The Real Index
Posted by Chris Kalman on 16th Oct 2017
I was pretty astounded when Fred told me how well the Index guidebook had performed right out of the gates. But when he told me that people were going nuts for the special edition covers, it started to make sense. It also confirmed a suspicion that I had been laboring under for four years: that the Index climbing community was strong, real, and in touch with what it means to be an Index climber.
Climbing is in a funny place right now, as an entity. It's not quite sure who it wants to be when it grows up. Is it going to be attractive, glossy, glamorized and filtered wearing hipster jeans and an ironic moustache? Is it going to be boob shots of girls in little more than bikinis - just one more brick in the sexual objectification patriarchy known as the US of A? Is it going to be anarchic, rebellious, and weird?
Nobody really knows.
But I feel like Index knows precisely who Index is. Index is moody, grungy, dark, wet, dank, mossy, licheny, unapologetic, sandbagged, definitely weird, a little bit homely, slugslimed, and behind that veneer of largely negative connotations, secretly the best crag in the world. Those who get it, get it And those who don't, are largely ego-suckling excuse-making winey babies... Or something like that.
My co-author, Matty Van Biene, and I tried really really hard to tap into the Index vibe as much as possible while writing the book. Forget who me and Matty are - who is INDEX? That was the question we sought and tried our best to answer.
Of course, everyone judges a book by its cover. So it was really important to us for our cover to make a statement. But each time we looked at likely candidates for the cover shot, the one that really stood out to us was a statement that we weren't sure how much of the climbing community would understand, much less appreciate. And there was also the question of certain retailers who won't be named that might have wanted something a little more PG and PC than some unkempt dude smokin a cig front and center.
I'd say we were in a pickle, but we really weren't. And that's because Fred and Sarah at Sharp End understood, and appreciated our vision, and were there 100% of the way to help us create it. When they saw how jazzed Matty and I were about the Massey image as a cover shot, they decided to do a special edition cover... something for Index locals only. For the folks who GET it. Not the clean rock snobs and fairweather fans that might stop by Index for one sunny day in between Smith and Squamish (only to complain about hard grades and bad weather). We're talking the diehards who aren't afraid to scrubadubdub high on the Upper Wall in a full on downpour, just because... Index.
Look, a guidebook can serve multiple purposes. One is beta. For this purpose, anyone can pick up an Index guidebook for their first and definitely last visit to the area, to help guide them to some of the most unrelentingly sandbagged climbs they'll ever claw their way up. The Stamati cover is PERFECT for that crowd. Beautiful, handsome, and focused on that clean clean Index stone (not to mention, Bobcat Cringe at 5.12b is pretty soft for the Index grade, so it's not even a sandbag). I'm glad we have that cover, it is the Index I want visitors to see, know, and fondly recall.
But the other purpose for a guidebook is to give the local community that love an area a little token of appreciation for their love. A memento. A keepsake. Something to pore through at least once an hour for every hour spent not at Index. And for those folks, we have the Massey cover. Because, you get it. You probably know who Massey is. You probably know the pitch he's on. You probably think it's maybe a little hard for 5.11d, but not out of line within the Index Decimal System.
It's a testament to how strong, deep, and in tune that community is that the Massey cover basically sold out in two weeks. It's a testament to Sharp End that they cared about us, and the community we were working for, to see that wave coming, and let us ride it together.
And if there's anything that's a testament to us, it's just that we were in touch with our own hearts and desires for the book enough to even think to ask. I swear, asking for the Massey cover felt to me like being a kid all over again and asking if I could skip dinner and go straight to desert. I never thought the answer would be yes, but then, there it was.
I give most of the credit to Matty, anyway. He ultimately had the vision to talk Massey into letting him do the photo shoot in the first place. I don't think at the time he knew he would be shooting the cover of our book. But then, we also didn't know we'd ever really finish this project. Or, if we did, if anyone would actually care, support it, buy the book.
It's all a shot in the dark, in the end. But I swear, you can feel the wave before you can see it. Looking back now at this massive wave of interest and excitement about Index, I can see that it was already forming before I started climbing there 7 years ago. Matty and I started paddling a long time ago. The whole damn community did. I just hope everyone's enjoying the barrel as much as we are.
Lots of love,