After driving from Christchurch to Wanaka I was getting a little worried that NZ may not actually have any climbing. We’d driven past some chossy hillsides and some excellent looking boulders that were unfortunately created for a miniscule sub species of humans that no longer exist. If they did exist they would be having a great time as we saw a lot of very cool looking 3ft high boulders. Fortunately, just north of Wanaka we found the crags. Impressively, the climbing is almost all concentrated around the hospital flats area which makes it easy to navigate.

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Our terrible camper van at Hospital Flats

The rock quality is massively varied, from utter choss to “I’d probably solo this”. Luckily it’s almost all bolted so there’s little to worry about. Apart from the moment I clipped a double bolt anchor on a chossy bit of rock that appeared to be attached to the main cliff only by mud. The rock is schist and some random we met tried to make a joke along the lines of “you take one letter out and what do you have?”. Well, I guess you’d have schit. Take two letters out and you’d be even closer to the mark.

I’m being too harsh. There is some good rock and there are some good routes which I had fun climbing. It was interesting to be on a rope again. Being in some sort of bouldering shape meant I could get through purely on power and by the time the pump did set in (usually ~7m) I could just make a dash for the chains. Most of the routes in Wanaka are short, some featuring as few as 3 bolts. Amongst the choss there are some genuinely good routes, one of which is Slip Through The Cracks, 27. A technical 7c on smallish dusty holds, leading to a great balancy slab/wall section before lunging for a jug and then the chains.

More amenable and still fun is Pocket Edition, 23. It climbs a short overhanging wall on pockets before rocking round the lip and clipping the chains. Again, this is a short route which will probably make it feel very easy for boulderers. Emily climbed it easily on her first redpoint after getting eggy with me for describing every single hold as a “total jug” when some of them were only “large”.

The most eye catching piece of rock in Hospital Flats is the tombstone, a free standing block that rises up out of the ground like a giant tombstone. On it’s front corner is a great looking arete which disappoints only because it’s too short and slightly too easy!

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Emily getting started on the Tombstone arete, 18

Behind the tombstone lays another (almost) free standing boulder which has a rather cool overhanging face on one side. Engage, 29, takes the only line up the face following a series of slopes, pinches, undercuts, and pockets on swirly schist. With only 3 bolts it’s a true boulderers route, and in true boulderer style I fell one move from the chain when I decided to abandon my planned sequence and aim for what I thought was a jug. It was a jug (albeit sideways) but it put me in such an awkward position that I went from thinking “this is so easy” to a full double leg and arm shake in a matter of seconds. Once I stuck to a more sensible sequence on smaller holds (!) I managed to clip the chains without too much fuss.

Engage 29-1

Engage 29-2

Engage 29-3

The crux sequence of Engage, 29

Whilst the climbing in Wanaka wasn’t amazing, the setting was awesome. NZ is, generally, a spectacular country and so the backdrop to most crags is ridiculous. Lakes, mountains, and everything in between. It’s spectacular and in some ways it elevates the climbing. I had a great time climbing in Wanaka, reminding me that you don’t need world class climbing to have fun.

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[Apologies if the pictures are way too dark or way too light. There's something wrong with my laptop screen and so I'm editing them in the dark - pun intended]