Rock Climbing

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


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

The refuge's high-quality granite, multi-pitch routes and wilderness setting make it one of the most popular climbing destinations in the Southwest. In the past, this popularity was cause for concern by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over natural resource impacts, such as soil erosion and the proliferation of fixed anchors. But thanks to the partnership effort with the climbing community, those concerns are being successfully addressed. In order to ensure that open access, minimal regulation, and a healthy environment continues to be a part of your climbing experiences at the refuge, each climber is encouraged to do everything he or she can to reduce or prevent natural resource impacts.

 

Climbing Ethics

While most climbers are committed to "minimal impact" practices, over time climbing and other recreational activities can still result in negative impacts to refuge resources. In order to prevent that from occurring, each individual who uses the refuge must accept responsibility for themselves and for the care of 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 natural resource 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:

 

  • Climb and travel in small numbers. Disperse your activities.
  • Tread lightly and be aware of environmental impacts. Use good judgment!
  • Use established trails to reach climbing areas. Short cuts cause plant damage and erosion. 
  • Know and respect environmentally sensitive areas. Fragile plants and soils, wildlife habitat, riparian zones, and wilderness areas require special attention.
  • Avoid disturbing sensitive habitats and cliff nesting birds. Keep your distance from wildlife. Bison and longhorn cattle are dangerous. 
  • Be “resource sensitive.” Leave the rock and surrounding area in its natural condition.
  • Minimize chalk use and brush off heavily chalked holds. 
  • Use natural colored nylon webbing if you must leave fixed slings. 
  • 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.
  • Pack out what you bring in. Do not leave tape, cigarette butts, food wraps, leftovers, or other litter. 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. 
  • 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 use areas of the refuge with the following exceptions: 

  • Sport rappelling is prohibited in the area popularly known as "The Narrows" which 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 prior approval of the Refuge Manager through the Advisory Bolting Committee. 
  • Drilling and hammering (for any purpose other than the placement of authorized fixed anchors),chiseling, chipping, gluing or otherwise altering, damaging or defacing rock resources is prohibited. 
  • Gardening, removing plants, mosses and other vegetation, cutting or trimming trees, and prying off rocks is prohibited.
  • 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.  

 

     

    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 prohibited 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.