Last week a couple of friends, Steve O and Liam, and I took a long weekend up to southern Oklahoma for a few days of camping and rock climbing. Southern Oklahoma boasts some of the best granite slab climbing in the country and it’s practically right around the corner, just a short 6 hour drive from Austin. The three of us are all experienced climbers and campers and we were looking forward to weekend getaway. Our destination was Quartz Mountain, otherwise known as Baldy Point, an 1800 ft. slab of granite 75 miles WNW, of Lawton, Oklahoma.
The trip started out on Thursday morning with a fizzle, actually with a fizzle a dead battery. Since we were car-camping at a site just a couple of miles from Baldy, we pretty much left nothing behind and while loading the car the dome lights were apparently a little too much for a the 4 year old battery in the Armada, so after we filled the 56.7 ft3 of cargo space with everything that we could think of, loaded ourselves and tried to start the car, she didn’t comply. No big deal, a quick jump and we were off. In the back of my mind I thought that this might come back to bite us, but off we went. An easy, uneventful drive brought us to Quartz Mountain Nature Park and Camp Ground. We staked our claim at camp site #55 which was 75 yards from the dumpster but more importantly from the rest rooms, and quickly set up our tents. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon and while the temperature wasn’t too cold, the wind was blowing 20-30 making it chilly. We got the fire going – thankfully we planned ahead and acquired several bundles of firewood prior to arrival at the campground since this park, like many others, prohibits foraging for firewood.
Learning #1: When the wind is blowing 20-30 a campfire is almost useless. The wind blows the heat in the same direction as the smoke, so if you want to stay warm you have to sit in the plume. Always pack a cold weather and rain gear, no matter what the forecast is…
We warmed up a pot of chili that Steve O’s wife had made, grilled some sausage and enjoyed a nice hot meal before retiring for the night. The plan was to get an early start on Friday so we could spend the entire day on the rock. Steve O and I retired were sharing a tent. Since there was just the two of us in a 3 person tent, we were able to keep all our gear in the tent with us and still leave plenty of room to ourselves. Being there were no space or weight constraints I brought along my Therm-a-rest Basecamp, the largest version of the self inflating mattress series for my sleeping comfort. I do have to confess that I brought along a sleeping bag that I had removed the tags from years ago and therefore I have no idea what the temperature rating is for it. The first night with the wind blowing and cooler temps I was very comfortable, but the subsequent nights I was way too warm and that made sleeping tough.
Learning #2: Know your gear and leave the tags on them when they are informational. The proper temperature rating for the sleeping bag would have made for a much better night’s sleep. Fortunately in this case, my rating was for colder temperatures that we experienced, if the opposite was true, I might have been much more uncomfortable or worse.
I woke up Friday morning and set a pot of water on my WhisperLite Stove. I love this little thing, boils water in 3 minutes and it will burn white gas, kerosene and even unleaded fuel. Admittedly I didn’t need to use the Whisperlite since we had a two burner stove and 9 cup GSI Outdoors Glacier Coffee Pot, but I wanted to test out my new MSR MugMate Coffee Filter and it had been a while since I had used the WhisperLite. The MugMate is a simple little gem allows you to brew a single cup of coffee right in your mug. It weighs virtually nothing, is reusable and stores inside your mug so it takes up no space. Place the filter in the mug, add coffee and pour water in the top. Let it steep for a few and voila, the perfect cup of coffee.
After coffee and breakfast we loaded up the gear and ourselves in the Armada, and, well, nothing. Dead battery again, I should have trusted my gut yesterday. Fortunately we were able to flag down a park employee who very graciously gave us a jump and then grudgingly made the 20 mile trek the Napa Auto Parts just north of Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. The folks at Napa couldn’t have been nicer and we had the battery replaced and were at the climbing site within an hour.
Climbing at Baldy Point is fantastic and very accessible with a short 20 minute ride from the camp grounds. The parking lot is almost at the foot of the climbs and there is even a clean restroom in the parking lot. We climbed pretty much all day Friday and Saturday, eating lunch on the slab. One thing I noticed about Baldy is that in my opinion the routes are harder than they are rated in the guide book (Oklahoma Select) so proceed with caution and don’t get yourself into something over your head. The climbing was exciting and very enjoyable and tested all of our skills. During one of the climbs on Saturday, I put my Klean Kanteen to the test as it fell out of my climbing pack and sailed 30 feet before bouncing 4 times on the granite. The bottle itself survived remarkably well with just a few very small dents in the steel, but the plastic sport top cracked. Note to self: Next trip bring the loop cap instead of the sport top.
After two strong days of climbing and beautiful weather we enjoyed steaks and fire grilled potatoes for dinner on Saturday night. Steve O set up a slack line in the camp site and we goofed around on it a bit, enjoying the last few hours before settling in for night. Sunday morning it was time to head back to Austin. The drive back was uneventful and safe. What a fabulous weekend. Not only was the climbing and the company great, but it was nice to just spend a few days away from the daily grind and enjoy nature for a bit. I’ve posted some pictures as well as our route on my SpotAdventures.com page for your viewing pleasure.