Climber On Rock

How I Climbed … Regular Rowt

By Richard Thomson

It’s not like the route was my idea, exactly. There was a bolt at the top already, a scrappy little thing with a home made hanger that I would guess Chris Morris drilled. So it had definitely been top-roped a bunch of times—including by me. But it was my first new route and it’s on the best wall at Titahi Bay. Some people would say that’s not saying much. 

Climber on choss
Richard Thomson on the first ascent of Regular Rowt (18) at Titahi Bay, 1984, before camera lenses had focus rings.

I went to Auckland at the start of 1984 to learn to be a rock climber at Mt Eden Quarry and save up enough for a one-way ticket to Sydney—destination Mt Arapiles. Simon Vallings gave me the hand drill and 3/8” star bit he’d used at Whanganui Bay, and I had a few days back in Wellington before my flight. 

Hand-drilling bolts in greywacke is painfully slow. Even worse with a blunt drill bit and and bolts meant for bashing into pumice. They were ordinary hardware store machine bolts with the thread filed off to a rough square. I managed two holes over a tedious August afternoon. 

Two holes was enough. Avoiding the need for drilling a third hole by planning to place natural gear in the roof crack just to the right was irresistible. 

I don’t remember much about the climbing. Probably I was pretty focused on not falling off, even though it’s only grade 18. Jon Rosemergy rebolted the line in 1994 as a proper sport climb with five bolts and that certainly isn’t too many. 

I think the nature of the holds has changed quite a bit over the years—though less so more recently. 

In May this year, I got a crash course in modern bolting from Clark Alston and the NZAC Wellington section drill. We added three huge 12mm stainless steel bolts to create a direct start off the beach. It’s a cracking route now. Back in ’80s this would probably have seemed too steep. And like I said, back then two holes was enough. 

Top image: Peter Griffen on an ascent of Regular Rowt in 2011. Photo by Richard Thomson.


'How I Climbed …' is set to be a regular feature here on the NZAC website, where we are attempting to provide content that would once have appeared in The Climber magazine. If you have a story to share about making the first ascent of a climb of any kind, no matter how long ago, be the story long or short, please get in touch by email to: [email protected].