Climbing Magazine Feature on Index

November 28th, 2009


I’ve all but given up on the time-consuming, lifestyle demanding, low-return photography of climbing; the time investment to be a climber, and also the time to be a climbing photographer, was too much. However, a friend of mine, Ben Gilkeson, has managed to do both.

Over the years, Gilkeson ( has been doing a project on Index, one of the local climbing crags. The town itself is an old logging camp that used to have a railway stop; the Burlington-Northern rail line makes a deep bend through the center of town on its way to the mountain pass. Today, US Highway 2 provides the traffic of climbers, kayakers, and rafters who recreate in the odd, reclusive, somewhat hippy town. On one side of Index are the “town walls,” several hundred feet of steep granite. Across the Skykomish River, the jagged peaks of Mt. Index itself tower above the valley.

Angelle Sjong spent some time with her husband out at Index a summer or two ago, camped out by the river in their van, crashing at people’s homes in the city, and living the tradition of the climbing life; hours and days spent obsessively working the lines of a crag, learning the rock’s unique character and practicing move after move until the puzzle of a climb’s sequence is revealed. During that time she did a little research and she, Ben, and Climbing Magazine produced this article about the history of climbing at Index.

It couldn’t be a more timely piece because right now the Access Fund and the Washington Climber’s Coalition are trying to raise $300,000 to purchase the parts of the crag that are privately owned. The granite was used commercially–it can be found in the foundation and steps of the Washington State Capitol–and its current owner wants to sell it or reopen the cliffs for production.

Check out Ben and Angelle’s work here:

Additional photography is here:

Donate to the preservation of the crag’s public access: Washington Climber’s Coalition

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