Backpacking the Wichitas

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Location Lat/Lon: 34.89920°N / 99.3312°W
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Mar 20, 2004

The Preparation

I'd been wanting to take some friends climbing somewhere for quite a while, but conflicting schedules made a trip impossible for several months. In the interim period, I decided that we were going to go to the Quartz Mountain area and climb a number of the small peaks in that area. After meeting with my friends, Mark and Adam, we decided that on the first day we would meet at an IHOP at about 6:15 for breakfast, drive from there to Mark's house to distribute supplies, and try to be at Quartz Mountain by 10:00.

Hicks Mountain

We made it to the base of Hicks Mountain, our first mountain, right on schedule. It was right about this time that I realized that I had left my camera at home. After some discussion about where to leave my car, we pulled over by the side of the road, hiked around the houses that were nestled by the base of the hill/peak, and began an easy scramble to the top. For entertainment purposes, we added in some Class 3 and 4 sections where Class 1 was clearly visible to the side. A few minutes and 300 vertical feet later, we were on top. It had a survey marker, which was interesting considering the massive vertical relief, but I was unable to find an elevation, which is fitting, as none is listed at topozone. The descent was equally uneventful, and we departed for our next goal.

Baldy Point

A short drive brought us to Baldy Point, known on SP as Quartz Mountain. We hiked along the trail at the bottom of the peak until we came to the gully which signaled the start to the route which I have named "Mother Wouldn't Approve". I first ascended this route in November of 2003. I doubt that I was the first person to ascend it, but I haven't heard otherwise, so I took some license and named it with the help of my father, who was climbing with me in November. Our ascent up third and fourth class rock was fairly uneventful, but I don't think we took the exact same route as I had taken originally, as some parts seemed a little bit different. Some scrambling took us to the saddle between the two main summits. Here we saw a sight I never thought I would see in Oklahoma—a mountain goat. I kicked myself for forgetting the camera, and then we continued on. We first ascended the lower summit. The lower summit is made up of a line of boulders, each about 15 feet high, and after a short period of time was spent bouldering, we continued to the main summit. A short hike brought us to the top. Arriving at the top was quite a shock, as before we had been shielded from strong winds by the mountain, and now they were allowed to buffet us without hindrance. We then descended a prominent gully on the northeast side of the mountain that ended at the trail. A short hike later, we had returned to the car. It was now about 1:00, so we drove over to the lodge to fix some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.

King Mountain and UN2153

Now the backpacking phase of our trip began. We drove to the base of King Mountain, which I hope to submit once I get some good pictures, and began our ascent. King Mountain stands proudly over the Wichitas with 900 feet of vertical relief. This statistic is matched by only a handful of other Oklahoma peaks, and it is also the Kiowa County highpoint, which makes it fairly appealing. Much to my surprise, we even saw another party ascending farther to the north. We naturally found everything a little bit harder with a backpack on, but we managed to summit about two hours later. I’ve decided that climbing Kings would be much more fulfilling if there wasn’t a small building and television tower to share the summit with. We sat for a moment savoring the great views of Lake Altus-Lugert, Hicks Mountain, Baldy Point, and the rest of the surrounding area before beginning our descent. We dropped down from our lofty height of 2,411 feet to about 1,875 feet on the saddle between King and Unnamed Point 2153. Here we had a short bushwhack before we attained the summit of the subpeak. And here everything began to fell apart. We were all fairly tired by this point in time, as we had summited four “peaks” already, and I believe that the horrifyingly thin air of 2,500 feet was affecting our decision making. I had foolishly printed my topo maps in black and white (a mistake never to be duplicated), and hadn’t noticed that there was a fence running through the low spot that we now planned to cross. I had planned to descend south off of 2153 before crossing a depression to Flat Top Mountain. However, the descent looked a little bit easier farther to the north. Without realizing that doing so would mean we would have to go up and over another line of peaks, we descended due east off of 2153, in part because we realized that we were running low on water.

The Night

I had intentionally overbooked the trip so that we could easily cancel part of it if we felt too tired. The plan called for the ascent of one more peak, Flat Top Mountain, atop of which we would spend the night. I had selected Flat Top Mountain because, true to its name, it has a very large, flat top, upon which rests a pond. However, since I had printed our topos in black and white, we had no way to be sure that there was a pond up there, as it had been too long since I had seen them in color. We decided to pump water out of a pond that we could see from the top of 2153. After a steep descent that was suddenly made more difficult by our packs, we had reached flat land. We hiked to the more easterly of the ponds, as it looked much cleaner, and spent the next ten minutes resting and purifying water for the night. We were all very tired, and decided that we would climb to the top of a small hill near us and see if there was an easy route to Flat Top. We found that there was, but also found a barbed wire fence, our first clear sign that we quite possibly weren’t on public land anymore. We noticed that the fence ended just a short distance away, so we hiked around it and descended into the valley. It was now about 5:00, and the 600 foot west face of Flat Top looked quite intimidating. We soon found ourselves on a well-defined trail, and followed it to a pond. We decided to camp for the night. We pitched our tent and began cooking a dinner of Lipton’s Noodles and ground beef when a man rode up on a bicycle. We had a pleasant conversation with him, and learned that we were indeed on private property. He introduced himself as Vance and told us that the owner had no qualms with campers and bikers, and had even allowed him to cut some mountain bike trails in. We learned that the owner wouldn’t mind us camping for the night as long as we didn’t make a campfire, and were more than pleased to obey. We enjoyed a good night’s rest and woke up to a breakfast of cereal bars and fruit snacks. We decided that we were going to return to the car rather than summit Flat Top Mountain and Soldiers Peak as we had planned. Vance had told us that we should follow his trails to the “Cement Gap”, which turned out to be an old road that ran right between two hills, and that would lead us out to the highway. Where we had spent 6 hours packing in to our pond, only 45 minutes were spent hiking out. We drove over to Baldy, where we passed a couple of hours bouldering, and returned home. It had been an excellent trip, but it felt really good to sit down for a while on the return trip.


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