By Sharon Wootton
Index may be the center of the climbing universe, but there’s more to climb than Lower Town Wall, the attraction for most climbers from out of state.
Snohomish County has several nice areas with stunning views.
“There are lots of destinations scattered about the county, but some of them are kept secret,” said climber Matt Perkins of Washington Climbers Coalition.
Three not-so-secret areas have drawn climbers’ interest: Gold Bar, Darrington and Sultan.
“The Darrington area has granite domes that are very big,” Perkins said. “It’s very scenic. It’s lower-angle climbing … climbers that climb in the gym and train hard are looking for vertical or overhanging rock. That’s not in Darrington, but it’s very scenic and it’s been popular for 40, 50 years.”
Exfoliation Dome is about 3 miles south of Darrington off the Mountain Loop Highway. The east flank is called Witch Doctor Wall; the west flank, Blueberry Hill, also known as the West Buttress.
Exfoliation is, by climbers’ accounts, the most difficult 4,000-foot peak to climb in the state. It’s a mountain, not an outcropping, and requires bolts and other climbing hardware.
A less-visited Darrington climb because of limited access is the 1,000-foot-high granite Giant Green Buttress. Climbers have to really want to climb here but are rewarded with this huge crag, including the classic free climb, Dreamer.
Static Point near Spada Lake in the Sultan area is a site that the coalition is working with various agencies to preserve for climbers. Static Point has drawn some national attention.
“It’s been known as an interesting, scary destination for a long, long time,” Perkins said, a granite dome with few cracks that isn’t too steep for friction climbs.
More cliffs are visible from Zeke’s restaurant on U.S. 2, near Gold Bar.
“It’s a collection of boulders in an old clearcut with the cliff above. There’s quite a buzz (about this location),” Perkins said.
The white Gold Bar Boulders are at the base of Zeke’s Wall on the north side of the highway above Reiter Pit, offering some of the state’s best granite bouldering opportunities.
As usual, climbers excel in creatively naming their routes or challenges: Five Star, Twisted, Positive Vibrations, Danny Devito, Rubix Cube. The Index classic climbs include Godzilla and Japanese Gardens.
Climbers also arrive from, literally, around the world because it is one of the Northwest’s best technical-climbing destinations with its concentration of cracks and route density.
Mountain Magazine called the Lower Town Wall one of its top 10 crags in America, Perkins said.
“It’s comparable to Yosemite or other famous places. It’s got outstanding, rock, it’s steep and it’s close to the road,” Perkins said.
“It’s the state’s most famous crag. “People have been climbing it for 50 years because it has some of the best granite faces. It’s the only year-round granite climbing in the state.”
Confidence is rising that Index’s 23-acre Lower Town Wall area will be saved by the current fundraising effort and potential options with the county and state.
“We’re very confident,” Perkins said.
Thar she blows: Or blew on May 18, 1980. Mount St. Helens. Planning is under way for the upcoming 30th anniversary at the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center. Events will include the unveiling of a new exhibit that depicts the return of life on the volcano, and a movie.
For more information, call 360-449-7800, or go the Web site, http://tinyurl.com/StHelensVolcano.
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.