The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) is one of the finest rock climbing areas in the southwest. The Refuge's high-quality granite, multi-pitch routes, and wilderness setting provide outstanding opportunities for vertical adventures. Thousands of climbing enthusiasts visit the Refuge each year to experience the exceptional climbing found at Mt. Scott, the Narrows, Elk Mountain, Crab Eyes, Lost Dome and other classic sites.
As one of only a few granite climbing areas in this part of the country, the Refuge has an established climbing history dating back more than 50 years. One of the earliest known technical ascents at the Refuge took place in the 1940's with the first ascent of the route Great Expectations on Elk Slab in the Charons Garden Wilderness Area. Today, hundreds of quality routes in the 5.6 to 5.11 difficulty range have been established at the Refuge. A majority of these were done in traditional, ground-up style. And, while there have been a number of "sport" type routes developed at several areas over the last ten years, the Refuge remains predominantly a traditional climbing area.
Prior to 1996, technical rock climbing had historically been an unregulated activity at the Refuge. Aside from general public use regulations, climbers were allowed to carry out their activities with no restrictions. However, as the popularity of rock climbing began to increase across the country in the late 1980's, so did the number of climbers visiting the Refuge. Along with this increased usage came noticeable impacts to some areas of the Refuge. Soil erosion, trail degradation, litter, and proliferation of fixed anchors became serious concerns for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, new management policies and regulations for technical rock climbing went into effect in May of 1996 to insure that climbing resources and the natural environment of the Refuge were protected.
Today, thanks to the efforts of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition, rock climbing remains a valuable and compatible recreational use of the Refuge, providing thousands of visitors each year with the opportunity to experience outstanding climbing adventures in a unique wilderness setting.
For more information about rock climbing at the Refuge, contact the WMCC.
For detailed climbing history, technical information, and route descriptions, purchase a copy of "The Oklahoma Climber's Guide" by Chuck Lohn, or "Oklahoma Select, A Climbers Guide" by Tony Mayse