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Trip Report – Wanaka Rock Climbing

By: Riley Smith

Source: Otago Section Newsletter (February 2017)

I got the text from Ryan on a delightful Dunedin summer Thursday asking if I wanted to come for a drive to Wanaka for the weekend, to climb rock that doesn’t crumble when you look at it. The plan was to head up there early Saturday morning then ‘climb until our fingers bleed,’ camp in the Albert Town DOC campsite, and then rinse and repeat for the Sunday. We then got hold of two other young climbers from Dunedin, Sian and Millie, and there we all were – four climbers in a valley floor full of top-notch climbing!

We started off on the main face at Hospital Flat, with everyone sending ‘Straight up the Face’ route which sits at grade 18; we were all psyched to be climbing such quality rock! We then headed over to the infamous ‘Headbangers Arête’ (grade 17), a climb that heads up an almost 90-degree arête with superb side pull moves the whole way up. After bagging a couple more climbs on the Main Face, we had lunch and scoped out our next crag, the Tombstone. Unfortunately, we ended up taking a wrong turn and wading through thick bush lawyer; after our wee detour we finally emerged at the block, covered in cuts and scratches.

No trip to Wanaka Is complete without an ascent of ‘The Crack’ (17), an iconic trad crack climb that

snakes up the middle of the Tombstone with a range of spectacular views, decent exposure, interesting moves and even good gear placement! Ryan and I both led it which was a rad achievement for me, as I only went to my first trad course in December (thanks Heather and Hugh for your excellent tuition). Sian and Ryan then sent a couple of the other sport 17s on the other side while Millie and I tried our luck on ‘Disco Inferno’ – a stunning overhanging arête that’s located on the back side of the Tombstone. I was stoked to get it on my first attempt however Millie succumbed to the pump in her arms this time (more about this later). The weather had been relatively good up until we got to the Tombstone, when some ominous looking clouds started rolling down the valley. We decided to pack up for the day and head into Wanaka for a Red Star burger. After refuelling our muscles, we drove to the Albert Town DOC campsite (fortunately, being 15 – it only costs $3.50 for me for the night compared to $20 each for the others!)

Sunday started off with a much-needed coffee and a chat of our options for the day ahead. We decided to try out a crag called ‘The Bakehouse’ first. After ducking through the electric fence, we arrived at The Bakehouse and realized that it really does live up to its name! With the early morning sun on our back, we set out climbing. Sian and Millie started on a crimpy, black-stained 18 while Ryan and I started on a 19, which was later lead by Sian making it the hardest climb she’s sent so far. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you the names of them because in my wee Wanaka Rock 2005 – the Bakehouse doesn’t exist! After getting baked (in the sun) we stumbled back to the Tombstone to let Millie send Disco Inferno. After a few breakdowns, falls and cuts in her fingers – Millie finally send her first 20 sport climb! I didn’t want to waste the opportunity – so I had a try at a climb that’s also on the backside of the Tombstone called ‘Pitch Black’ which is another overhanging arête that goes up the opposite side of the block. According to my 2005 guidebook – it goes at grade 21. Somehow, I scrambled my way up the arête with a few falls and then reached the top, stoked! After further inspection of the new guidebook, Pitch Black is now a 22, this was a definite highlight of the trip for me!

Riley Smith

Ryan Thomas on ‘The Crack’

After lunch, we walked to our last crag – The Cutting. This an awesome crag that is pretty much all

vertical face climbing, located about 75m above Hospital Flat on the ‘Kai Whaka Pai’ side. Everyone was starting to get sore arms here, but we still bagged the “mega classic” called ‘Happy Fat Men’ that goes at 18 and ‘The Whole Enchilada’ – 19. This was probably my favourite climb over the whole weekend as there were some pretty interesting moves over a big roof, and looking down to the valley floor made your fingers grab the wall just that little bit tighter. Stoked with the onsite!

Overall we had a superb weekend with reasonable weather and brilliant rock! Millie sent her first 20,

Sian sent her first 19, Ryan smashed an onsite on ‘The Crack’ and I was happy to send my first 22! Thanks very much to Ryan for putting up with 3 kiwi teenagers for the weekend – couldn’t have done it without you!

Posted: 08/03/17

Posted By: Narina Sutherland