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Ascent of Mount Haley on 2018-04-21

Climber: Arthur Harris

Date:Saturday, April 21, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Haley
    Location:USA-Oklahoma
    Elevation:2470 ft / 752 m

Ascent Trip Report

There are two options to climb this off-limits peak. Option one has been discussed in relatively good detail by Jobe. We tried to follow the directions that was listed, but found that there was a locked gate for the road going up to his starting point. A fierce dog chased our car for a quarter mile before we splashed it driving through a big rain puddle. The road passes by a few big ranches and the locals could easily spot that we didn't belong there. One possible option for the starting point from the NW is 34.8556, -98.8231. The road going to the water tower is gated so if you leave your car at the road intersection, it will be painfully obvious that you are up to no-good. The best option would be getting dropped off by a friend, arriving from the west to avoid driving past the ranch and guard dog.

We decided on option two: the Tatakana Trail coming in from the south. Highway 49 is the major road going through the Wichita Mountains and is well maintained. There are dirt roads that head north, but that entire section of land is off-limits to humans. Six hundred buffalo, a thousand elk, and numerous other animals roam that wildlife reserve. The road at 34.7420, -98.7319 is a great dirt path but gated. There is room to park at the gate, but you will get busted if you leave your car there. There is fencing that goes around the wildlife land, but a wide opening can be found about a hundred yards east of the locked gate. The park allows buffalo to come and go as they please, but humans are restricted to just the southern section. There is parking at Caddo Lake, but the park patrols the area and notes if you leave a vehicle there for a long time. In such cases, they likely will send a law enforcement officer to search for trespassers. Very bad idea!

My recommendation is to stop by the park's visitor center and get a backpacking permit, starting at the Elk Mountain trailhead. It adds another mile to the stats listed in this hypothetical TR but you don't have to worry about someone hunting you down. The rest of this report is based on satellite images and represents what could be accomplished if you could get a restricted wildlife-area permit from the park. They don't offer permits except for bus tours, so don't bother asking.

If you could get a permit, walk through the open but posted fence area (34.7412, -98.7280) and then walk on a herd path that goes due north. You would be exposed to view for the first couple of minutes and that would pose the greatest risk of the adventure. After passing a large tree at 34.7437, -98.7279, you are not as visible from the road. There are herd paths that diagonal northwest so choose one that looks easiest. Eventually hit a dirt road at approximately 34.7475, -98.7304 and take it west for a while before choosing to walk through open prairie to the main road. We would have hypothetically hit the main path at approximately 34.7484, -98.7343. Follow the main road North/Northwest for approximately nine miles. It showed up nicely on the Gaia map that we downloaded to our phones. You eventually come to the far northern section of the wildlife refuge and encounter a 10' tall buffalo fence that is topped by barbed wire. At 34.8263, -98.79606 there is a tall tree that allows a permitted climber to hop the fence. Class A2 crux moves.

On the other side is private ranch land that is seldom used. The chance of detection would be rather low after crossing the wildlife fence. There are good roads that briefly travel west, and then head NNW on a side spur. Get to a ravine crossing at 34.8314, -987987 and then continue travelling north until 34.8341, -987988. Views from the satellite images suggest that the next section is the most difficult for navigation. I would highly recommend doing it during the daytime so that you can follow your track backwards if you have to descend in the dark. There are cliff bands protecting the 2333 false peak. Additionally dense vegetation guard other flanks of this route. There is a modest ramp that goes WNW up to 34.8350, -98.8016. From there traverse clockwise at the 2180' level through a rock band. It should be only class 2+ or 3 moves if you find the right gap at this elevation. A final exit gully takes you to the at 2240'. Make sure to record tracks because there is a deceptive false gully that would take you due south into dense vegetation.

Once on the south shoulder of Haley, enjoy a brief section of relaxing walk until you hit the 2250' false peak. On the way up, we would have stayed a bit low at 2180' before crossing the ravine and heading due north to the peak. On the way back, we stayed a bit higher and traversed at 2230', finding a eight foot drop that we could mantle our way down.

After passing the false peak, there are multiple options to climb the boulder-covered peak. We think that we would be able to keep it at Class 3 by a Colorado definition. The summit ridge would have been hit in between the two summit areas. The one on the east side still held the Martin register.

Descent from the peak is slower than the ascent, especially if you would have summited at nightfall. With one working flashlight, expect an additional two hours of time to get back to the TH. Fatigue will also make you go a bit slower. There are numerous buffalo in the route so probably going with two or more people would be wisest. They are not that aggressive and tend to wander off when they see people. I would rather face these creatures compared to angry ranchers that are now aware to peakbaggers wanting to climb Haley. The bright eyes of a mountain lion revealed that this reclusive creature was watching from a ridge above the road. Another reason to travel with companions, especially ones that run slower than you.

We awoke from our dream at 3 AM and found that my stupid dad had a hole in his zipper pocket where we kept our CR-V key. Searching the path revealed nothing so we took a cold nap with the vehicle partially shielding us from the wind. We hitchhiked to the visitor center and called a locksmith to rescue us. After paying the $400 bill for Sunday service, we started the ten hour drive back to Denver. Blah!

Haley would have made for a great finish to the CONUS list of EPIC peaks. The wildlife and fun rock scrambling made it far more exciting that the elevation and prominence leaders for OK. Now for Denali! We are looking forward to joining the very limited number of completers, perhaps setting the bar for the youngest person at age 16.
Summary Total Data
    Distance:24 mi / 38.6 km
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:4 Hours 30 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:6 Hours 30 Minutes



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