Recently I'd read an article in a glossy, over priced climbing magazine called "American Dirtbag" by Andrew Bisharat, that posed the question of "What happened to all the true dirtbags?" His point of view was that either that climbing had become fashionable, or maybe that he had become the yuppie climber he used to hate. Either way, I found out this weekend that if you want to find true dirtbags, the crags at Index, Washington is a place to look. Back in June at the RMI WFR class, I became friends with most of the class, and several there were climbers. After the class and the obligatory facebook group was started, we planned on getting together again later this summer. Plans were laid to meet in Washington somewhere, in August toward the end of the month when it looked like most of us would have free time. It all came together this last weekend, I worked some extra hours to get a few more days off, and headed to Seattle on Friday afternoon. Spent Friday night in Seattle, then took off to Index Saturday around noon having no idea who would all show up, or what was in store for me.
About halfway up, one of the guys in the class (Paul) texted me to find out where I was at, and he was about halfway from Seattle, so I at least knew that someone beside myself would be there. After I found the camping area at Index, I dug out my phone numbers and gave Chris a call, since Index was his idea. He was only a few minutes out, so I sent a few texts to people I was pretty sure who would be there and started figuring out where we were going or what we were doing. Chris came rolling up a few minutes later in his decked out mini-van full of climbing gear and Trader Joe's dumpster diving score, and starts looking for his spot to camp. I waited until Paul showed up at the public area, then Chris rejoined us on his bike and we decided to gear up and do some climbing while we waited for more people. There was no climbing really anywhere near my skill level (which is absolute amateur), so I took pics and took notes from Chris since he's a wealth of knowledge and likes to share that knowledge with others. Simple tips on belay technique or hand and foot placement, didn't matter, he was more than happy to share. After he lead climbed a route and Paul took a shot at it, I belayed Chris so he could clean the route. I thought that was cool, even just a few minutes of coaching and here the least experienced guy was belaying for the most experienced.
After we buttoned things up at that pitch, I gave Lisa and Melina a call, since we knew that they were on the way up. They'd just arrived and were making their way up to the crags. Once they made it up to us, we strolled along the trail while Chris pointed out the different named climbs and gave us descriptions of each. Then we reached Godzilla. Godzilla starts out as a 5.7 then transitions into a 5.9, or you can start off with a 5.10b face on what they called the City Park bolt ladder. Chris started his lead off the 5.7, calling back to Lisa and Melina if they wanted him to set the route as fingers or hands for which crack line he would follow. After completing the pitch and getting back on the ground, it was Melina's turn. After a few tips from Chris on clearing the crack at the bottom, she proceeded to stomp all over Godzilla. I can't recall if she had any falls, I don't believe so (she'll have to correct me if I'm wrong), and then it was Paul's turn, since Lisa would be the last one and cleaning. During all of the climbs, the conversation on the ground was fairly comical, and it was a perfect day to just relax and not really give a shit about anything besides the company and the climb. After Paul's shot, Lisa headed up to clean the pitch, and she zipped up the rock like she had glue on her hands, it was impressive to watch, but then again everyone besides Paul and I have been climbing for years already.
It was time to head back to the river and get some dinner and start drinking, which was when Brian and Angela (? I think that was her name, someone will pipe up and tell me if I'm wrong) joined us. Brian is Chris's boss on Rainier, and another hardcore climber. People started combining food and helping prep while Brian and Chris began cooking. It was an incredible feast for all, even if we were eating off of plastic lids or out of old canteen cups (I never leave home without it), and more food than we knew what to do with. Around then Abe showed up. Abe just sort of ended up at Index and became a local climber, sometimes living by the river, or sometimes house sitting for people. He jumped in and grabbed some grub while a few more people showed up, while Paul, Melina, and Lisa built a fire. Paul left shortly after since he had to work in the morning. After saying our goodbyes we all proceeded to get our drink on around the fire, I broke out the Gin and Tonic, and everyone had beer. Dave and Will showed up, a few more guys living out of their rigs, scraping together all their money for gas and gear to find the next climb. They all swapped stories of where they'd climbed, where they wanted to go next. We laughed and joked, talked relationships, talked about a previous experiences and adventures, almost all died laughing when Brian started rubbing Dave's head because he was so wasted and thought he was standing by Angela. It was a great time, and the majority of the people there live it every day.
Most of them took off into town to the house that Abe was at to hang out, and I rolled out my bag and tried to sleep between trains that flew through at 40-60mph on BNSF's main line not 100 yards away. Finally around 7am I rolled out of bed and started packing my gear to head back South and visit friends in Portland before heading home. Since nobody else was around, I just left a note on the van and said I'd catch up with everyone again later. As I rolled through Index, I see Abe strolling down the street, headlamp still around his neck, same clothes he was wearing the night before, pretty much looking like he'd been around the fire. I asked him what the hell he was doing up so early, and he told me everyone crashed out in a yurt down the road and he was headed back to the house to let the dogs out and check on things. We shook hands, and I left Index, covered in dirt and slightly hung over, but with a huge grin on my face. I'd spent a day with some of the most down to earth people I've ever met, those who would give you what ever they had if you needed it, even if it was just their great company.
Index WFR Reunion Index, Wa.