A climber’s paradise on the Skykomish River
By Stamati Anagnostou
“Shank him!” The night is dark and I hear Logan’s taunt rise above the soft chitter-chatter that usually fills the campground at Index. Dominos rattle like a skeleton at the long and low table where all the regulars kick it, unwinding and playing bones – prison rules of course. We’ve all been fed, many of us cooking meals together and eating together around the table or at the tailgates of our campers. I myself had curry, which I made with the Kiwi, our resident alien. After a long day of climbing nothing beats a good meal and the company of uninjured friends.
The Kiwi presses his feet against the opposing walls of a corner known as Shirley, trusting that the soles of his shoes will hold on the too-warm rock. He places his last pieces of protection in a thin crack and then sets off, fighting the tension in his calves and the taunting voices from below: “Prepare to die, Kiwi!” His feet are two meters above his gear as he sets his eyes on the final hold. He goes for it, but misses. His body falls away and down, 10 feet to his gear, then another 10 feet ‘til the rope catches him, then another 10 as the rope stretches under his weight. Kiwi curses at the top of his lungs, shanked by Shirley with a 30-foot fall. He finishes the climb, unscathed, ticked off and ready for Indian food.
Time to eat, time to sleep, time to wake up, eat, drink coffee, talk about climbing, drink more coffee. Time to climb.
“Prepare to die!” Per decrees as I tie in to lead Shirley myself. I space out a bit and start thinking about how great this is. I live in a shanty camper on the back of my pickup truck. I just expanded my bed, so it can sleep two now. Any takers, ladies? Maybe you could visit Index – the ratio is hurting. It’s just a bunch of dirtbag dudes living in their trucks and vans, taking big falls on scary climbs. We bathe in the river, we lay out on water-polished rocks and we’ve been here for months.
Living among the rocks keeps our spirits young. The news of the world has no bearing on our sheltered
summer lives. Staring down at the trees and across at Mount Index, we live free as a cadre of itinerants seeking refuge on the granite walls. We must all be looking for the same thing. We worry that our village will become popular and lose its charm, but it’s too wild west, too fringe, too drug-fueled and weird for most. Yosemite has Camp 4 but we have Camp 3.5. You can walk naked through town, climb bridges and find peace in Index. The best people on Earth live here. For all of our crassness there is as much kind generous grace as I have experienced.
If you come here, join us and see that Index Provides. x