I do actually have some impressively good pictures intended to go with this post, mostly of Emma and myself posing in jaw-dropping landscapes, but unfortunately the pictures are currently trapped on my camera with some “technical difficulties”. They’ll be up ASAP, I promise.
One of the things that I love most about New Zealand is the pies. Seriously. Instead of just having your standard-issue peach or apple pies, almost all stores stock these small pastry pies with amazing fillings; Meat, Steak and Cheese, butter chicken, and all sorts of other things that turn a pie into an actual meal. It was with those thoughts that Emma and I made our way down Route 73, counting down the kilometers as we headed west towards Castle Hill.
I had met Emma through mutual friends on the first night that I was in New Zealand, when I had nearly missed the many signs that she had made saying that she was interested in me. Turns out that I’m not the most astute person ever after flying for almost 18 hours, but no matter… that shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me. Nonetheless Emma and I had started hanging out and had been semi-casually dating by the time we went to Castle Hill, so the car ride was a nice chance to get to talk a bit more about our hopes and dreams in life.
We arrived at the rocks of Castle Hill much earlier than I had last time, thanks to Emma forcing me awake that morning, and we set about doing some legit exploration of the bouldering problems in the area. The first time I had been to Castle Hill I had spent it just exploring the area, and so I hadn’t actually had much of a chance to climb; this time I had promised myself at least a few good routes.
Since we didn’t have a rope or draws, we stuck to bouldering around the main path, slowly pressing our way higher into the hills. The views were amazing, and the fact that most of the climbs topped out on large boulders helped out a lot – We were repeatedly treated to some jaw-dropping views of the surrounding boulders and fields. One unexpected upside of this was that it helped find new routes, since from the top of the boulders I was able to see at least one new good route, or sometimes even a group of climbers that we could wander over to.
Meeting up with other climbers was quite key for us actually, since neither Emma nor myself own a crashpad. Thankfully the area was pretty busy, and we ran into more than a few small groups of climbers, mostly focusing around single short bouldering routes. I joined up with a few of them, finishing up routes that I had seen before and trying out a few new ones. And, as usual, the groups that we met were pretty well varied – the first team was a couple from Sweden (again… tons of Swedes!) who helped me finish up one of the climbs that I had drooled over the last time I was there. We chatted for a bit about world travel (turns out their just visiting New Zealand for a few weeks) before heading on, but I definitely enjoyed their company and their help with the route, heh.
After leaving the Swedes, I hunted down Emma (she wasn’t doing too much climbing since she didn’t have shoes) and we moved on a bit more, finding ourselves another set of climbers to hang out with – a boulderer who was showing an American girl around the bouldering fields. Mark and Stacy were their names, and Mark was a quite excellent climber who had no problem with showing all of us around to some of the better V0 to V1 routes in the area. Most of the climbs in the area we were in were slab moves, so I was actually doing quite well thanks to my training on Whitehorse. Thanks to that Mark and I spent a good bit of time just shooting the shit and chatting about climbing around the world. Quite good times were had by all, with Mark and I alternating between chatting and climbing for a few hours at least.
Quick notes on the better climbs that I rocked out:
- V? – Maybe a V1 or V2, at hardest – Really cool climb, with left-leaning moves following a stripe of crystal up the side of a boulder. Sorta high, but definitely cool. And since I had a crash pad thanks to the Swedes, definitely felt good on it
- V1 – Good slabby moves, with small holds but really elegant foot motions
- V0 ish – a nice traverse following some great huecos along a 3m high wall of rock. No good footholds, but pretty solid hands
After climbing with Mark for a bit we finally realized how late is was and decided to at least start the walk back to the car. Fortunately we had taken a fairly circular route and we weren’t too far from the car park, and so we had a chance to goof around with some of the more interesting features of the rocks… namely small mini-caves and other neat little pass-throughs. We did finally return to the car though, and spent the 2-hour or so drive back to Christchurch chatting about more life, universe, everything… and most importantly deciding what to eat for dinner.