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A Gathering of Okies

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Rock climbing in Oklahoma? Normally, when someone thinks of Oklahoma, they think of a flat and dry landscape with tumbleweedsrolling across the prairie. But this could not be further from the truth. Local adventurers know that southwest Oklahoma hosts some of the best rock climbing in the Midwest and a local favorite is Baldy Point…also known to local climbers as Quartz Mountain.

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Quartz Mountain is one of the best examples of granite face and slab climbing outside of Yosemite.   It rises over 300 feet out of the southwestern Oklahoma wheat fields and is on the far west end of a long chain of granite domes that make up the Wichita Mountains Range.  With up to 180 foot walls, the granite face climbing has been compared to the rock at Joshua Tree and is considered some of the most challenging around. Quartz has over 87 climbing routes of all types and grades.   Quartz is not considered a beginner area. In fact, you are expected to get your feet wet at some of the other moderate areas of the Wichitas before tackling Quartz. Since world class climbers like Duane Raleigh established most of the routes, expect the lines to be difficult, sporty, and run out. Until recently, some of Duane’s routes had only been repeated a few times (because they were done solo) and then only after they were retro bolted! Although bolted, most routes require nerve and boldness not normally needed for your average crag. Visit Quartz and you will come away with a sense of accomplishment.

Quartz Mountain has an interesting history.  The climbing started there almost 40 years ago; however, it was in the mid-70s and early 80s when the most significant climbing occurred. Guys like Duane, Bill Thomas, Mark Herndon, and Terry Andrews, put up bold face climbs, many times solo, or with little protection. Quartz was originally on private property owned by Margaret and Ted Johnson. These folks welcomed climbers for over 30 years until Ted’s death in 1993. Margaret became ill and had to put Quartz up for sale to pay for her medical care. Fortunately, the Johnson’s daughter wanted to preserve Quartz for the climbers, so she allowed the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition (WMCC) and the Access Fund to purchase the property on March 30, 2001. Six days later, the WMCC and the Access Fund donated the mountain to the State of Oklahoma to be part of Quartz Mountain State Park.   The efforts and generosity of the WMCC, the Access Fund, and Ted and Margaret Johnsonwill preserve climbing at Quartz Mountain forever.

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