Photo Reflection – Climbing a spire in Mexico

Climbing a spire in El Potrero Chico. Nuevo Leon, Hidalgo, Mexico

This has always been one of my favorite routes due to its position, exposure and level of adventure. Here on the second pitch of the west Spire, the top of the climb ends at a small pinnacle just big enough for two people to run the rope through a bolted anchor and rappel the south side of the formation. 

The first pitch, though it may have been changed by now, was a runout affair on rusty ring bolts and pitons. The first pitch ends at a notch between the two spires and then the face and slab climbing begins along the left edge and continues to the top. I’m not sure how many times I’ve done this climb – at least once per trip – so at least six times – and it’s always been fun.

Photo Reflection: Bugaboos Approach

I’m going back through my archives of photos to do some individual photo postings along with a short (or maybe in some cases long) blurb about the picture; who, what, where, when, etc.

So we’ll kick it off with this one from 1997 (I think) from a month long climbing trip to Alberta and British Columbia. There were a number of highlights to the trip but one of the best was climbing in the Bugaboos. Here’s one from the approach to the Conrad Kain Hut which is situated in the heart of the mountains and serves as base camp for daily outings. I have a few pictures from this trip but not nearly enough. Here Andy Magness and I pause to capture a rare slide-film moment on the way in. The photo is a bit washed out (over-exposed) and I’m pretty sure I did some contrast and color correction after scanning the original (back in 2004).

Notice the size of the glacier in the background! I wonder if this glacier is half as large as it used to be.

Andy Magness and I on the approach to the Kain Hut in  Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia
Andy Magness and I on the approach to the Kain Hut in Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia

Wichita Mountains Climbing Area Guides


Seems a theme on here lately has been putting a bunch of older stuff back online. I have so much material from previous versions of this site that it’s high time that it go back online. As I continue to rediscover that old material it will find a place on here. Some of the guides need a bit of updating/editing so please take them with the understanding that they are not perfect. Likewise, the hand drawings were done many years ago (even before digital cameras!) and clearly there are better works out there so I’m not trying to compete – just trying to share what I created so many years ago.

New Gym – Climb UP in Norman!

On December 6, 2014 we opened Climb UP a climbing, bouldering, yoga and fitness gym in Norman, OK. It’s been a long time in the making but we finally – through years of effort and determination – were able to make it happen! It wasn’t without a lot of road-bumps and of course it’s a new business and that brings with it a whole host of challenges but I am confident that if we made it this far we can make it a success.

Please come check it out at

Oklahoma Ice Climbing (really?)

John mixing it up For those of you that have followed this site or one of the other iterations of this site (going back to the late 90s), you might recall some stories (dare I say legends) about ice climbing in Oklahoma. Stories about ice climbing in the Wichita Mountains, Avery Drive, even Turner Falls. Those stories are true, or at least base on truth.

Then in 2010 and 2011 I went a bit further and pursued farming ice on the silos of Rocktown in Oklahoma City. It worked the first time I tried it – just using a series of old static lines and running water, the temperature was cold enough to create an ice climb that lasted for a few days. Based on that experience I took the next step and installed a chain-link fence along with a better designed irrigation system and produced a fantastic wall of ice measuring 50 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. The ice lasted for over a week and provided an opportunity for dozens of Okies – and even a championship rodeo cowboy – to try ice climbing for the first time. It was pretty cool.

AaronGen1IceClimb Ice Climb 2nd Generation

Last winter was pretty much a bust. And unseasonably warm winter ensured great temps for rock climbing but no chance for farming ice. We took the chain link fence down from the front of the silos and I’d pretty much swore off any possibility of trying to farm ice again.

This summer I began to think about it more. The idea of having the perfect facility and knowing that if the conditions happen to be right that we could produce an ice climb again was calling to me. But I needed another place to put the ice climb rather than the front of the building.

Now here we are about to enter the 2013 ice season. We are in the process of constructing an ice corridor between the two sets of silos. This allows for an enclosed area away from the parking lot and better secured and keeps ice out of the parking lot (which was a major issue). The ice climbing wall is 3 times as wide and equally as tall as the previous years. Sixteen feet wide by fifty feet tall, that measures up to 800 sq. feet of climbable WI5-6 terrain! There are three top-rope stations and we may be adding the possibility of lead climbing as well. The corridor is secured with a gate and will has a small deck at the entrance and steps down into the “pit” area.
Ice Corridor FencingIce Corridor Gate

The irrigation system is a modified version of what we previously had and is further enhanced with a heated water supply hose and electric heat wrap on the sprayer line just in case of a freeze-up.

Of course this all continues to be a big experiment and ultimately it comes down to the actual weather conditions to make it all work. But at least we’ll be ready. Now we’ll keep an eye on the forecast….

There’s a winter storm on the horizon.



Ice Climber and Belayer

Ice Climber In Red

Nic's First Ice Climb

New page added – The Quarry

There’s a lot of stored material on my hard drives, in my photo albums (I’m talking about actual photo albums, not the online version), and on little 8mm video tapes that documents a history of Oklahoma climbing. I’m in the process of getting some of that good stuff either online for the first time or, as in this case, back online.

The webpage about the Quarry was online about a decade ago. That’s pre-Facebook for those of you that recall those days. Back then there may have even been a pay phone or two around at your local 7-11. Yes, that far back.

To the Quarry Webpage

The Quarry is one of those areas that is veiled in mystery and secrecy like some fraternal order. But unlike some of those mysterious entities that abound with exaggerated stories of varying degrees of truth, this place actually exists and in the majority of cases the stories passed down among generations are true.

A climbing area like the Quarry just seems unbelievable. Impossible. Especially from the standpoint of a person in smooth-soled rubber shoes and a dusting of magnesium carbonate on their hands. For it seems, from this perspective of a climber looking up at granite as clean as giant tombstone, that it would take more than these basic utilities to make any upward movement whatsoever. It would take suction cups for fingers and toes.

Nothing so steep asthe front side of the Quarry can be labeled “slab climbing.” A misnomer to say the least. But much of it is just that; less than vertical. The Quarry is a conflict of interest by every account. It wasn’t intended to be climbed but a place as scarred as this ran asunder from rules the moment the first dynamite bore hole was drilled. Now, anything might go. For instance, The Back Room, a place where experiments in glued on rocks, chiseled holds, and multipitch tiered-traverse climbs on slick-as-glass stone exist.

There is very little that is nice about this place. That is to say, aesthetically pleasing. Layers of lame graffiti. Clanging remnants of sheet metal bent around stone. Whipping of rusted cables strung overhead to steel towers. Blue-green water pits the depths of which contain unknown wastes. Tons of symmetrically cleaved blocks strewn across a hillside – the insides of a once innocent mountainside evacuated. “The Best Granite on Earth,” they say. It may be. But in the oddest of forms now.

There’s hardly a stone that is harder than this.

But what entices the climber to even begin to approach such a place? Pure and simple: the challenge.

The Quarry is a place where success is measured in the smallest of movements. The technical aspects of climbing come alive. Climbing here is a hybrid of climbing rock and structures – sure it’s stone, but it’s man-made.

In the page added here I’m reintroducing the climbing world to part of Oklahoma climbing – a hidden gem. A rough-cut gem, but a gem nonetheless. It’s worth noting that the Quarry is private property and trespassing can carry consequences. I’m not advocating visiting the Quarry. I’m only wanting to share some history of it with you.

Maybe one day a band of climbers can get together and help acquire the Quarry as a climbing reserve. It just so happens that it’s perfect for that.

To the Quarry Webpage

Production Announcement – Request for Information and Contacts


F47 Productions, LLC announces the production of a feature length documentary motion picture about climbers and the history of climbing in Oklahoma. Research and principle photography for the documentary has begun and will take place over the course of 2012.

I am currently seeking information about historical milestones in Oklahoma climbing, central figures that have influenced Oklahoma climbing, and other individuals that might hold a place in Oklahoma climbing history.

This film (title forthcoming) is a documentary about climbers and the history of climbing in Oklahoma as told through the voices of first ascensionists and those that have followed. It’s a look at the personalities, the areas, and the routes that have etched themselves into Oklahoma climbing lore. These tales, told in personal interview format, are about routes climbed, trips taken, lessons learned, and legends created. It’s a look at the lifestyle of climbers who’ve cultivated a niche in the most unlikely of places for rock climbing, a place often overlooked as having any stone at all.

In the coming days there will be further announcements, including a website and Kickstarter page.

This is a big project, a worthwhile documentary, and a part of Oklahoma history at climbing history at large – I’m hoping to have community support to see it through. All keep you posted.

For inquires, questions, etc. please contact:
Aaron Gibson