Castle Hill: Not Just for Climbers
Find out why the beauty and grandeur of New Zealand’s rugged landscape also makes it the perfect place for rock climbing, or bouldering.
My boyfriend’s a dedicated climber (boulderer, really) and I’m a sporadic one, so when we travelled to New Zealand last winter, we made sure to include world-class bouldering area Castle Hill on our must-do list.
Castle Hill is on the South Island, about 100 kilometres west of Christchurch. (Yes, we were visiting in the midst of the city’s earthquake troubles – but that’s a story for another day.) And it’s not just for climbers. You can drop by for an easy hike around the gorgeous and surreal landscape even if you only want to look at the limestone boulders scattered across the earth — and be amazed at New Zealand’s excellent public toilet system even in the midst of a tramping trail.
Bouldering, unlike route climbing, requires little gear, as it’s not considered dangerous because you’re not climbing very high (in theory). You just need climbing shoes, a crash pad or two to land on and a guidebook or local guide to help you find the established “problems” or routes other climbers have mapped out and graded on specific boulders.
On our visit we actually met some of the locals who were working on an update to their original guide to the area, and they were kind enough to share some of their recommendations on the most fun and easy problems for me to work on.
As for the crash pads, rather than lugging our own overseas (hello, oversize luggage fees), we rented from the motel that we stayed at, a place called Smylie’s in nearby Springfield that obviously sees a lot of climbers.
An important thing you should know about Springfield is that it completely shuts down at 7 p.m. In other words, there’s nothing to eat if you’re too late. But Smylie’s co-owner, Keiko, makes an amazing full Japanese breakfast that will make up for it (on request only).
For serious climbers, autumn and spring are the recommended times to visit Castle Hill as the texture of the rock is best when it’s not too hot or too cold. But we enjoyed the warm temperatures and long daylight hours of late December and managed to complete a decent number of problems, especially considering that we only had a couple of days. I’ll definitely be back to Castle Hill to improve my bouldering skills and enjoy the relaxing vibe of the region.
DOWN UNDER! EXOTIC TRAVEL TALES FROM NEW ZEALAND AND AUSTRALIA FILLED WITH WONDER AND ADVENTURE ARE ONLY A CLICK AWAY!