Happy Ending to Climbing Story

“Thin Fingers” at Lower Index Town Wall. // Photo courtesy the Access Fund.

If you read our blog post on the restriction of access to this popular westside climbing spot you will be happy to know that everything was resolved with a land purchase. Here’s the scoop from the Access Fund:

The Access Fund announced today that an option agreement to purchase the 20-acre private inholding at the Lower Index Town Walls of Snohomish County, Washington has been secured. This popular climbing area boasts several hundred quality granite climbing routes and is only an hour drive from Seattle. Its proximity to a major metropolitan area and its short 5-minute approach from the trailhead make this cliff line a popular after work or after school climbing destination for the Seattle-Everett area.

The Lower Index Town Wall was closed earlier this year when local climbers saw No Trespassing signs suddenly posted around the cliff. The private landowner revoked access to the property after quarrying companies began displaying renewed interest in quarrying and granite removal. The landowner then began negotiations for sale of the property to two interested quarrying companies.

Upon news of potential sale of the crag, climbers quickly turned this threat into an opportunity. The Access Fund and Washington Climbers Coalition rallied together to research quarry regulations, comparable sales, and title history to determine the best path forward. Negotiations soon began to determine a fair market price and terms for a potential acquisition of the property by the climbing community. Jonah Harrison, member of the Washington Climbers Coalition and volunteer regional coordinator for the Access Fund led negotiations with the landowner, with support from Joe Sambataro, Access Director at the Access Fund. Matt Perkins, Darryl Cramer, and Andy Fitz of Washington Climbers Coalition also played critical support roles.

“…climbers quickly
turned this threat into an opportunity.”
After weeks of negotiations, the landowner agreed to an initial payment of $10,000 for an Option Agreement to purchase the property within 18 months. This agreement gives the Washington Climbers Coalition the sole right to purchase the property for long-term management, or assign the property to Washington State Parks. This option payment is made possible by a loan from the Access Fund, giving the Washington Climbers Coalition and the local climbing community the time and ability to fundraise toward a set goal. The American Alpine Club, as well as countless others, have offered their fundraising expertise to help complete the purchase. The Access Fund will continue to play a lead role with the Washington Climbers Coalition in transaction management, title work, and fundraising.

While the Option Agreement is secured and purchase price is set, there are other longer term issues that need to be addressed at this popular cliff. “Project Index” will address proper sanitation and parking. A preliminary wetland study is already underway to determine if a new parking area and vault toilet can be located on State Park land in a central area for access to both the Lower Wall and Upper Wall.

Announcements of the final fundraising goal are expected to be released by August of this year. In the meantime, the private landowner has agreed to reinstate public access during the 18-month option period, a privilege the climbing community can appreciate as summer in the Pacific Northwest unfolds.

For more information, contact Jonah Harrison at jonahv10@gmail.com or Joe Sambataro at joe@accessfund.org. Visit www.washingtonclimbers.org for new updates.

History of the area
The Lower Index Town Wall and surrounding cliffs have a climbing history going back nearly 50 years. The cliffs are beloved by sport climbers, traditional climbers, aid climbers and boulderers alike. Throughout the early part of the 20th century, the landowner’s family quarried parts of the Lower Town Wall for granite until the Burlington Northern railroad moved closer to the wall in the 1960s. Quarrying was put on hold, but ownership was maintained by the family heirs. Initial attempts were made by Washington State Parks and the Access Fund in 1999 to transfer the property to state park ownership, yet its high potential mineral value impeded any action at the time.

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