Effort to save climbers’ rock wall close to goal

INDEX — A group of rock climbers is nearly finished raising a mountain of money to preserve an internationally renowned granite wall near this mountain town.

The Washington Climbers Coalition has pulled together about $228,000 in the past year to buy the Index Town Wall. It hopes to raise another $72,000 by September.

Volunteers with the coalition are so confident they will meet their goal that plans are under way now for a mid-September celebration.

“That would be true,” said Doug Walker, 59, of Shoreline. “I think we can get this done.”

The group’s mammoth fundraising effort will help rescue the 500-foot wall from possible development.

That was a real threat in March 2009, when climbers visiting the rock formation were shocked to see “No Trespassing” signs. Many didn’t know the wall was on private property — or that the owner was considering leasing it to a quarry.

Climbers wanted to prevent that from happening.

The Seattle-based Washington Climbers Coalition secured a $10,000 loan from the Access Fund, a climbing advocacy group based in Boulder, Colo.

The money let the coalition secure an option in June 2009 to buy the land. It then had 18 months to raise enough cash to close the deal.

The coalition set its goal at $300,000. About $150,000 could cover the cost and closing fees on the 20-acre property. Another $150,000 may be used on new facilities — a parking lot, a restroom — and maintenance.

Money poured in. Three unnamed individuals gave $25,000 a piece, Walker said. The American Alpine Club publicized the effort to climbers nationwide. A fundraiser at a Seattle climbing gym raised $10,000.

Most money came from climbers in their teens and twenties, however, who donated $10 or $20 each, Walker said.

“It’s been gratifying to see the breadth of the support,” he said.

If the sale goes through, the coalition plans to give the property away. It wants to name the wall in honor of Stimson Bullitt, the former president of King Broadcasting and rock climber who died last year at age 89, and then offer the land to Washington State Parks.

The state may be happy to accept the gift.

“There’s also some money involved to help maintain the property,” said Lynn Harmon, a property and acquisition specialist for the state parks. “There is no cost to the people of Washington at this point.”

More than anything, the coalition wants to ensure the wall stays open for future generations of climbers — along with the climbers who know its granite slopes well.

Walker first scaled the site in 1974, and it’s still not old to him. His most recent climb was about a week ago.

“What’s amazing about Index is you’ll do a climb there and every inch of every pitch is just stellar,” he said. “You often don’t get that experience.”

Watch it: KIRO’s report on the Index Town Wall fund raising campaign.

Andy Rathbun: 425-339-3455; arathbun@heraldnet.com

Mountain money

The Washington Climbers Coalition continues its fundraising efforts to buy the Index Town Wall. Learn more at www.washingtonclimbers.org/IndexFund.

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