New partnership gives climbers reliable access to Equinox, WA

10/05/2016

Access Fund and Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) are pleased to announce that after years of uncertain access, climbers now have a reliable access point to Equinox, a premier sport climbing crag outside Mt. Vernon in Western Washington.

Equinox boasts up to 200 feet of vertical to overhanging routes on the western face of a volcanic intrusion. “For 5.12 and harder routes, Equinox offers some of the best sport climbing in Western Washington,” states Benjit Hull, who has been climbing at Equinox since 2006.

While climbing at Equinox has been allowed since the area’s development in the 1990s, vehicular access onto the state trust lands has proved to be an ongoing challenge for climbers. Most climbers access Equinox from the northern access point, which is on state trust land managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This northern access point has a gate off Janicki Road, which is sometimes left open and sometimes locked. When locked, climbers would have to hike or bike 6 miles to the crag, making short day trips to Equinox difficult to impossible. When the gate was open, climbers would drive the 6 miles, but risked getting locked in. Due to recent issues with vandalism, DNR would not consider motorized recreational access, and recently warned several climbers that they would be ticketed for driving to Equinox, even if the gate was opened.

To find a way around this access challenge, Access Fund and Washington Climbers Coalition reached out to the managers of nearby Fire Mountain Scout Camp, a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) group that owns land on the southern side of Equinox that could provide an alternate access point. The scout camp agreed to share their gated access point, giving climbers an alternate a shorter drive from the Seattle area, and only 25 minutes of additional hiking to reach Equinox.

“This is a great victory for Northwest climbers,” says Access Fund Board Member and WCC General Counsel Jonah Harrison. “But access is not guaranteed. We need to maintain this partnership and relationship with the Fire Mountain Scout Camp and DNR to enjoy access now and in future years.”

Although Equinox is well-known among seasoned sport climbers of Western Washington and British Columbia, climbers have a “no guidebook, no publicity” policy due to the area’s sensitive access. To be inclusive and ensure the right steps are followed by all climbers looking to visit Equinox, we are sharing key access information to the greater northwest climbing community, but ask that climbers do their part by following the simple rules for access. For those who have never experienced the fun sport climbs at Equinox, we ask that you go with a partner that knows the area first and respect local climbers’ desire to keep route information unpublished at this time.

Access to Equinox is a privilege and it is more important than ever to maintain a good relationship with DNR and Fire Mountain Scout Camp.

Access details

At this time, climbers will need a gate code to access Equinox from Fire Mountain Scout Camp. We ask climbers to no longer attempt vehicular access via Janicki Road. For access via Fire Mountain Scout Camp, display a current Discover Pass when parking and do not block gates at any time. If there is no room to park, please climb elsewhere to avoid crowding at the crag and blocking the road. For further access information, including the code and other important conditions of access, visit WCC's website.