuables in the car, apparently break ins are an ongoing problem in 2016. Must be clever thieves to have this going on for 3+ years without getting caught.

Aside from that, we had no problems. All the climbers we met were friendly, and the crag seems to be in ongoing development with new routes, anchors, etc all going up even in the three days we were there. Sep 17, 2016
[Hide Comment] The above comments would have one believe that getting your gear stolen is an epidemic. I've climbed at Index for a decade and have hundreds of days logged and have not once had my personal belongings stolen or messed with in the parking lot, at the crag, or anywhere else. Yes, there are thieves that roam the backwoods, though break ins tend to happen twice a year on average it seems, this hardly seems abnormal for trailheads or remote parking situations. In short, go climbing and let the universe sort it out. May 2, 2017
[Hide Comment] Regarding car break-ins: I've never heard of one happening to cars left in either the parking lots in town, or the parking lot where the camping is. Either one is - at most - about a 10-15 minute flat walk to the nearest crags; and less than 1 hr hike from even the least accessible crags at Index. The lot where cars seem to get broken into on occasion only saves you about 10 minutes walking time. So, if you're worried about break-ins, just consider making the extra walk. Jun 3, 2017
[Hide Comment] I was a bit hesitant to come and stay here based on some of the remarks about break ins. I have sensed no threats so far. The town folk are super friendly, wave to everyone. All the parking seems rather conspicuous. No reason to avoid this beautiful place. I suspect the only people around here who would value the climbing gear in your car is climbers... Jul 7, 2017
Martin Mellish
Seattle, WA
[Hide Comment] Under 'Moderate Routes' you should definitely include the classic 'Great Northern Slab'. It's the first area you see after you take the trail across the railroad from the Lower Town Wall parking lot. It's a beautiful 5.7, 2 inch hand crack with an amazing view over the valley, and good anchors. The easiest version: scramble up on the right to a wide, obvious platform, follow a 5.1 gully to the left, pull through an easy roof, sidle right, then climb the splitter crack to the anchors.

A good first crack climb, since it's easy enough to be climbable even if you are more of a gym climber. There are interesting harder variants as well. Can rappel with one rope. May 30, 2019
IJMayer
Anacortes, WA
[Hide Comment] Index theme song?

youtube.com/watch?v=UPW5nZ7…

(Grateful Dead - Looks Like Rain 03-28-81) Mar 26, 2020