My First Crags in New Zealand

After much brooding and handwringing I finally made it happen, I found my way to New Zealand. Though long, the flight was pleasant especially landing in the city of Christ Church on such a gorgeous blue bird day. I met up with my buddy who had been working out of Queenstown as part of a working holiday. It had been two years since I had seen Christian but I could sense that the Honda Odyssey with two surfboards on the roof was his, or the sense was brought on by the delirium of the ridiculously intense sunlight of NZ because of the hole in the ozone layer (bring sun screen folks!).

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              Christian getting the wing up in Christchurch

After exchanging pleasantries and an introduction to his girlfriend Marie we headed first to a rugby game (I had no idea what was going on the whole game). After finishing a few errands about town we headed up to Mt Somers to do some climbing and stay in a back country hut. One of the many beauties of New Zealand is its backcountry hut system. Gone are the days of fumbling with a tent in the backcountry with the plentiful amount of huts spread across the country. In order to incentivize hunting to reduce invasive specie populations like deer and Tahr the NZ department of conservation has built backcountry huts that await hunters, hikers & climbers with beds, fireplaces and the usual deck of cards for a game of shit head. All for a nominal fee or flash of a 6-12 month hut pass.

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Mt Somers is home to a hut located next to the Pinnicals climbing area. After a 4 hours hike to the hut lugging all our gear and food we arrived sweaty but rewarded with stellar views of waterfalls and Jurrasic park esc foliage. Armed with a bit of beta from Climb NZ (MTN Project for NZ) we took a stab at the crag just 10 minutes away. We happened on the 3 pitch Rocky Road (5.10c).

Depending on the site you trust pitch 2 can be rappelled with a 70m rope where as mtn project says it needs two ropes to wrap down if you need to bail. We trusted the Climb NZ beta but it felt awfully high at the top of pitch two and I am glad we made it up the whole climb so we did not have to solve the mystery of how long of a rope was actually needed to bail. The climb it self was great! Super balancy and run out making each venture to the next bolt a moment of intense focus as a fall would lead to a considerable ride for an intermediate sport climber. The grippy plentiful feet go all the way to the top where we were greeted with a horrible old bolt belay for pitch 2 and rusty rap chains atop pitch 3 that utilized a piece of metal that I had seen to hold together a childs swing set. Sufficient to say I was not excited about the wrap off the back on the sketchy chain but it all worked well enough. The next day we spent doing a few of the shorter routes which were fun but not exceptional. More than anything the location and the trad climbing is the star of this crag, with an additional sense of adventure coming from the hut experience.

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View of Mt Cook on the way to Dunedin

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Weather rolled in so we decided to continue our journey south towards the beautiful city of Dunedin. Dunedin is probably the coziest of the “big” cities on the south island. A university town located right on the water gives the town a sense of quaintness while still maintaining a busy downtown area. Just outside of Dunedin is a little crag called Long Beach. While not a paradise in numbers it surly is paradise in terms of pleasantness. Short basalt cliffs line the mostly empty beach that will lead to a good pump and some inspiring one move wonder climbs. The style and frequency of climbs feels a lot like Black Rocks in St. George, Utah. After climbing a few pitches we took a break and wandered over to the penguin cave next door to spy a couple of the cute critters hiding out in a hole beside the cave. And just like that the day was over. Walking the beautiful beach back to the car during sunset is a joy seldom experienced in my climbing career and was so good we went back the next day for more climbing action.

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Long Beach Climbing

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While both of these crags were a good deal of fun they are both small crags. In future posts ill talk about some of the bigger locations like Wanaka, Castle Hill, and Milford. Till then enjoy a few photos!

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Hut life in South Temple

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