You better bring your lead head

Posted on May 14th, 2009
Quartz Mountain

Quartz Mountain, AKA Mount Baldy

You may ask yourself, where in the word does this crazy Texan go to climb rocks? Well, that depends.  Last weekend I headed out to Quartz Mountain in South West Oklahoma. This is both one of my favorite and least favorite places to climb. This giant mound of granite jets up out of lush farmland (mostly cotton) in the middle of nowhere.  You can see the rock from miles away on a clear day.  This behemoth of a rock attracts climbers from all over, but mostly Texas and Oklahoma.

Quartz Mountains, also known as Mount Baldy features mostly slab and crack climbing with classic face climbs like Amazon Woman (5.10b), recently voted one of America’s 10 best rock climbs.  But if long run-out slab and crack climbs are not your thing, then Quartz likely isn’t the place for you.  Granted you can find several good, well-protected routes, most climbs can scare the bejeezes out of you!  That is why I have such a love-hate relationship with this mound of granite.

I have been fortunate enough though to be able to follow some more experienced trad climbers up classic routes such as Snakes Head (5.5x), that offers little to no protection. The crux move is a long airy jump to a boulder after you have reached the anchors.  This was my first experience at Quartz; the previous two pitches went at 5.7-5.8 and also offered little in way of protection.

Dave Pratt, jumps from Snakes Head onto a boulder to finish the route.

Dave Pratt, jumps from Snakes Head (5.5x) onto a boulder to finish the route.

But it’s places like this that get you tough mentally. Since climbing here my confidence as a climber has gone way up, but at the same time a man still has to know his limitations, and believe me, I do.  I am often told that the routes here are all “sand bagged”, but other old-school climbers just tell me they are old-school ratings, they way climbs should be rated.  Either way, I believe climbing on such intimidating rock will prepare me for places like Lumpy Ridge (where I will visit this Summer) and Yosemite.  Quartz Mountain is the real thing!

Mike Hankins free solos Baptism (5.10b R) on S Wall.

Mike Hankins free solos Baptism (5.10b R) on S Wall.

If you have never been here before, I would highly recommend making the trip out, but bring your lead head, even the approaches can be intimidating. On one cold morning I bashed my head on a boulder on the approach to the climb. I stood there stunned for a moment then kept moving because of the trail of other climbers behind me.

Once I got to the base of the climb I took off my hat because I was hot and my partner pointed out that I was bleeding. He broke out the gloves from his first aid kit and inspected the cut. He suggested I head to the ER. So, a fellow climber hiked down with me and drove the 30 minutes to the closest small town with an ER. There I received three staples in my head. (It is for this reason I wear my helmet on approach climbs here now)

After being made to look like Frankenstein I returned to the rock around noon, had a few bites to eat and then climbed several pitches (I had to, I made the 3.5 hour drive, I wasn’t going to waste it). The day even ended with a mini epic of being stuck on the head wall after dark, but that is a story for another day. But for now enjoy a couple photos from this past weekend.

Me at the top of the first pitch of Macho Man (5.7) in an AWESOME belay dish.

Me at the top of the first pitch of Macho Man (5.7) in an AWESOME belay dish. Just last weekend.

My climbing partner for the day Arne, finishes up South Pacific last weekend.

My climbing partner for the day Arne, finishes up South Pacific (5.7) last weekend.

Please note that the site layout will be changing in the near future (hopefully). I am working on a logo and a site design, but was so eager to start blogging I head to go forth.




5 Responses to “You better bring your lead head”

  1. Caleb says:

    Just testing the comments on my inaugural post :) I hope you enjoyed it.

  2. rockgrrl says:

    Nice post! The place looks remind me a little of Josh in terms of the shapes of the formations, Joshua Tree has quartzite monzonite rock, is this the same stuff?

    Also, hooray for “lead head” and old school ratings :)

  3. Joy says:

    Wow, all I can say is wow!

  4. [...] away from my door step are mounds of pristine granite. I started off my blog with a post about Quartz Mountain in Oklahoma, which is actually a part of the same mountain range.  The Wichita Mountains offers everything [...]

  5. Scott says:

    LOL. I GIS for “Quartz Mountain” and pull up a TM’ers page. =P

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