Volunteers spruce up climbing area near Index

INDEX — Rock climbers have put up the money to save one of their favorite local haunts.

Now they’re investing sweat equity.

During the final weekend of July, dozens of volunteers arrived at Index Lower Town Wall to man bucket brigades.

They’ve been busy building trails, grading the parking lot and planning to install a permanent bathroom.

“We try not to make it hard labor,” said Matt Perkins, secretary and board member for the Washington Climbers Coalition, one of the groups involved in the work. “We want people to come back again. We try not to work them too hard and try not to work them too long if it’s hot.”

A few years ago, the world-famous Index Lower Town Wall appeared destined to become a rock quarry.

After no trespassing signs went up in 2009, climbing enthusiasts raised more than $300,000 for the purchase of the wall and adjoining land parcels from a private owner. That money also funds an endowment to pay for improvements at the site. The state has agreed to add the property to the adjacent Forks of the Sky State Park.

Perkins, 55, has been climbing since he was about 10 years old. By day, he’s a state administrative law judge. His love of crag climbing and mountaineering has taken him throughout North America as well as to Europe, Asia and New Zealand.

He first visited Index in 1978.

“It was alarming to see the ‘no trespassing’ signs go up,” he said.

Perkins estimated he’s spent about 20 days volunteering at the Lower Town Wall and that several other people have put in a similar amount of time.

Typically, the work parties begin with a safety talk before volunteers divide into work teams.

Volunteers at the site have come from local climbing gyms, as well as several nonprofit groups: the Washington Climbers Coalition, the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund and various Mountaineers branches.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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