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|Red zone, blue skies, white snow
Christchurch wants out. Out of this strange condition that afflicts her. The “red zoners” also want out. They want to move out of the downtown rubbles and dream about the suburbs where apparently earthquake gangs don't venture. Maybe that's one reason why the city is pushing out antennas in all directions, along the shores and up the hills. Maybe that's why our guidebook “Rock deluxe” is hopelessly out of date when describing the access to Mount Pleasant. “Park near the farm gate” says the guidebook when obviously we are in an affluent new suburb. Not that it matters since our bushman skills have been honed years ago getting lost countless times in the Blueys.
Christchurch post February 2011 earthquake.
This was a week long trip to New Zealand: a short climbing trip to celebrate Dominik impending wedding, a sort of extended bucks night with a couple of mates (i.e. two). For some reasons, we did very little preparation apart from booking the plane tickets in advance. We followed Shaz' recommendation to play it by ear while keeping a close eye on the weather forecast. Given the uncertain weather at this time of the year this was a gamble.
Our evil plan was to spend one day in Christchurch before heading North to Paynes Ford. One day to try the trachyte walls decorating the west side of Mount Pleasant. Since we are sports climbers at heart, we decided not to visit the Banks peninsula which seems to offer a giant playground to our trad friends. One day, I'll have to come back but for now, the solid bolts of “The Shelf” and “Tiger Wall” would do.
Trachyte is hard, perhaps not granite hard but solid. All climbs are well protected and the fixed hangers felt bomber. The February 2011 earthquake left some imposing scars on the cliff face though – with long spills of crushed rock running downhill over 10s of meters. I'd think twice about investing in a house down these slopes. Plenty have done so, that being said.
The west face of Mount Pleasant – somewhere in the shadows are “Tiger wall” and “The Shelf”.
We sampled quite a few climbs on that day. Dominik wanted to try some overhanging 23s or 24s but our warm-ups on 18s and 19s changed his mind. The grading was indeed stiff although our two guidebooks disagreed a lot of the time. “Rock deluxe” systematically grades lower than “Southern Island Rock”. In fact, on some of the climbs our “deluxe” friend's grading was ridiculously low. The Big Lebowsky gets a deluxe 18 while being described as a southern 20 bordering on 21. It sure didn't feel like an 18. Similarly Three's Company at 19 had a spicy powerful move that was more suited to a 22. Perhaps this has something to do with too much soft climbing on Blueys sandstone? Well, it doesn't really matter, we had a fab day (except perhaps Dominik) and if you are in Christchurch and are looking for some sports climbs, check it out.
Dominik on “Bathroom Vanity” (21): nice edges and some balancy moves
Myself on “Three’s Company” (21): power is required right here.
The next day, we drove to Paynes Ford. The six hour drive along the coast through Nelson skirts around the Abel Tasman National Park over an impressive ridge referred to by the locals as “Takaka Hills”. Yes, hills. As if. The descent into Golden Bay is beautiful, no other word would best applied. The road meanders down the slopes, crosses the Takaka river once before reaching our destination. It was late afternoon, we checked out the site before finding a nice comfy motel for we are also truly social climbers. After a meal at the Telegraph Hotel where we planned the next day, we watched “Dude, where's my car” and hit the sack.
View over the Takaka River from the top of the wall at Paynes Ford
The next day, after a big brekky, we were all set. Our day started on Mid-Wife Crisis a fun grade 14. We figured it was probably a good idea to get used to the local limestone on something easy. I climbed a few times on limestone, even once in Australia (Bob's Hollow) but this wall is different. It wavy with curious ribs running vertically. Of course, you'll find the usual finger pockets and scoops but the few tufas are too voluminous to be useful. The climbs are well but sparsely bolted with the first bolt often in need of a stick clip. All together, a job well done, solidly done.
We tasted quite a few climbs on that day. Temple of Stone (18) was excellent, Jimmy the Torn Piece of Paper… (20) was even better. Both climbs are quite long sustained and start as technical slabs and end as no less technical crimp fests. Delicious.
Dominik on “Blobbet” (17) – at least I think so.
The highlight of the day was, for me, R for Ranger, D for Danger (21). This arête has to be one of the most committing single-pitch climbs I ever did. The sparse 9 bolts over 27 meters are an indication of what's to come. The crux, halfway up relies on a delicate but powerful move high above the last bolt to an uncertain stance. From there, you pray that a further hold will allow you to keep on going. That hold of course does not exist. What exists is a tenuous blunt vertical edge which, as a gaston, will allow you to step higher to an even more precarious position. By then, my belayer was cursing me: there was no way back but a massive whipper and the next bolt was still way above me. The next move was left to the arête and somehow stoicism kept me company. A series of small crimps and good footholds led me to the next bolt which I clipped and then I begged to be taken. The rest of the climb still had some spicy moves to it and by the end of it, I called it a day while the boys finished it on Sacred Forest (19), another excellent a sustained climb.
That was a good day.
After Paynes Ford, our next destination was Pohara. Now it has to be said that the location is breathtaking. The cliffs are literally on the ocean overlooking Golden Bay and the weather Gods stayed with us once more. We immediately found “Seagrass Wall” and started to climb on excellent limestone. Although it is said that the rock is not as good as in Paynes Ford, the warm-up climbs couldn't be better: Thrust (16), Hair on a G string (18) and Up against the Wall (18) were all yummy – they all share a common crux height were the wall becomes a little slabbier and blanker.
The three of us will remember that day for one truly memorable climb: As Good as it Gets (22). The name is perfectly suited. I often make the point that overhanging gym climbs are unrealistic: incongruously steep with giant holds. Well this one, should be moved indoor. In fact, this one is for the Ling brothers (Chris and Alex, you would have had a ball on this one). The climb start with absurdly good hold on 30 degree incline. Then it keeps on going and going by the end of it, on the rap down, you land about 6 meters from the wall with a giant smile on your face. Classic. Alex did it with one break, Dominik with two and I, well, lets say within a finite numbers but I was the one putting the draws on. That’s my poor excuse anyway.
Dominik having a total ball on “As Good as it Gets” (22).
Pohara on the second day was even better. This time we chose “Cathedral Wall”, an impressive limestone wall standing proud, 50 meters above the ocean. The climbs here a long but of moderate grade. We started on Dirty Old Man (16) an easy climb that follow a giant vertical wound in the rock face, a sort of medieval looking bad-ass climb with flesh-like folds of rock. Never seen something like it. Alex loved it. Next to it were two stellar climbs Ambrosia (18) and Stella Blue (18). Both of similar character like siblings: 30 meters of sustained grade 18 face climbing. There always a good hold when you need one and a couple of interesting twists here and there to bring you back to reality.
Dominik completing “Dirty Old Man” (16).
Myself on “Ambrosia” (18).
After a few hours on “Cathedral Wall”, Dominik wanted some harder drugs, something taken intravenously. So we packed up, crossed the road and scrambled down to the “Huntley and Palmers Wafer”, a small diamond shape slab licked by the ocean at high tide. There Dominik exercised his talents on three short demanding numbers in the low twenties.
The next day we had to drive back to Christchurch via Lewis Pass. Funny how the weather can change so abruptly in a matter of hours. Check it out here.
The next morning, we had a couple of hours to kill before our plane’s departure and decided to return to Mount Pleasant. It was a glorious Sunday morning, blue sky all around and no one in sight. We were wondering where could the local climbers be? After all, Mount Pleasant might not be a sports climbing heaven but there’s plenty of trad climbs here and it is really conveniently located within spitting distance from the city. Anyway, the time came to catch our plane back to Oz and on the walk out, we finally met two trad climbers: “Where are all the locals?” Dominik asked. “Didn't you know, this crag is closed due to the earthquake?”
I guess it was time to go home...
A few things we climbed:
Mount Pleasant Tres Estrellas de Oro (18) / Legend in the Baking (19) / Whispers and Moans (21) / The Big Lebowsky (20) / Bathroom Vanity (21) / Three's Company (20) / Face off (21)
Paynes Ford Mid-Wife Crisis (14) / Blobbet (17) / Good bye Cream-Poofters (17) / Temples of Stone (18) / Jimmy the Torn Piece of paper… (20) / R for Ranger, D for Danger (21) Sacred Forest (19)
PoharaUp against the wall MF (17) / Thrust (16) / Hair on a G string (18) / As good as it gets (22) / Dirty Old Man (16) / Ambrosia (18) /Tales from the sea (15) / Stella Blue (18) / No quota (17) / Chocoholic (18) /
Adios Ingo (19) / All I ever wanted was dialysis (22) / Go side on (23) / Neptune's gift (21)
I like your TR's Francois! They're fun, well written and include awesome looking climbs on fun looking rock.
Thanks for making chocky a funner place;)
Thanks for the great TR. Glad you enjoyed your trip.
FYI, Mt Pleasant (as with the vast majority of crags in the Port Hills) is currently closed to access (let alone climbing) by the council. The reasons being that a) a good deal of the rock in the Port Hills has been significantly weakened by the earthquakes (you know what caused those cracks in the building in the first photo and killed almost 200 people less than 2 years ago?); and b) the council hasn't had the resources or time to do a full geotechnical assessment of the rock. In fact as you were climbing at Mt Pleasant did you notice the rock scarring, and the boulders below you, including a number of enormous boulders that have rolled right down and crashed through the roof of one of the garages down there? The residents below have actually specifically asked that people show restraint and not climb on the crags above (despite being closed) because they are naturally quite shaken (no pun intended) by the events of the last two years. It has been quiet lately (touch wood) but a week ago we had a 4.3 mag shake. They are quite shallow, and cause significant ground acceleration and if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time then you will be squashed. The rock of the Port Hills can be heavily fractured.
Anyway, unless you noticed closed signs on the gates, it may not have occurred to you being from out of town (country), but I thought I would mention it here so that any others coming over for the summer months might be aware of what's going on.
An interesting read along with some interesting photos.
After reading the subsequent posts and going back to look at the photos again, the cracks plainly evident in the rock at Mt Pleasant take on an ominent flavour(!), and your trip as it turned out, was pleasantly only as adventurous as wanted.
The write up of As Good As It Gets is enticing, but the included photo of it suppresses that for me. It may have been done better justice if the photo angle was along the cliffline to show the angle and background scenery better?
Great TR! The rock features on "Dirty Old Man" look amazing!
On 18/10/2012 cruze wrote:
>Anyway, unless you noticed closed signs on the gates, it may not have
>occurred to you being from out of town (country), but I thought I would
>mention it here so that any others coming over for the summer months might
>be aware of what's going on.
Good point. None of us saw any closed signed but I'll let Dominik and Alex confirm this. What is abvious though are the fresh scars on the wall. One of them being at least 20 meters wide with an accompanying spill of rubles extending down the slopes for 10s of meters. The little seedlings emerging from the interstices testifying of the "freshness" of the event.
On 18/10/2012 IdratherbeclimbingM9 wrote:
>The write up of As Good As It Gets is enticing, but the included photo
>of it suppresses that for me. It may have been done better justice if the
>photo angle was along the cliffline to show the angle and background scenery
Yes, I would agree with that. Your comment also made me realised that I haven't included any photo of Alex! Aarg. Man, I'll never hear the end of that one.
Joke aside, I'll fish out some more pictures from my stash later on just for you M9. But then, you'll have to go over and climb "As Good as it Gets", right?
On 18/10/2012 f_ladou wrote:
>Joke aside, I'll fish out some more pictures from my stash later on just
>for you M9. But then, you'll have to go over and climb "As Good as it Gets",
... & earlier wrote;
>Alex did it with one break, Dominik with two and I, well, lets say within a finite numbers but I was the one putting the draws on. That’s my poor excuse anyway.
Sounds like I will cruise it onsightnot (heh, heh, heh), but will have some ettriers in my back pocket just in case!
> Good point. None of us saw any closed signed but I'll let Dominik and Alex confirm this.
You're right, François. No signs about the closure. But I have to say, I saw a boulder the size of a mini fridge with a bolt lying on the ground in front of the rock face, gulp!
Great trip report as usual - but fails to mention the dedication one needs to climb at Paynes.
Exhaustion sets in first thing in the morning, trying to chose the best place for a soy choc frappacino on the Takaka cafe strip. Then there's the epic question of breakfast. Buckwheat pancakes with hash browns or devilled eggs? Breakfast burrito with soy cheese or lentil burgers? What cafe has the right level of trashy hippy chic? Can I be f---ed climbing at all today? The cinema is right there, as are amazing beaches and hiking.
And then there's the drive to the crag. It must be at least 90 seconds.
I remember the first time we tried to find one of the climbing areas at Paynes. We chose something close to the car. The guidebook said it was 5 minutes walk. In that 5 minutes walk, we passed a very nice toilet, and a beautiful river bend with a slackline over it. The path was flat and extremely well maintained. Lush vegetation surrounded us.
We walked too quickly. In that five minutes 'hike' we'd actually passed about 20 or so good climbs hidden in the jungle and had to backtrack.
Depressed at the consumer friendly nature of this place, we decided that we'd f--- it up by cutting bolts and placing a few dirty carrots among the shiny hangers. But they actually have a group of people responsible for bolting the area. They've a phone number, and a wooden sign near the carpark inviting you to call if you'd like to make any changes to the fixed pro. Holy crap, they're organised. Better not f--- with them.
Anyway the best route we did was called Superconductor. But that was almost 15 minutes walk from the car so don't bother.
Hi guys, some more pics from my stash. Enjoy.
As we arrived at the airport…
Alex on an anonymous climb (Tiger Wall, Mount Pleasant). This picture gives a good idea of the size of the cliff face.
Alex as a happy camper (Mount Pleasant)
Golden Bay: start of the descent from the top of the Takaka Hills. God probably spends vacation time in this neighbourhood.
Alex heal-hooking his way on As Good as It Gets (22). Check out the jugs on this one.
Alex as a speckle on Ambrosia (Pohara) a fab grade 18 that keeps on giving. The photo was taken from the road and right behind the photographer is the ocean.
On 18/10/2012 jezza wrote:
>Great trip report as usual - but fails to mention the dedication one needs
>to climb at Paynes.
>Exhaustion sets in first thing in the morning, trying to chose the best
>place for a soy choc frappacino on the Takaka cafe strip. Then there's
>the epic question of breakfast. Buckwheat pancakes with hash browns or
>devilled eggs? Breakfast burrito with soy cheese or lentil burgers? What
>cafe has the right level of trashy hippy chic? Can I be f---ed climbing
>at all today? The cinema is right there, as are amazing beaches and hiking.
Couldn't have said it better.
Takaka-ville's main drag, littered with well-to-do cafés and golden-youth hangouts, can obviously sustain heavy touristic traffic during the high season but displays a melancholic loneliness when deserted. If you ever drove through Berry on your way to Nowra on a cold winter weekend, you know what I mean... And while I'm at it – in the spirit of Chockstone's penchant for controversy I revel in – the Berry Sourdough Bakery & Café serves the best croissant in NSW and perhaps in the whole of Australia. There, I've said it.
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