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New Zealand - Castle Hill

new zealand

new zealand bouldering 31 dec 08 - 06 feb 09

Castle Hill, Spittle Hill, Elephant Rock, Long Beach,....





Location: Castle Hill Basin is an alpine area surrounded by mountains. An open and desolate looking place with prominent limestone outcrops, which seem to be the rest of an enchanted city. There are two main areas: the “Homestead”, including Spittle Hill, Quantum Field, Dark Castle, Wuthering Heights; and Flock Hill, which includes Cave Stream, Dry Vally and Flock Hill itself.

The surface of the boulders is blank. There are many slabs, vertical walls and slight overhangs (no big roofs). The holds range from very small crimps to pockets of various sizes and, of course, plenty of slopers. And most of the problems top-out with a hideous mantle. The bouldering can be considered technical but in most of the cases it is very powerful. You will find many jump-starts, dynos, slopers. You should train your mantle muscles.

Grades range from V0 to V10. The difficulty is strongly dependent on the rock's friction; therefore temperature plays a big role in difficulty and valuations can vary up to one grade depending on the actual conditions.

Setting and view:

castle hill - setting


Rock: limestone

Jump-down area: The landings are generally flat and grassy, but a crashpad is recommended because most of the problems are very high.

Children: Beware of the high “cliffs” at Quantumfield!

Access: Castle Hill Basin is 100 km west from Christchurch (about a 1 hour drive), and 250 km east from Greymouth, via Arthur’s pass.

From Christchurch follow the SH 73 towards Arthur's Pass, via Darfield, Sheffield and Springfield (60-70km). From Porter’s pass continue for another 5-10 km and on the left the first rock areas will appear: Spittle Hill and Quantum Field. Park at the carpark near the pines. Another 5 km down the road, via Castle Hill village, you will find Cave Stream carpark. From here you can access Flock Hill and Dry Valley.

From the westcoast: From Kumara Junction drive inland following SH73. From Arthur’s Pass it is 45 km to Flock Hill, and another 5 km to Castle Hill carpark.

Accommodation: Camping is not allowed in any of the fields!

Craigieburn Shelter is 10 km past Cave Stream (direction Arthur’s Pass). It is free to use and it has clear streamwater and a toilet. There is a camping area, but it is not recommended to leave your gear there while you are around. The area is a starting point of tramps and bike trails, so a lot of people frequent the carpark. No fires allowed!

At Castle Hill village there is a backpackers, 15$ per night. It is operated by the land manager: Tel. 03 3188466.

Flock Hill Lodge is 15 km past Cave Stream (direction Arthur’s Pass). Campgrounds are available for 12 $ per person. Alternatively you can stay in rustic shears’ quarters. There are also two-bedroom motel units or large cottages with kitchenette.

Tel. 03 318 8196; http://www.flockhill.co.nz

In Springfield, 25 km from Castle Hill (direction Christchurch), there are hotels and a backpackers. We heard that it would be possible to stay over night at the Springfield domain, and that you could have a shower for 50 cent!

Additional info: In the summer it can be very hot! So do not forget to bring enough water with you. There are no trees and at noon it is difficult to find shelter.

Despite the isolation, there are many tourists trampling around, especially at Quantum Field. No chance to experience some solitary wilderness. The Flock Hill area is not frequented that much.

No access to Flock Hill during lambing season from November to December.

There are over 200 routes in the basin!

Weather conditions can change very quickly from sunny and very hot, to rain or even snowfall and low temperatures - even in the summer! Remember to pack warm clothes.

You can find public toilets at both carparks and at Craigieburn Shelter. The best is the one at Cave Stream carpark!

Springfield has a pub, a café, dairy, a backpackers and a very dirty public toilet. There is also a small (and quite expensive) outdoorshop in town. You should buy your climbing gear at Christchurch.

Place of interest: Cave Stream Scenic Reserve - a 594 m long cave with a small waterfall at one end. If doing the 20-40 min walk through the pitch-black cave make all necessary preparations: minimum of 2 torches per person, neoprene or waterproofs and wooly and warm cloths. Especially after rainy days, the water level can reach waist-height.

Arthur’s Pass: A good base for tramps, climbing and winter-time skiing.



Homepage with gallery, information about the area, and some lists with boulders and grades. Unfortunately, nobody answered my email requests...


“Rock Deluxe” by Kate Sinclair, Ivan Vostinar on NZAC Publicaton 2004 (Spittle Hill & Quantumfield only!)

“The Comprehensive Castle Hill Climbing Guide” by Matt Pierson & Alan Davison on NZAC Publicaton 2008 (Quantum Field, Spittle Hill, Rambandit Gully, Cave Stream, Flock Hill, Dry Valley, Wuthering Heights, Dark Castle, Prebble Hill, Five Valley Area, Gorge Hill, Back of Flock)

Local contact:

DOC Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre; Tel. 03 318 9211; http://www.apinfo.co.nz

Springfield Information Centre; 3 318 4000; http://www.springfieldinformation.co.nz/



Location: Wind, rain and rivers sculptured these 2-8 m high limestone boulders. They seem to be mutant monsters sleeping on this flat sheep paddock. Elephant Rock is smaller than the Castle Hill area, but there are also ca. 230 boulder problems. Most of them are V0 to V6, some V7 and only one V8 (yet). There are technical and smeary problems, commonly with a smeary mantel at the top, but many more pockets than at Spittle Hill. If you have your climbing gear with you bring your rope, there are also some top-rope routes.

Hulk Hogan is a roadside overhanging scarp with crimps and huge limestone jugs, which create crazy dynos and dynamic moves. 120 problems from V0 to V8 (two). The boulders are not usually topped-out.

Setting and view:

elephant rock setting


Rock: 25 million year old limestone

Jump-down area: Landings are good but a crashpad helps, mainly at the higher problems (I wished we had two!)

Hulk Hogan: be sure to bring your pad and good spotters, sometimes the landing area is on the street!

Children: It is a bizarre otherworld landscape to be discovered with a lot of space for running and playing. Hulk Hogan is also a good spot to go with children; there is not that much traffic.

Access: From Duntroon cross the bridge and take the first right to Danseys Pass. Follow the signs to Elephant Rock (6 km, second at left). Hulk Hogan is 3 km further down the road on the left. You can reach Duntroon from the NW via Omarama on the SH 83 (Waitaki Valley) and from the SE via Pukeuri (10 km north Omaru) onto SH 83.

Accommodation: There is “camping” at the Duntroop Domain (football ground) with a few (3-4?) powered campsites. It costs $15 a night and has showers, kitchen, cooking facilities and a common room (it’s the club house). For booking, paying and further info go to Duntroon Tavern, but be sure to be there before 8 pm. (check it before bouldering!)

Duntroon Hotel & Tavern is directly on the SH83, hard to miss.

Place of interest: Danseys Pass, Maori rock paintings, Vanished World Centre (very small Archeological Museum) in Duntroon, the blacksmith shop and the “The Flying Pig Café”.

Additional infos: Elephant Rock is private farmland – respect the owner’s rights.

Hulk Hogan was the site of New Zealand’s first international sport climbing competition in the late 80s.

Closest public toilet is at Duntroon!

A lot of boulders lie five minutes southern Duntroon, on the SH83 at the base of a rightside limestone cliff. This area seems not yet developed. Ask locals if access is permitted!

Guide: “Rock Deluxe” by Kate Sinclair, Ivan Vostinar on NZAC Publicaton 2004

Local contact:

Duntroon Tavern Tel: 03-431 2850

Omaru i-Site 03-434 1656 www.visitomaru.co.nz


Dunedin – Long Beach

Location: The area is based on the northern end of a beautiful white sandy beach. There is a long undercut basalt outcrop, split into three roof and arch sections. There are some pure lines from V0 to V8, traverses, highballs, projects in the roof and cave lips and a lot of variations, only limited by your imagination. The caves are not very high and filled with sand, so the landings are very soft. It feels a little bit like an open-air training hall.

Setting and view:

longbeach setting


Rock: columnar basalt

Jump-down area: The landings are nice and soft. A crashpad for the higher problems will be helpful.

Children: Just great! Riskless bouldering, building sandcastles and plashing in the water. Beware: swimming in the Pacific Ocean is not like in the Mediterranean Sea. Dangerous currents!

Access: From Dunedin follow the road (SH88) around the northern side of the harbour to Port Chalmers (12km). Just after the 50km speed limit sign follow the signs to Purakanui/Long Beach. Turn left into Borlasses Rd and after 200m, turn right into Blueskin Rd. Weave along the hill for about 5km, turn right into Purakanui Rd, and drive about other 5 km before turning right towards Long Beach. Once you are at beach level you can see the carpark, or you turn left and park at the northern end of the area. Follow the sandy track to the beach.

15 minutes down the beach, north of the rock formation (The Pinnacle) reaching the sea, at your left behind the dunes there is a long undercut basalt outcrop, split into three roof and arch sections. Use the tracks, save the dunes!

Accommodation: There are a lot of hotels, backpackers and campsites around the city.

There is also the possibility to stay with your campervan overnight in the carparks on both sides of the public domain (read conditions on the sign). You can find a public toilet in the middle of the domain. Both the toilet and carpark are frequented by local youths at nighttime. I cannot remember if camping is forbidden or not.

Places of interest: Dunedin (Museums - some are for free, ask iSITE; theatre, gallery, etc.)

Otago Peninsula - penguins, sea lions, sea birds, dolphins …

Additional info: Do not forget to carry a roadmap (for free at the iSite and at campsites); there are a lot of small and mazy roads. Ask locals if you meet one.

Some of the boulders start deep in the caves. So do not forget to bring your torch (headlamp), no joke!!

Inside the caves it is possible to boulder also on rainy days.

There are several climbing spots: Long Beach, Mihiwaka, and Lovers Leap. Check the guide.

Guide: “Rock Deluxe” by Kate Sinclair, Ivan Vostinar on NZAC Publicaton 2004

“Dunedin Rock” by Dave Brash on NZAC Publicaton 2000 – you can pick it up at the iSITE or at Bivouac (outdoor equipment; 171 George St., Tel 03 477 3679).

Local contact:

iSITE Tel. 03 474 7474 http://www.cityofdunedine.com, 48 The Octagon


Some more areas…

Paynes Ford

Here is mainly known for its climbing areas. The routes are on limestone (some say similar to frankenjura) imbedded in native bush. The boulders are directly next to the river, so you can climb, boulder or swim. The facilities are great, flushing toilet with paper, refrigerator, showers, cooking area, shelter from the rain and the most amazing swimming hole across the road in the river. During the summer months the camping is very crowded!

Rock: limestone

Access: From Nelson via Richmond and Motueka (110 km) to Paynes Ford. Hangdog Camp is 100 m after the Paynes Ford Bridge, on the right side.

Accommodation: Hang Dog campside, 10 min from the first area.

Web: http://www.homepages.paradise.net.nz/hangdog.camp/master.html


Queenstown – Jardines Garden

The Jardines bouldering area is located on the Jardines farm (20min outside Queenstown) nestled below the soaring Remarkable mountains. The rock is schist and the climbing style is crimpy and steep. Jardines is also a scenic bouldering destination.

Jardines is not a public area and permission has to be gained from the land owner.

Rock: schist

Access: From Frankton follow directions to State Highway 6 and the Remarkables Skifield. Jardines is a 5min drive past the skifield turn off. There is a sign-posted gate (you can drive in) on your left and the boulders are visible in the paddock beneath the Remarkables.

Climbing Areas: Wye Creek, Queenstown Hill, Gorge Road, Coronet Crag, Arawata Terrace, Chinamans Bluff (via Glenorchy to Dart Valley)


Wanaka – Lakeside Boulder

One boulder on the lake front with some easier problems. “Rock Deluxe” proposes 9 problems but there are numerous variations.

Rock: schist

Access: From the lake front follow Beacon Point Rd to the yacht club until it turns to gravel. The boulder is on the beach where the road meets the lake.

Guide: “Rock Deluxe” by Kate Sinclair, Ivan Vostinar on NZAC Publication 2004

Climbing Areas: The Tombstone, The Engine Block, Main Cliff, Sunnyside, Riverside, The Alcove, Roadside Attraction – “Wanaka Rock” Patricia Deavoll is available from outdoor stores in Wanaka.


Invercargill - Colac Bay

Rock: green granite

Access: Drive on the highway from Riverton to Tratapere. Just before the Volac Bay Township turn left into Thikaka Beach Rd. Follow the gravel raod to the eastern end of the beach. Walk east along the beach (cross the first rocky headland) and after about 150m you will find the first area.

Accommodation: Colac Bay Tavern. Tent sites are 9$ per night; cabins are 22$ per person. 15 Colac Bay Road Colac Bay, RD1 Riverton

Additional info:

Pad for high problems (marbled beach)

Beach access and some areas flooded during high tide!

Some top-rope boulders

See also “Rock Deluxe”

Guide: “Rock Deluxe” by Kate Sinclair, Ivan Vostinar on NZAC Publicaton 2004

Web: http://www.dustezbakpakas.co.nz/index.php/Content/ColacBayTavern


Wellington - Baring Head

Baring head is located on Wellington's wild south coast between Pencarrow and Turakirai Heads and is the home of the famous "Baring Head Rock Hop". The rock is greywacke and the climbing style is steep and staunch!

Rock: greywacke

Access: Find your way over the Wainuiomata Hill Road and then follow the directions to Rimutuka Forest Park. Keep driving south past the park until you hit the coast. Park by the fence and follow the crowds west along the beach, crossing the river, before reaching the "head".


Wharepapa South

Several climbing and boulder areas. One is Froggatt Edge, with volcanic rock with lots of sharp pockets.

Access: North Island/Waikato region; give a look on the map

Accommodation: At Bryce’s: One or two people 58$ a night; Three to six people 58$ for the first two people and then 23$ per additional person/night; Bunkroom 23$ per person per night.

Local contact: Bryce’s Rockclimbing 07 872 2533;

Web: http://www.rockclimb.co.nz, outdoor-climbing shop (indoor bouldering cave, café).


Waitomo - The Airstrip

The Airstrip is located on the Stubbs farm just beyond Waitomo Caves and is the North Island's newest bouldering destination. The rock is limestone and has a similar style to that of Paynes Ford. Remember to bring a small piece of carpet as the ground is often wet in the morning and there are always a few surprises left by the local sheep and cows. The Airstrip is not a public area and you need permission from the land-owner at all times.

Access: Turn off SH3, signposted to Waitomo Caves, 40min south of Hamilton or 10min north of Te Kuiti. The Waitomo caves village is 10min further on.

Drive to Waitomo Village and the famous caves towards Te Anga and the west coast. 10-15min onwards is Hauturu road on the right and 50m past this is the access to the Airstrip. The access is signposted "Awatiro/Stubbs Farm". Close the gate on your way through!

Please park on the south side of the airstrip, on your left as you drive in. This is to avoid any obstruction of work at the woolshed and yards.

from “http://www.ukclimbing.com


Waiheke Island

“Waiheke Island, nestled amongst numerous smaller islands in the Hauraki Gulf, is just a short ferry ride from Auckland. This is bouldering at it is most scenic (well, in the north island anyway). Surrounded by 360 degree panoramic views of the Hauraki Gulf and its islands, north facing for all-day sun, and quality fun bouldering to be done, it all makes for a fantastic place to climb. The boulders are blank and technical and loads of fun, the coarse rock makes impossible looking friction problems quite do-able. Bring along your sticky shoes, sunscreen, or even a good book... you'll feel that you are on a tropical climbing holiday!”

from “http://www.mojozone.co.nz/climbing-location/waiheke


... and now some facts

Flight: Munich – Seoul, Seoul - Auckland with Korean Air (€ 1.200.- per person)

Korean stewardesses are really kind but the entertainment (2 movies for 12 hours) is limited. Be sure to pre-order european or vegetarian meal – you will not be willing to eat the korean standard meal more than once – believe me!

Campervan: Toyota Hiace from Jucy http://www.jucy.co.nz

Do not expect too much, it is not a Volkswagen. We got an old one with 300.000 km, and the interior was quite well used. The floor plan is awkward. No electricity when you’re not at a powered campsite (no charging of your mobile phone etc.).

Accommodation: You will find campsites at many places (“Holiday Campsites” are the most expensive, e.g. 40 NZ$ at Queenstown). Normally, you will pay 12$ to 15$ per person in a campervan for a powered campsite. Facilities are mostly good, but often there is no kitchen gear available. DOC campgrounds are much cheaper (6$ to 8$), but facilities are very basic; sometimes you will have only a flat ground piece and a toilet. Places for “wild camping” are often difficult to find if you do not want to sleep next to the road. Be warned that it can get quite cool at night, even in summer.

If you travel by car there are plenty B&Bs, guesthouses, backpackers and hotels. Some campgrounds offer cabins or bunks.

Additional info: Be sure that your car/camper-van is always fully fueled, and that you have enough food on reserve. It is terrible to break a mission because you forgot to stop at the last filling station.

Main roads are tarred and in very good conditions. Side roads are untarred and can be very small, winding, and damaged. For Kiwis it is a normal thing to drive on gravelroads; so do not wonder if you hear “no problem”, “it’s fine”, “go on”. Drive moderately and sensibly and you will reach your target. But if you read “DOC advice not to go further” just turn off the engine and continue walking!

Weather: The New Zealand summer can be very hot – sometimes. But most of the time it is very windy and it rains a lot, mostly in the southlands.








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