Climber on orange granite above fiord.

A New Route On The Airport Wall

The Airport Wall, so-called as it sits across the river from the airport in Milford Sound, Fiordland, is a spectacular place to rock climb. Mark Twain declared Milford Sound and the views of Mitre Peak as 'the eight wonder of the world' when he visited in 1895 and he didn't have the advantage of seeing it all from up on the Airport Wall. Needless to say, we understand why Daniel Joll and others keep going back to the wall for more. 

Climber abseiling big wall route
Llewellyn Murdoch on the route. Photo: Daniel Joll

The new route is called Adventure Tourism and is 14 pitches at a maximum grade of 27. It starts as per Dream Liner and takes a rising traverse line across the spectacular upper face of the wall. NZ Alpine Team members Daniel Joll and Llewellyn Murdoch established the routeover the early part of this summer and have climbed it free. Check the NZAT website for more information and photos.

The route beta below and photos are all courtesy of the New Zealand Alpine Team.

Start as per Dream Liner. Walk to the far end of the bivvy ledge where you will find a double bolt belay. 

Pitches 1–3 As per Dream Liner, can be done as 22 C1 pulling on the crux bolts (pitch 1 of Dream Liner) otherwise 27, 22, 24. See the Dream Liner Topo for more details.

Pitch 2 (22) Step left and then head straight up past a Rata tree to a hand crack and a cruxy bulge.

Pitch 3 (24) Bolted slab. Short and techy.

Pitch 4 (24) Move left off the belay via 4 bolts, then up and leftwards to join the big corner on trad, 30m.  Possible to bail from here down the Dream Liner rap line, by rapping straight down.

Pitch 5 (24) Funky stem box corner. Go up the corner then leftwards traverse.  A few pumpy moves across a hand rail (not much feet) then drop down a meter or two and continue up and left to the belay passing 3 bolts. 30m. 

Pitch 6 (24) 25m Full trad corner with lots of bridging and jamming (a bit loose but a fun pitch).

Pitch 7 (24) Follow bolts up the bolted slab (staying left of the bolts) then steep and pumpy jamming passing two bolts and gear. At the top of the crack, as it thins, step left to belay at a big stance in the central corner. Save a .3 cam to protect the second just before the belay. (and or clip the first bolt on the direct line as a redirect for the second following the pitch)  At this point the route goes left. There is a direct finish that goes up to the Dream Liner Bivvy out to your right (approx. grade 28/29 as of Dec 2023 this is still an unfinished project, so please stay off that one until we release a topo for it) you might wish to redirect off the right bolt right of the anchor for belaying the second.   

Belay image

Pitch 8 (24) Down climb. Traverse and down climb across the wall to a belay of two offset bolts (on hangers). Take a single set of cams to place between the bolts to help protect your second (if you plan to down lead) otherwise the more sensible option is to have the second top rope down the pitch. The second climber climbs out to the second bolt which has a leaver biner on it.  Then is top roped down the pitch from here. This pitch arrives after the crux of Mile High Club on pitch 17 (22) of Mile High Club. The crack you need to climb is 3-4m to your left. Traverse left off the belay then head up the thin finger crack for a short 15m pitch.

Pitch 9 (18) Step four meters left and head up the thin finger crack ( top of pitch 17 Mile High Club, but you have avoided the 22 crux part of this pitch). 15m.

Pitches 10-14 as per the final pitches of Mile High Club. Grades 25, 18, 20, 23, 26.  See the Mile High Club topo for more details. 

Pitch 10 (25)  Go up past two bolts. Small crimp rail with a big throw to quartz jug. Be careful pulling on the quartz jug as it's flexing and will maybe fall off if you're rough with it! From the big holds, head up via a run out section to a good #3 placement.  From here lead left to a bolt and down to the good ledge with a water bucket on it. 30m.

Pitch 11 (18-20?) Step left around the arête from the belay and head up the wide flared cracks. Save one of your #3 cams for the horizontal break near the top of the pitch. The climbing is not too hard but a bit spicy. 30m

Pitch 12 (20) Step right off the belay and head straight up for 2m then follow the first diagonal crack line leftwards. There is no gear for the first few meters (easy) then move up and right into the second crack line and follow this diagonal ramp leftwards towards a small roof.  Step left again and across the easy face to a bolt. A bit of scrapy climbing past some tree roots leads you up to the belay.  A long pitch, so extend your first bits of gear.

Pitch 13 (23) Steep and pumpy trad climbing for almost 40m. Place your gear well and long sling the initial placements to avoid rope drag. At the belay ledge there are two belays. One at the back of the ledge and one ( two rings of the rap line) more on the arête. 

Pitch 14 (26) Head out and right across the face passing two bolts, continue two more metres to the right, where you gain an easier crack system, crack climbing leads to a 3rd bolt up high and left which is hard to clip. From the bolt, head right 3m then head up to the slap. Don’t try and climb direct from the bolt to the anchor, its harder and has no protection.  The final anchor is just below the lip of the wall. 

From the top of the wall it takes approx. two hours to descend back to the Departure Lounge bivvy using the direct Mile High Club rap line.  Don’t be tempted to try and reverse the route. A good strategy if you're trying to go light and fast is to walk in two pairs of shoes. Leave one pair at the Departure Lounge to pick up on your way down. The other you can use to walk up to the Dream Liner bivvy. This way you won’t have to carry shoes when your'e climbing.

Route topoWater Drums

Departure Lounge bivvy: 100L approx

Business Premier Bivvy (ase of Dream Liner): 70L approx.

At pitch 18 of Mile High Club (25) there is a water drum (20L) on a small ledge. This will allow you to start the big traverse without to much water and you can fill up for a drink when you get to that pitch.