Rock Climbing

Code of Conduct

Club Code of Conduct for Rockclimbers

In recent years the NZAC has put considerable effort into the development of rockclimbing in New Zealand, largely through the efforts of the Rockclimbing Committee. Areas of activity have included:

Providing high quality courses to teach safe rockclimbing techniques and skills. Occasionally running specialist courses in advanced climbing, route-setting and competition judging. Maintaining access to crags through developing relationships with landowners and managers. Monitoring and where appropriate upgrading safety equipment at crags. Publishing guidebooks for major areas and crags. Providing training facilities through funding indoor climbing walls in the main centres. Organising a national series of bouldering and sportclimbing competitions throughout NZ.

International Sportclimbing

The NZAC also assists NZ climbers wishing to participate in the Oceania and World Cup sportclimbing competitions. Typically this has been through providing the required licensing, because of NZAC affiliation to the UIAA. Financial support for New Zealand climbers participating at overseas events may also be possible. Through specialist courses, the NZAC can train judges, route setters and competition officials.

A large number of New Zealand sport-climbs have bolts on them without hangers. This problem can be overcome by sliding the nut down the stem of its wire and placing it over the bolthead, before sliding the nut back into place, thus securing the nuts wire to the bolt. This is a very common technique here. The technique of using 'loose hangers' is a very uncertain one in NZ because of varying bolt head diameters.


Rockclimbing first gained significant popularity in New Zealand in the late 70s. New Zealand uses the open ended Ewbank (Australian) grading system. This is an open ended system based on technical difficulty with grades ranging from 9 (easy) to 31 (extremely difficult). NZ Grade 20 is roughly the equivalent to YDS 5.10b/c or UK 5c.

Rock Types

  • Granite: The Darran region is the best known area for this rock. Charleston's rock is Gneiss, a subset of the Granite family.
  • Greywacke (New Zealand sandstone): This is the major rock type in New Zealand. This rock is very tough, but usually extremely fractured. This makes it very good for building roads, but not so good for climbing on. The mountain regions are principally of this type of rock. The red shades ofgreywacke often give better climbing conditions.
  • Ignimbrite: A volcanic rock generally found in the central North Island. This rock has numerous pockets which often give 'thank god' holds. The frequency of the pockets varies from crag to crag, or even from area to area. Ignimbrite has various hardness, sometimes varying over the course of a climb. Check any protection placements very carefully. Best Crags are Whanganui Bay or Wharepapa South.
  • Limestone (calcite):New Zealand's limestone is generally very young making the rock soft. Paynes Ford is the noticeable exception to this rule. The soft rock gives a very different nature to the climbing, but these routes are often very well protected with stout bolts. Nuts and friends should be avoided on this type of limestone. The Castle Hill Basin is the most popular softer limestone crag.
  • Schist: Metamorphic rock mainly found around central Otago and characterized by strong foliation. The variety in appearance and composition is considerable, but are easy to recognise, from the profustion of black and white micas and schistose characteristics. They can be friable to very compact, offering a variety of climbing experiences.
  • Volcanic - Others: These have a whole range of possibilities, ranging from the thinly cracked Mt Eden Quarry to the more pocketed Castle Rock. The rock is generally very solid.

Rock Climbing Areas

See ClimbNZ - Our national route database, for further information.

 by Guillaume ChartonEstelle Poiron on
Dream Thing (21) Wye Creek:
by Guillaume Charton
Some of the most popular rockclimbing areas in New Zealand are described below. Access to many of these crags depends on the goodwill of the landowner. It is vital that all courtesies are observed if continued access is to be ensured.

Flock Hill: There is now an updated safety notice that must be completed for access to Flock Hill (from May 2008) - Safety Notice (Word, 57KB) - Safey Notice (PDF, 52KB)

Note: A few of the books linked below are out of print. Most will be replaced by new editions in the near future. Some areas are being covered in a series of pdf downloads currently being developed and uploaded here: Downloads PDF. Copies of out of print guides may be found in the NZAC National Reference Library, or may be obtainable from other libraries around the country.

  • Mt Eden Quarry, Auckland: This very accessible basalt crag offers predominantly difficult routes (23+). Guide: Northern Rock
  • Wharepapa South, South Waikato: There are a number of ignimbrite crags in this region, situated on farmland. Climbing in all grades, mostly bolt-protected face /pocket routes.
  • Piarere East of Cambridge, Waikato: An older ignimbrite crag, which has lost out in popularity to Wharepapa. This extensive cliff offerscrack climbing up to grade 22, is very accessible and is located near tea rooms. It faces north and is a good winter choice.
  • Whanganui Bay, Western Bays of Lake Taupo: This ignimbrite crag is the North Island s premier crag. It is on private (Maori) land and there have been access problems in the past. A full range of short, steep climbs (12 - 29) using both pockets and cracks. Guide: Whanganui Rock
  • For more info on climbing in the wider Taupo region, see or the Taupo Climbing Club website
  • Mt Taranaki: A number of columnar andesite crags, up to 80m. Principally moderate (16-20) crack and corner climbing. The crags are located above the bush line and are generally climbed from Tahurangi Lodge. A summer crag - snowed over in winter. Guide: Taranaki Mt Egmont a climber's guide
  • Baring Head, Past Wainuiomata, at the entrance to Wellington Harbour: A popular bouldering spot.
  • Paynes Ford: An overhanging limestone crag near Takaka. Currently very popular, with a large number of difficult, high quality one pitch bolted routes (16 - 29). Probably the best concentration of sport climbing routes in NZ. Guide: Golden Bay Climbs
  • Charleston, a 40m gneiss seacliff on the West Coast, south of Westport: The climbs are traditionally protected and relatively easy (12-21). Guide: South Island Rock
  • Jollies Rocks, Hanmer: A guide to cragging at Jollies Rocks, Hanmer. (updated PDF to be added)
  • Castle Hill, near Arthur's Pass, Canterbury: A large area of limestone boulders up to 20m. This area is very popular with Christchurch climbers, as the weather is often good, the setting attractive and the climbing (16 - 31) technically interesting. Most routes are bolt protected slab or pocket climbing. Guide: Castle Hill Climbing Guide
  • Port Hills, Christchurch: The hills above Lyttelton contain a number of volcanic crags with climbs of all levels of difficulty, with natural and bolt protection.  Guide: Port Hills Climbing
  • Hanging Rock, near Fairlie, South Canterbury: Recently developed limestone crags which offer an excellent escape from Mt Cook in bad weather. Mostly bolt protected face /pocket routes (19-29). In the same area, Mount Horrible and Spur Rd, two basalt crags nearTimaru offer some excellent short crack climbs (16-23).  Please note that the landowner at Spur Road has specifically requested that there be no smoking at the crag, due to fire risk. Guide: South Island Rock
  • Cloudy Peak, up the Rangitata River, near Erewhon Station, South Canterbury: Not a crag, but a rock mountain peak which has a number of good but serious climbs on greywacke. This peak has better weather than most alpine peaks because it is located off the Main Divide. Requires a half day walk to get to its base. Guide: South Island Rock
  • Duntroon, North Otago, west of Oamaru: Soft limestone with short overhanging routes and bouldering. Elephant Rocks and Island Valley are the most popular areas south-east of Duntroon. Guide: Rock Deluxe
  • Queenstown: With more than 500 routes, from single pitch to 200m long multipitch, Queenstown has a lot on offer for climbers of all levels. There you can either climb on slab, face, or even roofs with always a view over the Wakatipu Basin. The main crag being Wye Creek, but there are still a dozen of other worthy smaller crags for sport and traditional climbers. Guide: Queenstown Rock, Ice and Mixed
  • Wanaka: The schist crags in the Matukituki valley have been tirelessly developed by local climbers over the past 20 years and now offer the largest concentration of sport climbing in the South Island. Principally face climbing, there are more than 700 routes at grades spanning 8 to 30 with a good range at 15–27. The Wanaka Rock Climbing Club does an excellent job of crag maintenance and funds new route development through sales of its guidebook. Guide: Wanaka Rock
  • Long Beach, beach to the north of Dunedin: Has a number of excellent basaltic climbs (16-24), both bolt and naturally protected. Guide: Dunedin Rock
  • Darrans, near Milford Sound, Fiordland: Although a mountain region, the diorite of the Darran mountains offers the best multipitch rockclimbing routes in NZ. Routes tend to be technically difficult, both crack /corner and face /slab climbing. Generally more serious than other rockclimbing areas in NZ with the possible exception of Cloudy Peak. Guide: The Darrans Guide