Bouldering Destinations in New Zealand

by Liam Copley Feb/2009
This article has been read 3,363 times

Bouldering in New Zealand is not easy. It sometimes requires an unforgiving amount of travel and commitment to get to the bouldering destinations themselves, never mind the friction-less problems that really do seem undergraded! In this article I am going to describe the bouldering destinations I visited whilst I was on a three week trip across New Zealand and it makes sense to do so in a chronological order.

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+Liam Copley bouldering at Castle Hill, 160 kb
Liam Copley bouldering at Castle Hill
Liam Copley, Jan 2009
© Callum Copley

Ti Point - Northland +Walking to the end boulders at Ti Point, 36 kb
Walking to the end boulders at Ti Point
Liam Copley, Jan 2009
© Callum Copley

The first bouldering destination was Ti Point on the North Island, which is just north of Auckland. When I arrived in New Zealand I was desperate to climb and the closest place I could find was Ti Point. I didn't actually know that there was any bouldering at all here, I just knew that there were some sport climbing next to the beach. I took my chances and got my mother to drive us there. When I arrived I found a paradise! Clear blue water, sandy beaches and loads of Basalt boulders just waiting to be climbed. Me and my brother Brandon quickly put the mat down and started climbing anything that took our fancy. There is no guidebook there so we made the assumption that the harder lines may not have been climbed. The rock there can be snappy and a bit loose in places, but apart from this it's fantastic! The moves on the boulders can be very varied and don't really have a typical style. The bouldering stretches along the beach, all the way up to the main route climbing cliff. The setting here is amazing and makes the whole experience a lot more memorable. Most of the boulders that I climbed on had flat sandy landings, which is ideal for people without a bouldering mat. Although there isn't a typical style of climbing, one thing that is typical is that there isn't too many easy climbs, the strange thing is that what would be nice easy problems, are just not high enough to climb. This is a great venue but maybe not too much so for the picky climber as you have to be prepared for some problems with the sand and a long walk-in to the 'end of the path' bouldering.

The Airstrip - Waitomo

The Airstrip near the Waitomo Caves was my next bouldering venue and was quite possibly my favourite. After obtaining permission from the farm owners me and Brandon were free to roam around the whole crag. There are many Limestone boulders scattered around the farmland. The view from many of the boulders is fantastic and can make you feel secluded. I can remember referring the resemblance of the landscape to the island seen in the film 'Jurassic Park'. The boulders are great for the low-mid grade climber and give some really good problems and lines. The rock itself has a dark coating due to thousands of years of weathering, which leads to good friction. My favourite feature at this crag is The Grot View Cave which is a big limestone cave that provides some amazing lines and great boulder problems. The climbing in the cave can be tamed if you are handy with technical heel hooking. The cave offers some long lines and this is said to be the place where route climbers could find their niche between routes and boulder problems. Although this cave does not have the dark coating, the friction was not a problem here as the overhung problems are always shaded. The main boulders can give some very cool features, one boulder has a sea shell embedded into the rock which gives a perspective on the geological side of the climbing. This is my most recommended bouldering venue on the North Island.


Castle Hill - Canterbury - South Island

+Brandon Copley bouldering at Spittle Hill, 132 kb
Brandon Copley bouldering at Spittle Hill
Liam Copley, Jan 2009
© Callum Copley

Before I went to New Zealand I had heard and seen so much about this place. This was the place which I was most looking forward to visiting. When I arrived I took a walk up to the boulders by myself and to be honest, what I saw was amazing. The amount of boulders is unbelievable and some of the features on the boulders are things which I have never seen. When I first got close to the boulders I was amazed by everything. Indeed this is the most aesthetic climbing venue that I have ever been to. We had the guidebook to Castle Hill and as you can imagine, finding specific boulders was very hard. When I actually started climbing on the boulders I was greatly disappointed by the condition of the polish. Sometimes as I placed my feet on footholds you could hear a loud squeak as the rubber touched rock. The style of climbing at Castle Hill is, well, desperate! If you are not in the correct body position, even the very easy climbs become hard. Some of the holds, I would describe as being un-useable and are basically a change in angle. I spent two days there and never got used to the style of climbing. It must take at least five or six days to start to come to terms with the style. Although I only visited one area of Castle Hill which was Spittle Hill, I feel that I can speak for the whole place in this brief description. Now I must comment on the grading there...to me and the experience I had, the grading at Castle Hill was the most ridiculous grading I have ever witnessed. I would be confident in saying that a V5 at Castle Hill is easily comparable to a V7 on grit. Even if I had spent more time there, I still think that a Castle Hill Font 6c is easily comparable to a Font 7a on gritstone. Despite the under-grading, disgusting polish, confusing navigation and the fact that this was the only outdoor bouldering venue I visited on the South Island, Castle Hill is a very memorable place and is a must visit area for anybody travelling around New Zealand. Just don't expect to climb anything hard!

Tauranga - Mt Maunganui - Beach Peninsula

This was the last venue I visited in New Zealand and I had a very good time there. I knew that there was sport climbing on the Mt Maunganui mountain itself, but I was dedicated to finding another bouldering area and so I went searching. I even got the old binoculars out to scope out the area. I found a peninsula which had some very tasty sea cliff climbing, so I got the mat and headed towards it. As I came onto it I glimpsed a limestone crag, well that's what my imagination wanted me to think. I walked further and then popped round a corner to discover a slightly neglected sport climbing crag. There were small outcrops of clean limestone which were home to some really good boulder problems. There were many eliminate, but some good true lines as well. The rock that we climbed on was very solid and gave some cool handholds such as slopey rails and deep pockets. The landing was just nice flat grass which was great for some of the highballs. There are about 20 problems (including fairly obvious eliminates) on the 'main crag' section which we climbed on and gives enough climbing for about three days. However there is plenty more climbing all around the peninsula and I wish I'd had enough time to discover more of it. The beach nearby is amazing and is great for surfing and swimming. There is no guidebook to this climbing but there is a town nearby with many shops and restaurants. If you are in the area, check this peninsula out for some cool problems.

Is that it?

There are loads of bouldering destinations in New Zealand, I have only explained the ones I visited. New Zealand is a great place and is well worth a climbing tour and what makes it even better is that when its winter in the UK its summer in NZ. I have done my best to briefly describe each venue but if you would like more detail or specific information about the climbing venues just email me at liamcopley@hotmail.co.uk and I will help you out.

+Castle Hill by moonlight, 94 kb
Castle Hill by moonlight
© StuM, Jul 2005


Logistics

When do I go?

Obviously cooler conditions are always more ideal for climbing. The boulders I visited were mainly smooth and rounded with not many cracks or fault lines so seepage is not a problem. When I visited it was Summer and still found it OK but my advice would be to go in Autumn or Spring time. This is because the friction will still be very good and you will also have more access to other non-climbing activities.

Where do I fly to?

My advice would be, if you are looking to tour around both islands then fly to Auckland like I did, this is a great starting place because it has some very good hotels and is a good place to rest for a couple of days to re-energise from the jetlag.

How do I travel around NZ?

Public transport around New Zealand is not very good, apart from inner-city bus services. If you are looking to travel across New Zealand I would definitely recommend renting a campervan or motor home, this is the most ideal way and gives you a lot more freedom and offers greater versatility. Just beware of where you park as I was told of violent attacks on family campervans whilst they were parked on dark roadsides etc.

+The beach looking onto Mt Maunganui , 181 kb
The beach looking onto Mt Maunganui
Liam Copley, Jan 2009
© Callum Copley
What gear should I take?

A bouldering mat, chalk bag, plenty of spare chalk, climbing shoes which should ideally include a soft smeary pair and a stiff shoe for steep climbing, walking boots for big walk-ins on mountain crags, toothbrush and sun cream.

Climbing walls and gear shops?

The following venues may help should the weather turn sour or you find yourself needing to stock up on chalk and gear:

Travel Tips
  • Be Prepared to travel far to these climbing venues and take enough water and food.
  • Expect very different styles of climbing in each venue.
  • Be prepared for crazy drivers that hate camper-vans (if you are in one.)
  • Eat loads of Sub-ways as there is a Sub-way shop in pretty much every settlement, and they are good value.
  • Keep stocking up on chalk!
  • Don't drink the cider in New Zealand!
  • Do not buy any 'sweets' in Hong Kong as they taste like death
  • Check you have locked the outdoor side compartments on the campervan! as my older brothers suitcase fell out!
  • Some useful links

    • Free Climb is a very very useful website that gives you free printable coloured topos for venues and also loads of other info
    • This is my older brothers UKC Gallery, all the photos on this article were taken by him.

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