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Access Fund News
Flash from the Past
From the Board
VOLUNTEERS REVITALIZE NARROWS TRAIL
Thanks to the hard work of more than twenty dedicated volunteers, the WMCC's 2003 Narrows Trail Project at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was successfully completed on September 13th and 14th. As a result, the entire switchback section of the trail below Zoo Wall was repaired and upgraded to improve its condition and to eliminate several sources of erosional damage. The two-day effort was organized in conjunction with the Access Fund as part of its national Adopt-a-Crag event.
Besides making general trail repairs, volunteers spent much of Saturday and Sunday building a network of rock walls to serve as supports for eroding switchbacks and to control water run-off. In addition, modifications were made to a previously installed drainage culvert in order to more effectively divert water from the trail.
The project required tons of rock and fill material, which was exhaustively moved by hand to the various work sites along the trail. Much of that effort involved loading and carrying two-gallon metal buckets of dirt, gravel and rocks. The larger stones needed for constructing rock walls were moved one at a time by hand or by using special rock litters built and supplied to the project by Eduardo Maldanado of the Texas Mountaineers.
On Saturday, Mitch Meador of the Lawton Constitution hiked into the Narrows to photograph the work and interview volunteers. A full-page feature story appeared the next day in the Sunday newspaper documenting the important conservation project.
Refuge Manager Sam Waldstein showed his gratitude to the volunteers for their efforts by granting the WMCC a group camping permit for the Fawn Creek Campground for Friday and Saturday nights. Everyone was rewarded with great sunset views of Mount Lincoln and the sounds of bugling elk each evening.
As a result of the latest trail work, climbers and hikers visiting the Narrows will find dramatically improved conditions below Zoo Wall. In order to insure the continued integrity of those improvements and to further the WMCC's efforts to protect Refuge resources, we urge everyone to use the established trails and to avoid cutting switchbacks and scrambling off-trail.
DORIS CAMPGROUND UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT
For those who in the last couple of years have experienced overfilled toilets, dirty bathrooms or littered campsites at Camp Doris, or returned after a day of climbing to find someone else occupying your site, you may want to give Doris another chance before staying at LETRA on your next visit to the Refuge.
Following two years of complaints and poor management, the previous operators were released as contractor for Camp Doris, effective December 31, 2003. To replace them, Refuge Manager Same Waldstein has awarded a new contract to Jamie and Amy Dodson.
The Dodsons bring with them a background in apartment management. That experience, along with their interest in the outdoors and ability to work with the public, make them well-suited to providing Refuge visitors with a quality camping experience.
Group site reservations will continue to be handled through Refuge Headquarters, and all campground regulations remain as before, including the ban on alcoholic beverages.
Please take a few minutes on your next overnight trip to the Refuge to welcome the Dodsons.
EXPOSURE invites news stories related to climbing at Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.
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RECREATIONAL TRAILS GRANT AWARDED
The Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department announced last May that the Quartz Mountain Primitive Trails Project had been awarded an $80,000 grant under the Oklahoma Recreational Trails Program. It was one of ten trail projects in the state to be chosen to receive a portion of the 2003 federal trails grant funding, and was ranked the number one trail project in Oklahoma.
TEXAS MOUNTAINEERS PRESENT BALDY POINT DEVELOPMENT GRANT
On September 6, 2003, Texas Mountaineers Executive Board members presented Quartz Mountain Nature Park Director Dr. Terry Mosley with a $3000 grant to be used for the development of Baldy Point as part of the Quartz Mountain Primitive Trails Project.
The grant originated as part of the Texas Mountaineers original pledge in 2000 for the WMCC's Baldy Point fund- raising effort. It is to go toward specific improvements at Baldy, including the installation of a permanent restroom facility, water supply faucet, and informational kiosk.
Many thanks to the Texas Mountaineers for supporting the efforts of the WMCC!
PRIMITIVE TRAILS PROJECT UNDERWAY
With the necessary funding secured, Quartz Mountain Nature Park Chief Ranger Steve Kemp and his staff wasted no time in beginning work on the Quartz Mountain Primitive Trails Project. From June through September, historical and archeological reviews were conducted, property lines were surveyed, right-of-way applications were prepared, and preliminary trail construction plans were made.
By the beginning of October, trail building consultant Jim Angell from Bend, Oregon had arrived to oversee the trail construction process. For the next four weeks, Mr. Angell worked with Park staff, volunteers, and prison crews to complete the new Baldy Point Natural Area trail system.
Development work continues on the project, with a completion date set for sometime in late-Spring 2004. When finished, visitors to the Baldy Point Natural Area will find the following improvements:
1) Baldy Point Trailhead on the peaks southwest side, including upgraded parking area, permanent restroom facility, water supply faucet, and informational kiosk.
2) Cedar Valley Trailhead on the southeast side of Baldy Point, including a new parking area, permanent restroom facility, water supply faucet, and informational kiosk. Access to the Cedar Valley Trailhead is provided by a newly opened county road leading north to the area.
3) A 2-mile primitive trail system through the Baldy Point Natural Area that offers visitors challenging hikes, outstanding opportunities for nature viewing, and incredible views from the top of Blackjack Pass.
The proposed Rock Creek Trail from the Lodge to Blackjack Pass could not be built at this time due to a disagreement on the terms of a lease between the private land owner and the Park. Hopefully, that issue will be resolved in the future to allow for construction of the connecting trail. In addition, discussions are ongoing with the private land owner on Baldy's north side that would allow for completion of the loop trail over Rattlesnake Pass.
The WMCC is pleased with the results of the Quartz Mountain Primitive Trails Project. When finished, the improvements to the Baldy Point Natural Area will enhance the experience of visitors to the area, while at the same time insuring the protection of Baldy's natural resources.
EXPOSURE invites news stories related to climbing at Quartz Mountain Nature Park.
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BOARD MEMBERS, ASSISTANTS, AND ADVISORY BOLTING COMMITTEE MEMBERS SELECTED
For the year 2004, the following persons have been selected to represent the interests of the climbing community and to further the goals of the WMCC:
Board of Directors:
Aaron Gibson (Norman, OK)
Ryan Ray (Dallas, TX)
Terry Andrews (Norman, OK)
Marion Hutchison (Norman, OK)
Jimmy Forester (Dallas, TX)
Russell Hooper (Oklahoma City, OK)
Advisory Bolting Committee:
Jimmy Forester (Dallas, TX)
Tony Wilson (Lindsay, OK)
Eric Forney (Stillwater, OK)
Please welcome Ryan Ray to the Board.
Thanks to everyone for volunteering your time.
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CHARONS GARDEN FIXED ANCHOR MORATORIUM LIFTED
On July 7, 2003, Refuge Manager Sam Waldstein announced his decision to lift the moratorium on the placement of new fixed anchors in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. The moratorium was initiated in 1999 as a temporary action pending the outcome of reviews at the national level by the Forest Service, Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management on the use of fixed anchors in Congressionally designated wilderness areas. Those reviews have for the most part been completed, and the agencies are now moving to implement policies which allow for the managed use of fixed anchors in wilderness.
As with the rest of the Refuge, climbers wishing to place new fixed anchors, or replace or remove existing fixed anchors, in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area must first submit a Fixed Anchor Application Form to the Refuge for review by the Advisory Bolting Committee and approval by the Refuge Manager. Applications for adding new fixed anchors will be reviewed quarterly and subject to stricter review criteria than non-wilderness applications. Applications for replacing existing fixed anchors will continue to be expedited. And as before, the use of power drills in the Charons Garden remains an illegal activity under the laws of the Wilderness Act and is prohibited.
The successful outcome of the fixed anchor debate at the national level is due in large part to the hard work of the Access Fund. However, the decision by Refuge Manager Sam Waldstein to lift the fixed anchor moratorium in the Charons Garden is also a direct result of the efforts of the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition to protect Refuge resources. Thanks to the dedication and support of our members and the local climbing community, the WMCC has proven to be a trusted partner of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service in caring for the Refuge. As we move forward with our mission, let's keep that in mind and remember that the Charons Garden Wilderness Area is a special place deserving of our best efforts to insure that its wilderness resources and values are protected.
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ACCESS FUND NEWS
CO-COORDINATORS APPOINTED FOR OKLAHOMA/NORTH TEXAS REGION
Aaron Gibson of Norman, Oklahoma and Ryan Ray of Kennedale, Texas have been appointed as the new Regional Co-Coordinators for the Access Fund's newly-designated Oklahoma/North Texas Region. Under that arrangement, Aaron and Ryan will share duties for the Wichita Mountains area (Refuge and Quartz) and split responsibilities for other climbing areas and Access Fund events in the region based on their geographic location. They take over the duties of Marion Hutchison, who retired in December after ten years of service as the Oklahoma Regional Coordinator.
Aaron and Ryan have been climbing for more than 15 years, much of that time in the Wichitas. Both have extensive climbing experience at many other diverse climbing areas, both regionally and nationally. And they each have a good understanding of our local climbing community and its history, and are very familiar with past access issues and the current state of affairs in the Wichitas. More importantly, they both share a valuable conservation ethic and a strong commitment to protecting our rock resources. In addition, each are known and respected by many members of our local climbing community, as well as by land managers and their staff at many of our local climbing areas.
Please join the WMCC in enthusiastically welcoming their service and pledging support for their efforts.
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BALDY POINT TRAIL WORK SCHEDULED FOR MAY
The WMCC has scheduled a weekend of trailwork at Baldy Point at Quartz Mountain Nature Park for Saturday and Sunday, May 1st and 2nd, 2004. The work is being coordinated with the Park as part of the Quartz Mountain Primitive Trails Project.
The two-day effort will involve final clean-up and surface grading on sections of the newly constructed Baldy Point Natural Area trail system.
Volunteers will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the new Cedar Valley Trailhead on Baldy's southeast side. Work will last until 2 p.m.
All necessary tools will be provided. Volunteers need to bring work gloves, a water bottle, and a sack lunch. Camping is free for all volunteers at the main Park campground.
REFUGE TRAIL WORK SCHEDULED FOR SEPTEMBER
The WMCC has scheduled two days of trail work in the Narrows at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge on Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th, 2004. The work is being coordinated with the Access Fund as part of their annual Adopt-a-Crag event.
This years effort will focus on repairing the switchbacks before the second crossing of West Cache Creek, and on relocating the trail prior to the first crossing of West Cache Creek, where it runs down a narrow drainage ravine.
Volunteers will meet at 9:00 a.m. at the Narrows trailhead at Boulder Cabin. Work will last until 2 p.m.
All necessary tools will be provided. Volunteers need to bring work gloves, a water bottle, and a sack lunch. Camping is provided free for all volunteers.
Since 1997, the WMCC has organized numerous trail projects and provided thousands of hours of volunteer work to rebuild the Narrows Trail. Those efforts have resulted in scenic, user-friendly trail that minimizes impacts to Refuge resources and provides convenient access to the most popular climbing destinations in the canyon. This years trail work schedule is part of an ongoing effort by the WMCC to maintain the improved condition of the Narrows Trail.
PLEASE VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME!
The key to the success of these projects will be plenty of dedicated volunteers. The WMCC encourages its members, or anyone else who would like to contribute, to volunteer your time to these important conservation efforts.
Please mark your calendars now and watch the WMCC website for additional information.
If you would like to participate in the Baldy Point Trail Project or Narrows Trail Project, please send an email with your name, address, and phone number to:
We'll place your name on the participant list, and contact you three weeks prior to the project and provide you with additional information.
Thanks in advance for volunteering your time. Your support is appreciated!
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2004 QUARTZ SPRING FLING
If you missed the Fall Gathering, here's your chance to enjoy the semi-annual festivities at Quartz. The 2004 Quartz Spring Fling takes place April 3rd and 4th at Baldy Point at Quartz Mountain Nature Park. Join the WMCC for a weekend of climbing and comradery on some of the finest granite in the southwest.
As always, the WMCC has been granted a Special Use Permit for camping on-site at Quartz on Friday and Saturday nights. For WMCC members, the cost is $3 per person per night, whether you pitch a tent, bivy on a boulder, or sleep in your vehicle. For non-members, the cost is $4. The fee includes free use of the showers at the main park campground.
Remember, open campfires are not permitted. If you plan to cook out, bring a stove. And don't forget to bring something to grill for the tailgate barbecue in the parking lot on Saturday night.
Note: Help us to protect this pristine area by minimizing your impacts. Please disperse your tent sites, use the provided portable toilets, and carry-out all trash. By doing so, you will help to insure that Baldy's natural resources are protected and that WMCC continues to receive a camping permit for future events.
For more information, contact the WMCC at:
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A Walk in the Wichitas
By Aaron Gibson
When I think of the Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge today, I think of the Wichitas I knew when I was a kid. I remember exploring the tunnels within the boulder field in Charons Garden with my Dad and brothers. I remember Post Oak Falls rushing with water after a Spring storm. I remember wading at the Forty-foot hole. And I remember special places that have no names but I just happened upon. The wildlife was just as exciting; around any bend could be a buffalo staring you eye-to-eye or a rattlesnake sliding across the trail. We'd camp at Doris and wake up early the next morning to have as much time as possible to hike and rock-scramble again. My trips to the Wichitas were a wonderful escape. It was only natural that my next step was climbing.
Climbing provided a unique perspective to see the Wichitas from new heights, to challenge myself on the weathered granite walls, and to lose myself in the horizon at the end of the day. I became passionate about climbing in the Wichitas because of those feelings of wonder and adventure.
As I traveled to other climbing areas, I recognized problems that they were having: over-use, over-bolting, over-regulation, use-fees, poor parking, vandalism, closures, chipping, bolt chopping, trash. These were not the environmentally conscious and respectful climbers that I knew back home in the Wichitas. No matter where I went it was always nice to come home and be shut down on another Wichitas classic and to see that climbing here was still as I remembered it. Unfortunately, we were not immune to access issues. Things took a turn for the worse.
In the mid-1990s we nearly lost our freedom to climb in the Wichitas. The USFWS came close to eliminating all climbing in the Refuge. I couldn't imagine losing the greatest place to climb in the state of Oklahoma. Climbers from Oklahoma and Texas and across the US came together and decided to do something about it. We spoke up and got involved in the process of securing the Wichita Mountains for us, and future generations of climbers. It was a significant achievement, it proved that when challenged, we could put aside our differences in style, attitudes, and climbing ability and focus on what was truly important - the experience of a day climbing in the Wichitas. To their credit, Refuge personnel have worked closely with the climbing community and today our relationship is as strong as ever. It's not luck that we can climb in the Refuge today without restrictions. It's the result of a lot of phone calls, meetings, letters, emails, and handshakes. Climbing in the Refuge is a privilege to be thankful for.
In the world of "Access", it doesn't matter how many vertical feet you've logged or what the V-rating is on your newest sick-hard boulder problem - what does matter is your voice and the choices you make when you go climbing. So what would have happened if climbers had not spoken up? Well, let's just say, we might be spending our weekends trying to climb some highway roadcut in the Arbuckle mountains. The worst that we could have done when our climbing freedom was challenged was to have said nothing. We would have lost for sure.
Today we are at the point where the real "battle" for the Wichitas is over. We have a mutually agreed upon climbing management plan with the Refuge, rules that are minimal in impact but reasonable for all. In comparison to climbing areas which have undergone similar struggles, the outcome for us has been awesome. We continue to maintain a positive relationship with Refuge personnel and work together on any new concerns or issues which arise. Climbers must continue to respect the agreement and act as stewards of the Refuge.
Today the Wichitas are as I remember them years ago. There are those days that I plan on climbing, I have my bouldering pad and shoes, or my rack and rope. Then I pull into the parking area and recall a remote area that I've always wanted to explore. I leave the gear in the car and end up wandering the wilderness the whole day. Sometimes it's good to just go for a walk and appreciate what you have.
The People of Climbing
by Ryan Ray
Climbing has been a big part of most of my life. My dad, Don Ray, introduced me to the sport when I was just in the first grade. Multiple weekend outings to the Wichitas and Enchanted Rock fill my childhood memories. What stands out in my memory the most is not what routes I have climbed or what places I have been, but the people I have met and the trust I have gained in them.
When I first started climbing, I remember going out to the crags and seeing climbers leading routes that at the time seemed so far beyond reason for me to ever be on. These same climbers were also the ones that when back on the ground would tell me to think positive, be strong, and one day you too will be able to climb whatever you put your mind to. It's people like this that make climbing so great in my eyes. Not knowing me at all and putting their faith into telling me that I can do or climb whatever I want. I have a lot of respect and admiration for people like that.
In fact, I can't really recall anyone whom I've met in the climbing world that I really just can't stand. Climbers are a different breed of people. Their strong minds and determination seem to bleed into their personalities and make them extraordinary people. Of course there are always a few bad apples in every bunch, but you just don't see that nearly as much when you're out in the mountains, compared to living the city life.
Fortunately, I have had many opportunities over the past years to travel around the country climbing. It never ceases to amaze me the quality of people you meet. Whether you walk into Indian Creek, Camp 4, or any other popular destination, everyone usually has a positive attitude. On several occasions I have even had the opportunity to meet and chat with some well known figures in the climbing community. It didn't matter to them that I don't climb 5.12, or haven't successfully completed a grade V wall. They didn't ask me if I had been to the Himalayas or put up a wickedly hard route in Alaska. That materialistic stuff didn't matter to them. All they cared is that there was a common bond, and that I was out doing what I love to do. You don't get that with Football, Baseball, or other organized team sports. To meet and chat with those guys, you have to have money, be important, or just be flat out lucky. What is so special about that? Even then, you will probably just get an autograph and a boot out the door.
Last, but certainly not least, are the friends I have made in our local climbing community. Maybe I'm just biased, but I can't think of any better group of climbers than the Oklahoma/North Texas group. Everyone I've met and had the opportunity to climb with have been some of the most incredible people I've ever known. Some of my greatest friends I have met on the walls in Oklahoma. Since then, I've had the opportunity to spend many weekends and extended trips on the road. I've climbed with them, gained their trust, and just flat out had a good time.
As far as I am concerned, climbing is about the people, making new friends, and having a great time in the outdoors. After all, without good friends, who is going to be there to save my butt when I've screwed up and pitched off that next hard route.
EXPOSURE invites responsible "Insights" concerning resource protection, conservation issues, and community interests related to climbing in the Wichitas.
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FLASH FROM THE PAST
Made in the Shade
By Terry Andrews
Climbing is all about "holding back" and "letting go". Most of the time, I tend to hold back. On the day that I put up "Made in the Shade", I finally let go.
It was the summer of 1990 or so and I had recently bolted the infamous "Rap Bolters from Hell" on the south face of Lost Dome. Before I had bolted that climb, I had top-roped the line for years to make sure the line would go and to make sure I placed the bolts in good locations. I had found the drilling on "Rap Bolters" to be no fun and really didn't want to place any more bolts.
On this typical sweltering day, Carl Murray and I had climbed a few of the classics on the south face and were exhausted by the heat. Desperately, we looked for a place in the shade and found ourselves near the southeast corner of Lost Dome.
I had often looked at the ten foot long, thin crack up and right of the start of "For a Rocker". The thin crack was now sporting a couple of bashies or copperheads. Although there was obviously no pro to be had below or above the crack, the face below the crack didn't look so bad. However, the smooth looking face above the crack bulged ominously.
Hanging with bold climbers such as Greg Schooley, Duane Raleigh, Jon Frank, and Jimmy Ratzliff in the old days had instilled in me a strong sense of style and "go for it" attitude. I wanted to lead the corner ground up but as I looked at it I started to have doubts. The face above the little overhang about forty feet up just looked too smooth and slick. I was a husband and father of two small children!
So we decided to toprope the climb. We climbed "For a Rocker" and set up the rope. We both found the corner very hard. I toproped the climb twice and fell both times on the upper face above the little overhang. I also fell several times on the boulder problem start, which starts just to the right of the crack and climbs up and left to the crack via very sharp holds.
Just for fun, on my second top-rope attempt, I carried a small rack of small stuff and deeked in a couple of TCUs in the crack with the copperheads. One of the TCUs looked really solid and I was confident that it would hold a fall, unless the thin flake broke! A few feet higher I managed to hang a small "quickie" in a thin horizontal crack just below the ominous crux bulge. This placement looked bad but I left it in because I had carried the quickie on my rack for years and this was the first time I actually had been able to use it. I left all of the gear in and lowered to the ground.
Carl and I then relaxed at the bottom of the climb. As I lay there looking up at the rock, I calmed down and visualized myself climbing the route move by move. What happened next was weird. I looked over at Carl, who was napping about fifteen feet away from me with his back against a tree, and saw a large centipede on the ground about five feet from Carl. These black and orange horrors are always terrifying to see, and as I watched, the thing motored quickly towards sleeping Carl. Without thinking, I grabbed a sharp edged, saucer sized rock and hurled it at the centipede. Carl looked up in horror as the rock I had thrown at him buried the centipede into the ground about three feet from his leg.
Taking that as a good omen, I stood up and wordlessly pulled the rope and tied in. Carl said nothing, but put me on belay.
What followed was cool. I simply flowed through the moves. I wasn't scared. I was in the groove. I quickly dispatched the bottom moves and found myself examining the crux. The crux move is very unique. On a steep face, you get two polished knobs that are about four to five feet apart and you do an iron cross type move to get your feet up. Then you do a little mantle move to get your foot onto one of the knobs. I cruised this and padded my way up the last little slab to the top. It felt wonderful.
Later on, Tony Mayse and I were at the crag and I suggested that it would probably be a good idea to put some bolts in the climb to make it safer. He volunteered for the task and borrowed my gear to hand drill and install two 1/4 inch bolts near the TCU placements. Later on, Jimmy Forrester replaced these bolts with nice 3/8 inch bolts. Since the bolts have been placed, I've climbed the route a couple of times and it always seems harder than it did that first day.
Thinking back, although "Made in the Shade" seemed a good fit at the time, it's a wonder we didn't name the climb something like "Centipede Guts", "Dodge the Rock", or "Scary Terry".
EXPOSURE invites narrative accounts of memorable ascents in the Wichitas.
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FROM THE BOARD
The Board would like to express its sincere appreciation to outgoing Board member John Ferguson for his service to the WMCC and the local climbing community. John has been a director since 2001, and served on the Advisory Bolting Committee from 1996-2000. His dedication to the WMCC has been critical to the success of our mission.
John was also actively involved in supporting the efforts of the Wichita Mountains Access Association. From 1993- 1996, he served as the WMAA's geologic and fixed anchor technical advisor during the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Environmental Assessment process at the Refuge. His involvement and hard work helped to preserve our climbing freedom.
We all owe John a huge debt of gratitude for his years of volunteer service to the WMCC and WMAA.
And so, on behalf of our local climbing community, we offer John a heartfelt "Thanks" for all of his efforts.
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QUARTZ SPRING FLING
Saturday and Sunday, April 3rd and 4th, 2004
Baldy Point, Quartz Mountain Nature Park
BALDY POINT TRAIL PROJECT
Saturday and Sunday, May 1st and 2nd, 2004
Cedar Valley Trailhead, Quartz Mountain Nature Park
NARROWS TRAIL PROJECT
Saturday and Sunday, September 11th and 12th, 2004
Narrows Trailhead, Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
QUARTZ FALL GATHERING
Saturday and Sunday, October 2nd and 3rd, 2004
Baldy Point, Quartz Mountain Nature Park
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2004 ESSAY CONTEST
The WMCC is sponsoring a Climbing Essay contest that is open to anyone who would like to contribute a short story for use in our newsletter and on our website.
Entries to the Essay Contest must be 750 words or less, typed-written, and fall under one of the following categories:
1) Tales from the Gripped: A narrative account of an epic adventure in the Wichitas (including Quartz).
2) Flash from the Past: A narrative account of a memorable ascent in the Wichitas (including Quartz).
Entry deadline for the contest is October 1st, 2004.
The winner will receive a one-year subscription to Rock & Ice Magazine.
Please send your entry to:
P. O. Box 721567
Norman, OK 73070-8207
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