Buildering / Urban Climbing in Oklahoma

OU Buildering
Buildering on campus in the 1970s

Oklahoma has a rich history of urban climbing; buildings, bridges, and other structures. We may not have the best crags in the world but we make up for it in the creative climbs we unlock or create elsewhere. This is a snapshot of the urban climbing scene in Norman and Oklahoma City.

The University of Oklahoma

I went to school at OU and spent a lot of time climbing on campus. I’ve written two books about urban climbing at the University of Oklahoma. The first was OU Excellence: A Climber’s Perspective and was written in 1997. About 20 copies were printed at Kinko’s – just for friends. The follow-up book was Urban Assault: A Historical Guide to Climbing in Norman, Oklahoma and was written in 2000. The book was self-published and professionally printed by a short-run press and sold online, at Backwoods, and Borders. The book is now out of print but a new one may be in the works.

Bridges in Norman

There are three bridges in Norman for climbing: the north end of the I-35 bridge over the South Canadian river, the Hwy 9 bridge near Shaklee, and the railroad tressel bridge on Hwy 9. Climbing at the I-35 bridge features glued-on rocks on box-roof like features and traverses. Many of the climbs have evolved over time with some rocks breaking off and others added to change the nature of the routes. There was a short period of making long lead climbs across the concrete beams. These climbs were protected by specially designed metal plates with welded rings. These metal plates were adhered using Bondo to the cement – that’s right the lead anchors were actually glued onto the concrete beams and used to catch falls – usually huge swinging falls!

The Hwy 9 bridge was a different story. Where the “ethics” at the I-35 bridge was to not make any holes in the concrete, hence gluing lead anchors to the wall, the Hwy 9 bridge featured nothing but drilled pocket climbs and lead bolts. The routes were (and still are) about 20-25 feet tall and range in difficulty from 5.9 to 5.12. I put all of these up – except for the incomplete route. I haven’t been here in years.

Here’s some route descriptions for you:

East Side of Northeast Pillar

A. The Stallion (5.12) The hardest route on the wall. 2 bolts, 1 anchor bolt.

Aid Line(A?) Four rivets that might hold. Drilled on lead, bottom to top in under one hour. Could be A1 could be A3, who knows.

B. Mr. Friendly (5.9) The easiest route on the wall. 4 bolts, 1 anchor bolt.

C. Pickled Pockets (5.10+) A personal favorite. 2 bolts, 1 anchor bolt.

D. Flash Flood (5.10) Fun route that ends in an akward position. 2 bolts, 2 anchor bolts.

West Side of Northeast Pillar

E. Pseudo Crotch (5.11) Beware of the moves after the second bolt. Not only are they difficult but a fall above the second bolt has opened the cold shut. 3 bolts, 1 anchor bolt.

F. Free Ride (5.10) The first route at the bridge. Fun. 3 bolts, 1 anchor bolt.

G. Incomplete Route

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