There is a pretty consistent theme in most new climbing gyms. Not that the modern gym isn’t a climber’s paradise, but even walltopia utopia can lose its novelty after a while. It’s becoming more and more difficult to find a wholly unique experience at any one indoor climbing destination. But difficult does not mean impossible, and there are some distinctive indoor climbing gems yet to be discovered.
Summit OKC Silos is a truly gem if ever there was one. Situated in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City is a set of grain silos that were converted into a climber’s dream in 1999. This is a 90-foot-tall climbing gym that offers features so unique that I couldn’t have dreamed them up even if I tried. In all fairness I’ve never seen the inside of a silo, but even if I had I doubt it would have prepared me for what the OKC Silos had to offer.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but I can tell you it wasn’t a spray wall in a circular room that offered a 360-degree traverse. I wasn’t expecting a whole series of silos, each with its own set of routes, I wasn’t expecting a 20+ foot bouldering tunnel (essentially an inclined roof that is never more than 4 feet off the ground). I most definitely was not expecting 90-foot lead routes that culminated in an extra 10-feet of roof climbing on the ceiling of the silos. I was not expecting there to be routes on the outside walls. It’s not every day that a climbing gym offers the best available views of a city skyline. I wasn’t expecting a well-stocked pro-shop, a packed yoga studio, auto-belays, or any slab climbing.
I really don’t know what I was anticipating, but the Summit OKC Silos shattered whatever my expectations happened to be. With every new room/silo I found myself picking my jaw up off the ground, and while my archetype of what a climbing gym should be was melting away, three particular things stood out (THAT route, the panache, and the management).
My favorite feature of this gym was a 5.13 route that was nothing but cracks, pockets, dents, dimples, chunks and cuts in the concrete wall that made up one of the silos. Basically, the route was simply the imperfections from the way in which the cement wall settled. I imagine this was as close to climbing outside as an indoor wall could get. This is not to take anything away from the brilliant setters and fantastic designs that setters at The Silos put up. This route lends itself to the creativity of the setters to notice the potential in the canvass that they are working on! Perfection in the imperfections!
Speaking of the setters, they are tasked with setting routes on a continuous arc. This must be both limiting and liberating. Most holds are manufactured to sit flush against flat walls, there aren’t many flat walls within a grain silo, and so only specific holds will work. That is kind of a curse and a blessing, because it forces the setters to work in a more creative fashion, and while there aren’t many flat walls in a silo, working the curve into the elegance of the routes offers a unique style of climbing and setting that can’t be found anywhere else.
This gym is an absolute must for any climber, and while the walls, routes, bouldering, views, height, and pretty much everything else about this place is off the charts, it all comes second to how thoughtful, helpful, and generally kind the staff and management1 were. They went out of their way to assist every person who walked through the door with a sincere and inviting demeanor. I have never felt so welcomed as a newcomer in any place I’ve had the opportunity to visit.
For climbers of all ages and abilities, Summit OKC Silos are an absolute must. A perfect fit in The Cinderella City!2
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- I have to give a special shout out and thanks to the manager Kristin P. We were on a ridiculously tight schedule and she bent over backwards to make sure my climbing partner and I were safe, well-informed, and in a position to have fun.
- The pro-shop doesn’t offer glass slippers, but it’s stocked with a nice array of climbing shoes nonetheless!