Cragging on the North Island, NZ

A few days in October-November 2007 / several, sport & trad, up to AU 22.

There are several small climbing areas on the North island. Shown here is a selection of some of the better ones, each worth about 1 to 2 days of climbing.

Froggatt Edge: an idyllic little sport climbing crag on small Ignimbrite walls and spires in the middle of amazingly green pastures. Click here for a pdf version of the guidebook.

Really nice place. The climbing is good, and well bolted, though it is of the steep pocket pulling variety, not exactly our cup of tea… especially after not climbing for over 6 weeks, and while suffering from the flu. Anyway, we manage to pull our way up 5 routes on the "main wall". We don't have a guidebook at the time, so we just go up whatever looks good and/or doable. We find out later that we climbed Al Fresco (14), Roadweary (18), Bonne Anne (16), Safe Playing (19),and Thunder Blaster (17). We feel quite pumped at the end. Although there are other walls, the Main Wall is the tallest and best looking, we think.

The next day, we take a look at another crag in the area: Bayley's. Not impressed. We stop by Bryce's climbing shop, then go back to Froggatt for a couple more routes. This time, we climb "White Christmas" (16, nice technical corner, though very short), "Terror Incognito" (18, long and sustained pocket pulling), and "Powder Queen" (18, stem up the corner then face climb up).

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The Main Wall offers the best climbing at Froggatt edge.
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Steep and well bolted pocket climbing on solid Ignimbrite...
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...in a very pastoral setting.
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Eric on "Terror Incognito", a classic arete.
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"Bayleys", another small crag in the area, but not as good as Froggatt.

Waipapa is another recently developed Ignimbrite area with more trad climbing, about 30 minutes south of Wharepapa South. It came highly recommended by Bryce. Click here for a pdf version of the guidebook (Bryce also sells paper copies for $8NZD).

After our second day climbing at Froggatt, we drive to Waipapa and settle on a dirt road near the dam for the night. We start on the Main Cliff with "Millenium Madness" (trad, 18). Great climb, sweet corner and finger crack. The rating feels fair (about 5.9+). Then up the easiest bolted line next to it ("Ring Them Bells", 17). Nice climb; technical and balancy. We then climb the mega-classic "The Arches" (18), a great bolted corner that ends with a rightward traverse. Lots of bolts. The rating seems a bit soft on this one.

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Cleaning up a bit at the start of...
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..."Millenium Madness" (18).
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A sweet corner and finger crack.
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Rapping down.
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The classic corner of "The Arches" (18).

We then move our packs to the Wall of Fate where we climb: "Finger of Fate" (trad, 17) in 2 pitches. The first pitch follows a handcrack that widens to an offwidth. The second pitch climbs the chimney behind the pillar (at least that's what we do - the topo says that the climb is protected with bolts but we can't find any in the chimney, the only bolts we see are on the arete…). Pretty tough for the grade we think, old school 5.9? We then climb "Quarry Climbing" (trad, 19). Good climb up a steep dihedral. It feels sandbagged for the grade with a very inobvious stem move to onsight. We finish the day on "Billy Gold" (trad, 17), a goof fistcrack with scarce pro just above the ground. We then hike to the Crack Wall to check out the climbing there. One or two good lines, but most of the cracks are really dirty (cob webs and moss!!). We call it a day and hike back to the van.

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The chimey of "Finger of Fate" (17).
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Good views of te Waikato River from the cliff.
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Eric on "Billy Gold" (17).
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One of many dirty cracks on the Crack Wall.
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Back at the camper near the dam.

Kinloch: Very small crag by Lake Taupo. Worth a lazy afternoon.

The next day, by late morning, we leave for Kinloch, where good climbing is reputedly to be found, both at Kinloch itself, and also an hour and a half's walk away at Kawakawa bay. We get to Kinloch early afternoon and climb a few routes at the "K1" wall (click here for a pdf mini-guide). Nothing too impressive, but decent rock and a 1 minute approach make it worth a quick stop. We spend an hour at the beach afterwards. The water is too cold to swim though. We find a nice spot right by the lake and the marina for the night. Kinloch is a fancy place, full of expensive weekend houses (it's like a ghost town today, in mid week), but surprizingly lacks any obvious restrictions on overnight camping… a great spot to dirt bag!

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Camping in Kinloch, right by Lake Taupo.
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Kinloch is a tiny crag with a 1-minute approach.
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Climbing at K1 Wall.
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Lounging on the beach after climbing.
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Views of Tongariro National Park across the lake.

Kawakawa Bay: a good trad crag with a longer approach on the shore of Lake Taupo. Probably worthy of a couple of days of climbing.

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The approach to Kawakawa Bay is on a good trail and takes about 1.5 hour.
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Views of the Bluffs (one of the crags) from the approach.
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The Crack Wall, home of some of the best crack climbing we found in NZ.
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Eric on "Outboard Crack" (17).
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Lucie leading "The Gecko Groove" (16).

The next day, we go climbing at Kawakawa Bay (click here for a mini-guide). We don't get up that early (our lakeside camp is too nice to leave…), and end up starting the hike around 10AM. It's quite a walk there, with lots of ups and downs. It probably takes us about 1 ˝ hr. We first climb several routes at the Crack Wall: "Outboard Crack" (17), "The Slot Machine" (17), "The Gecko Groove" (16), "Flake 7" (18), and "Rohan's Little Sister" (16). Very good climbing for the most part. Too bad there aren't more routes.

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Eric leading "The Flake" (18).
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Higher on "The Flake".
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"The Point", right above Lake Taupo.
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Getting there is half the adventure.
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"Hecklers" (19), one of the best (longer) trad route at Kawakawa Bay.

We take a look at the Bluff but aren't that inspired. Instead, we go check out "The Point". It's an exposed wall, right above the lake. Getting there is half the adventure! Exposed, narrow ledges with fixed ropes (fortunately) for several hundred feet, high above the water. A bit spooky. We have little time left, so we decide to climb the next to last line there: "Hecklers" (19, 45m), which is reputed to be about the best crack climb of that grade in the North Island and the best trad route at Kawakawa Bay. It's good and long and sustained, but maybe not THAT classic. Two raps back to the ledge, then reverse the Via Ferrata back to the trail, just in time for the sun to set. We start the long walk back at sunset and run out of light soon after (it gets really dark in the bush). We pull out the headlamps, only to find one of them dead… Lucie wears the working one and hikes in front. It works out OK. It's a long walk back. We get back to the camper 9:30PM. That's the longest day out we've had in a while (since our summer in the Cascades actually) and we are both pretty wiped. A great day out!.

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Views of Lake Taupo.
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Rapping down.
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Reversing the Via Ferrata approach.
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Sunset on Kawakawa Bay.
 

Whanganui Bay: good climbing on solid ignimbrite on the shore of Lake Taupo. Guidebooks can be purchased at Bryce's store. More info can be found on Mojozone.

Whaganui bay is on land owned by Maoris. An access fee of $10NZD per person must be paid for camping and climbing. We were really put off by that at first but the local Maoris are very friendly and really welcomed us on their land. They live very simply and climbers' fees help them support their way of life.

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Camping on the beach at Whanganui Bay.
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Wekenui, the main cliffs at Whanganui Bay, just past the Maori village.
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Approaching along the beach.
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Eric on "James Sterling Direct" (17), a fun handcrack.
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The first pitch of "Champagne" (19) follows a clean corner to a tree.

The road leading to the lake shore is very steep and can be pretty rough. It was fine when we visited the area but at times, it may require a 4WD. The best trad climbing is at Whekenui (the main cliffs at Whanganui), probably one or two days worth. If you're keen on sport climbing, you probably can be entertained for a bit longer.

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Can't get much more scenic than this.
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On pitch 2 of "Champagne" (19).
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Rapping down.
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"Eternity Road" (22), a great finger crack.
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The aptly "Tibia" chimney (18)... a skull and bones will be seen half way up...

Since it rained steadily the night before, we don't start too early to give the rock a chance to dry. We leave the camper at 10AM, stop by the last house along the beach to pay our dues, and make the short hike to the base of Wekenui. There, we climb several lines: "James Sterling Direct" (17), a nice handcrack up a left facing corner, "Wet Dreams" (19), a very short fingercrack, "Champagne" (19, 2p), another clean corner, the striking, classic fingercrack of "Eternity Road" (22), and "Sayonara" (17). We finish the day on "Tibia" (16), a two-pitch classic chimney, aptly named for the skull and tibia bones which are still sitting in there.

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Eric starting the chimney...
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...and making...
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...his way up.
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Looking back at the Maori village from the top of "Tibia".
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Colorful sunset as we drive back up the road.

We leave that night since it is supposed to rain again the next day and we don't want to take a chance with the rough road, which can become very treacherous in wet weather.

No guidebook is available on-line (to our knowledge). Whanganui Rock by Len Gillman is the comprehensive guidebook to the area (we got ours at Bryce's).