Daily Archives: December 4, 2011

Climbing at Paynes Ford


This post just contains the climbing that I did at Paynes Ford, New Zealand, and not the whole story of my stay there. See the other two posts in this series for the rest of the details – “Driving to and from Takaka” and “A few days at Hangdog”

**NOTE – this post has a gallery of images, but its located at the end of the post… mostly because said gallery is 105 pictures long.  WOO photography!**

Oh my lord the climbing here in Paynes Ford is amazing. It actually reminds me a lot of the New River Gorge, or possibly Rumney, thanks to the close proximity of an amazing climbing campground and tons and tons of epic sport climbing. There’s really no multi-pitch or trad climbing here, but the sport climbing ranges from 11’s to high 20’s and maybe a 30 or two. And the sport routes are quite interesting, to say the least.

First off – the rock. The rock in Paynes ford was a type of limestone that I hadn’t climbed on often, though it did remind me of the climbing that I did in California years ago when I went up with my buddy Big T. The rock was primarily a combination of horrid sloping holds and amazing huecos that provided amazingly placed “hallelujah holds” for when you needed a rest.

Second off – the ratings. New Zealand uses the Oceana system instead of the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). This took me a bit of getting used to, but its honestly pretty simple and efficient, since it doesn’t have the sharp increase in difficulty that comes once you break the 5.10 wall. I did kind of appreciate the simplicity and framiliarity of the YDS, but I slowly got used to calling climbs by their appropriate difficulty.

(Link to conversion tables: http://www.mountaindays.net/articles/item/rock_climbing_grades_explained/#aus)

The Climbs themselves:

On the 27th Mike and I headed out early, planning on meeting up with a few people who we had met at the fire the night before; Henrietta, Johaan, and Rikke. Johaan and Rikke were a couple from Scandanavia, and Henry was an adventurer / wanderer who was passing through for a few days before taking up a new job watching one of the huts set up by the Department of Conservation. Mike and I busted up a few pretty solid warm-up climbs before Henry met up with us, and then we all started turning up the heat and laying out some rather impressive climbs. After a bit Johaan met up with us as well and we switched off into two smaller groups – Mike and I rocking out the lighter climbs and seconding some of Johaan’s climbs while Henry and Johaan lead up some rather impressively rough climbs. What we worked up are:

    • Easy 11 – fun with great hueco’s, was a really solid warm-up climb for us
    • Easy 12 – great holds again, but has an awesome slab portion at the end. Really a good introduction to Paynes Ford’s style of climbing; sloped holds and awesome pockets.
    • SWEET 18 – very, very burly start (overhanging) moves to good handholds, it moved out of the overhand and and ended with a fairly difficult slab section that required some impressive balancing work. I wouldn’t want to lead this.
    • good 14 – Simple, clean, and efficient; a great cool-down climb that had some interesting moves near the middle.
    • slab 17 – Damn but this reminds me of WhiteHorse. Two bolts for a 20+ meter climb, with a 10m run out at the end. Scary, hellishly scary, but awesome. I took two falls trying to leave the 2nd bolt, but finally make it up. After sweating and swearing at the rock.

On the 28th it was raining for most of the morning, so Mike and I headed into town and did some light adventuring around the area and beaches. The full story is later on in this series about Takaka. However, we did meet up with Johaan later on in the afternoon and headed back to the wall to get a few climbs in. See, one of the amazing things about New Zealand in the summer is that the daylight lasts forever. Literally past 9:00 at night most evenings, so even though we didn’t head to the wall until nearly 3:30, we definitely had more than enough daylight left for us. We checked the guidebook for some climbs that usually stay dry, packed up the rope and draws, and headed out.

The climbs that we found had a lot in common with the climbs from the day before, but they showcased another part of Paynes Ford; the fact that most of the bolts are horribly placed, at least from a safeties perspective. If we fell while trying to clip the second clip we’d likely hit the ground, and the first clip was 4+ meters high. Yeah, scary. But we stayed within our skill range and kept ourselves safe.

    • 15 – The first climb that we did in the area, this was a really fun and strange start that we had a bit of trouble with, and an even stranger center
    • 16 – A simple climb, to be honest. It was definitely fun though, and the beginning offered a rather nice challenge for footing.
    • 22 – A very hard climb that we each tried once or twice before giving up. We didn’t lead it, just used a top-rope that I had set up on the previous climb.
    • 18 – Wow. I honestly don’t know how to describe this climb, besides hard, tiring, and amazing. It’s one of my favorites at Paynes Ford because it starts out very arm-strengthy, and then moves out into a sort of crack climbing. I loved it, and got amazing views from the top of the climb.

The 29th was a very good day, even though we got an impressively late start. Mike and I hauled ourselves out of bed, drank down some jet fuel masquerading as coffee, toasted some bread and jumped in the car. Instead of climbing at the crag right by the camp we headed through town to meet Johaan, Rikke, and a pair of Swedish girls names Jess and Hanna that we had met the night before. We all met up at the sea-cliffs – a place much like Otter Cliffs in Acadia. We arrived just as Johaan arrived (he had gotten lost), so the six of us grabbed the ropes and tramped up the path to the climbs.

    • 16 – lead – A very solid starting climb, it was made up of a good number of sloping holds in the beginning, with the handholds slowly getting better as we moved upwards.
    • 18 – good lord the first bolt on this one was high… I top-roped it after Johaan climbed, and I am glad that I did. The climb defintiely was not an easy one, and the second bolt was nearly as tough as the first to get to. I didn’t take any falls past the beginning, but I had watched Johaan take a few as he lead it. Rough.
    • 17 – Lead – an easy 17, though it had just enough mind games to make sure it was a legit 17 and not anything lower. Though the head games only came from leading, so on top-rope I would probably have lowered the grade to a 16+.
    • 18 – This one was full of a good number of nice laybacks, though even with the good handholds it was a bit too thin for me to lead. I did enjoy it on top-rope quite a bit though.
    • 19?? – This is a climb that Jess made up herself, since it goes between a 16 and a 20, but isn’t really completely on either. It was definitely solid though, and had a good number of rather difficult sections
    • 21 – Tough. Very tough. Started with a tough overhang and moved into an Arete (where you climb the outside of the edge of a rectangle). It took a lot of strength out of me, pretty much my entire days worth. But man it was worth it.
    • 20 – Guardian Angel – Jess’s project, I could definitely see why it was a project though… I finished it last in order to clear gear from it and the two routes nearby, but it was a CHALLENGE. Like… 5 or 6 falls with rests. Tough. But really good; though I wouldn’t want to lead it anytime soon. Funny part about this climb though, was that some guy had come around and double-bolted it. As in every time there was a bolt… there was a second one right next to it. I guess its intended to have full anchors at each section?
    • Dangers of rapelling with long hair – I got my dreads caught in the ATC again after cleaning the gear of the last route.  Thankfully I’m used to it at this point, and had my Pruissic rope on me.  So I just locked it on, ascended a foot or two, and was fine.  And this is why everyone should have a spare cord on their harness.

The 30th… a sad day, to be honest, since it was out last day climbing with Johaan and Rikke, though Jess and Hanna left early in the morning. Instead of rocking out a full day though, I met up with Johaan and Rikke near “The Fortress”, a giant boulder with some of the tougher overhanding problems on it. We warmed up nearby on some pretty easy routes before tackling the main conquest of the day… a route that followed up the inside of The Fortress at a 20 degree overhanging angle, give or take.

    • 15 – lead – light, with a real sketchy part between the first and second bolt. I rocked it like it was going out of style though, as a really good warmup to…
    • 19 – seconding Johaan – <Howling noises!!!> Damn but this climb was amazing. On The Fortress, it was a huge overhanging jug-fest where you burl and haul and drag yourself upwards. Great climb all throughout, and I go a full bat-hang in off a knee-bar about halfway up to rest. (Ed note: a bat-hang is where you hold on to the rock while upside-down, using only your feet and legs. A Knee-Bar is when you use the pressure between your knee and toe to hold onto the rock)


Driving to and from Takaka in New Zealand


This post just contains the driving that I did with Mike Cronin to and from Takaka, New Zealand, and not the whole story of my stay there. See the other two posts in this series for the rest of the details – “Climbing at Paynes Ford” and “A few days at Hangdog”

The ride in – 26th of November

I’m leaving Christchurch! Not forever, or really for a long time at all, but its still one of those things… leaving the town that you’ve been in for a while. Mike and I had been on the fence as to what to do for a while, but we finally decided that renting a car and driving up to a town called Takaka was the best decision. The best analogy to Takaka in the states, that I know of, is New Paltz or Fayettesville– its a small hippy-ish town thats based very near an amazing climbing spot. In this case, Paynes Ford.

So, climbing gear in hand (partially ours, partially comandeered from the climbing club) we woke up on the 26th and ate some breakfast. It was deliciousness of toast and jam, which I’m starting to notice is kinda a thing here in New Zealand… possibly since it seems like a rather British dish, and they WERE recently founded by the Brits. But after eating and relaxing for a bit we jumped in Mike’s car and headed for the airport to pick up our rental. Now, normally I wouldn’t go for a rental in this situation, since we’re only going 7 hours away, but Petrol (hehe… I called it Petrol) is exceptionally expensive here, and Mike’s car gets super-crap gas milage. Thus: efficient rental cars actually save us a significant amount of money.

The trip to get the rental went simply, if not quickly, and soon enough we had headed back to the flat, packed the gear into the car, and were on the road through the countryside. New Zealand is pretty, but I never really understood how pretty it was until we started hitting the huge expanses of cattle and sheep farms. See, unlike the US midwest New Zealand is positively covered in small but steep hills, so the vistas are constantly changing instead of being one endless field of grain. And dotting these hills are small outcroppings of rock, picturesque little farmhouses, and lazy flocks of sheep or herds of cattle. I’m fairly certain that we passed at least four places that were used in filming The Lord of the Rings.

Another holdovers from the British settlement of New Zealand seems to be hedgerows, which were used to separate different fields and flocks… but in this case they just make the landscape look even more bucolic and perfect. We drove for hours through this kind of landscape, finally getting a good long chance to catch up on old times. We talked about nearly everything that had happened in the last few years – I got Mike caught up on NUHOC and Boston happenings, and Mike got me up to speed with the latest New Zealand gossip… a key thing since he’d be leaving for the states shortly and I’d need to be up on the group of people he was leaving me with.

We stopped off a few times for gas and coffee (Pro-tip: New Zealand coffee is amazing. Get chips [Fries] with them for an excellent driving snack) but generally kept ourselves moving at a fair pace or 110 kph. Which sounds fast, but in actuality its rather slow, about 60 or so mph. Makes sense when you think about it though, since the roads that lead throughout the country are rather small and windy. I figure that most of the shipping done in New Zealand must be via ship (thanks to the relatively small size of the islands) instead of truck like the US.

The last challenge of the drive into Takaka was navigating the innacurately named Takaka hill. See… the rest of the landscape that we traveled through was hills. Takaka hill is a mountain. And a pretty big one at that. Not your white-capped sky-scraper for sure, but definitely something that I’d feel good about ascending if I was hiking. And to drive across it? Well… that’s just fun, heh. We went through more switchbacks in twenty kilometers than I’ve driven through in all of the east coast, though I have to admit that driving through Alpine back in Arizona did come pretty close. I’ll admit that I had a bit of fun driving up and heading down the mountain pass, though I had to pull over a few times to let the crazy townies pass me as they tore through the turns like Nascar drivers. Crazies.

After the hill the ride went smoothly, and soon enough Mikewas telling me to slow down and prep for the turn into the Hangdog campground – A place he had been raving about since we left Christchurch. From what Mike said it was just like Rogers Rocky Top Retreat at the New River Gorge; a small place run primarily by climbers and patronized by crazy hippy climbers. You know… just like Mike and I.


The drive home – 30th of November

The drive home started out pretty much the same as the drive in – heading into Takaka to check for hitchhikers and pick up gas, then hit the open road back to the hill. Mike was driving, since I had taken the job most of the time during the week, so I laid back in the passengers side and read my book. After we got over Takaka hill though, we pulled over to the side of the road to pick up a hitchhiker that we saw thumbing his way down the main road.

See… hitchhiking in New Zealand is much different than in the USA. Its actually a quite acceptable way to get around the country, and nothing is expected in return aside from politeness and a bit of conversation if it comes to it. I guess it has something to do with the “small country” thing that NZ has going on, where people don’t really fear other people the same way that we’re terrified of strangers in the United States.

Either way, we picked Richard up and headed back onto the road. We chatted and told each other our basic stories; Richard was a farmer who lives up on Takaka hill with four kids, three step-kids, and a whole mess of hunting dogs. Yep… New Zealand has farmer/mountain-folks too it seems, but the difference between NZ folks and your standard-issue US redneck turned up when he started explaining the eco-friendly sort of farming that he was doing, and how he would go into the woods with his dogs to hunt boars for dinner. Definitely a cool guy, and we talked for a while about how he trains the dogs, turns the fields, and everything that goes into making a small farm actually work and be productive.

The drive from Takaka to Christchurch took us nearly seven hours, but I honestly barely even noticed it thanks to taking pictures and talking with Mike and Richard. The conversations went back and forth with eco-friendly research and geology to peoples mentality and sociology studies, and we even talked a bit about creation mythology for the last few miles into town. Richard headed off on his own way at the first bus stop that we hit once entering the city itself, and soon Mike and I were back at the flat. We unpacked the car, cleaned it up, and got everything ready to sent it back to its home with the dealer after an amazing trip.