Rock Climbing

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge offers some of the finest rock climbing opportunities in this region of the country. 

The refuge, the Access Fund and the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition have come together to support and present a quality climbing experience and have produced the following guidelines to ensure a quality experience for climbers, while offering protection of the refuge and its habitat for wildlife.

Good quality granite, multi-pitch routes, wilderness setting, and fine weather have all contributed to make the refuge a popular climbing destination. Along with this popularity have come noticeable impacts to some areas of the refuge. Soil erosion, trail degradation, damage to trees, shrubs, lichen and mosses, litter, human waste, and proliferation of fixed anchors are current problems. In order to ensure that open access, minimal regulation, and a healthy environment will continue to be a part of your climbing experiences at the refuge, each climber is encouraged to do everything he or she can to prevent or reduce adverse impacts.

Climbing Ethics
While most climbers are committed to "minimal impact" practices, over time, climbing and other recreational activities have begun to make an impact on refuge resources. It is up to each individual who uses the refuge to share in the responsibility of caring for this fragile environment. All climbers should practice "minimum impact" climbing techniques and support a "leave no trace" outdoor ethic when visiting this wildlife refuge. Climbing resources are not limitless. Please value your vertical wilderness and work to reduce or prevent environmental impacts. Your climbing freedom depends on you.

What You Can Do
Commit yourself to "minimum impact" and "leave no trace" ideals by adhering to the following climbing ethics:
• Know and respect environmentally sensitive areas. Fragile plants and soils, wildlife habitat, riparian zones, and wilderness areas require special attention.
• Climb and travel in small numbers. Disperse your activities.
• Use established trails to reach climbing areas. Short cuts cause plant damage and erosion.
• Keep your distance from wildlife. Bison and longhorn cattle are dangerous. Avoid disturbing sensitive habitats and cliff-nesting birds.
• Treat the rock gently. Do not chip, chisel, glue or otherwise deface our rock resources. Leave the rocks and surrounding area in its natural condition. Bolting is not permitted without prior approval (see below).
• Minimize chalk use and brush off heavily chalked holds.
• Use natural colored nylon webbing if you must leave fixed slings.
• Pack out what you bring in. Do not leave tape, cigarette butts, food wrappers, leftovers or other litter.
• Remove and carry out old nylon slings. Leave the area cleaner than you found it.
• Dispose of human waste properly. Whenever possible use restrooms.  Otherwise, bury your waste and carry out toilet paper in a plastic bag. Do not leave human waste within 200 feet of any water source or at the base of a climb.
• Please be considerate of other visitors. Loud noise detracts from the wilderness setting and disturbs others.
• Do not tie up routes you are not using.
• Support conservation by taking part in organized clean-ups, trail rehabilitation, and other volunteer projects at the refuge. 

For more information on what you can do to help, contact the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition or the Access Fund.

Climbing Regulations
Technical rock climbing is allowed during daylight hours throughout the public areas of the refuge with the following exceptions:
• Sport rappelling is prohibited in the area popularly known as "The Narrows" and is defined as the area along West Cache Creek downstream of Boulder Cabin.
• Placement of fixed anchors (bolts) including replacement of existing bolts is prohibited without the approval of the Refuge Manager through the Advisory Bolting Committee.
• Commercial or instructional operators who charge for their services while on refuge lands are required to obtain an annual Special Use Permit from the Refuge Manager. There is a fee that is required.

Other Regulations
• General camping is permitted only at Doris Campground.
• Backcountry Camping is by permit only and in designated areas.
• Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
• No swimming in any refuge waters.
Fixed Anchors
The placement, removal, or replacement of fixed anchors, including bolts, pitons, rivets, coldshuts, and chains is not permitted without prior approval of Refuge Management. Any climber desiring to add, remove, or replace any fixed anchor must submit a "Fixed Anchor Application" for review by refuge management and the Advisory Bolting Committee (ABC) of the Wichita Mountains Climbers Coalition (WMCC). Applications are available at Refuge Headquarters. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the ABC review applications based upon aesthetic and natural resource criteria.

Statement of Non-Liability for Rock Climbing and Fixed Anchors
The USFWS, WMCC and ABC review fixed anchor applications and make recommendations concerning fixed anchors based upon aesthetic and natural resource criteria. The USFWS, WMCC and ABC make no representations or warranties regarding the safety, reliability or suitability for use of any fixed anchors or other hardware, currently existing or installed in the future, on any climbing route in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Moreover, the USFWS, WMCC and ABC make no representations or warranties regarding the degree of hazard or danger involved, or lack thereof, on any rock climbing route in the refuge. Rock climbing is a dangerous activity and the individual climber must personally make all decisions regarding his or her safety while climbing.

Report all accidents involving significant personal injury to refuge personnel.