Timaru Rock Climbing. Little Crags With Big Adventures!

 

Timaru isn’t exactly the most mountainous area in New Zealand. Nestled on the mid east coast, you look out across the landscape and wonder if a single rock boulder even exists in the vicinity.

 

As I was passing through Timaru, I made it my mission to try and find every local rock I could climb. And I was actually pleasantly surprised with what I found!


 

 

SPUR ROAD CRAG

 

Slapping shut the guidebook, I had gathered the info I needed for the walk in a 2 second glance without getting into the details. Head through the pine trees, down along the fence and blah, blah, blah. I didn't read it all. The way will be obvious, I’m sure. It’s supposed to be a Ten minute walk.

 

Twenty minutes later Lanna and I hopped over a creek (not in guidebook), and waded through knee deep grass in some farmers paddock (also not in guidebook).

 

Yep, on what may have possibly been the shortest walk to a rock climbing crag ever, I had completely followed the wrong trail and ended up on who knows who’s farm. Retracing our steps, we found, after a quick check, that the guidebook offered very little info whereas the ClimbNZ website had lots more and even came with a map!

 

Hooray! I guess I should have checked, right?

 

It definitely pays to have all the info before starting something outdoors. No harm done, we lost 45 minutes or so and eventually found the crag. Not my finest moment in navigation I’ll admit.

 

The correct access- photos (click on them to enlarge).

 

The weather had not been great in the days prior to arriving. Light rain, on and off, had persisted throughout the days. Arriving at the base of cliffs after a slippery gully descent, we found the rock damp, sometimes wet. Okay, mostly wet. But still drier than the ground around it!

 

In ‘not ideal’ conditions we traversed the muddy, slippery bottom slopes to find the climbs that attracted our fancy.

 

There were many good looking cracks around, but with the crag very short in height (10-15 meters) there wasn’t going to be anything sustained or long.

 

Spur Road is predominantly a trad climbing area. Trad climbing involves placing your own gear as there are no bolts. With that extra mental challenge, since you rely 100% on your own good placements to protect a potential fall, I chose a climb well within my ability for a warmup.

 

 

Starting the moves easily, the rock did feel a little soft, and as I neared the top my heart beat a little quicker as I felt the soft, chalky texture of the top section that was closer to hardened clay than rock. I stuffed two pieces of protection in, wondered if they would hold if a breeze came, pushed that thought out of my mind, and ran it out the last few meters to the top.

 

Not the nicest finish to what had started out great. A shame really, since the bottom was quite nice. It looked as though bands of ‘less than perfect’ rock ran in seams here or there. A careful eye might be able to avoid it on the climbs.

 

Other climbs proved to be in similar condition however. Good, sometimes great sections, with the odd rotten bit of rock here or there.

 

Important to note are the tree root anchors up the top. I’ve used tree roots before in my natural anchors but this crag is pretty much set up for these root anchors. No bolted belays here! Pine trees are scattered around the top and with the roots sticking out everywhere, check for the best ones and away you go!

 

CRAG VERDICT: 6/10

CRAG LINK: Find it on Climb NZ HERE.

 

 

 

MOUNT HORRIBLE CRAG

 

Some more light rain (surprise) made us wish we had waited an extra day before arriving here. We crossed farm fields to the top of the crag, dodging muddy sections along the way, and found an anchor to abseil down to the bottom.

 

Initially not impressed, probably due to the dampness and size of the crag, I quickly changed my mind and found this place to be quite enjoyable. Much like Spur Road, it’s all trad climbing with barely a bolt to be found.

 

One highlight climb was a grade 17 with an intimidating ‘pea pod’ section. My fears were unfounded however, and it turned out to be accurate grading and merely required some thought on how to get out of the pod. The moves were very nice, there was lots of places for good protection, and the rock was solid. We had a win!

 

 

The walk in is longer than Spur road, but only by a few minutes. But it can be a bit boggy as it passes through farming land. Abseiling down is the way to get to the bottom of the climbs. There is a gully on one side, but this is very hard to find from the top. You’ll certainly find it on your way out if you go that way though. Oh, and like Spur Road, tree root anchors are all rage here!

 

 

CRAG VERDICT: 7/10

CRAG LINK: Find it on Climb NZ HERE.

 


 

HANGING ROCK CRAG

 

Ah limestone. You’ll have to forgive what will probably be a biased review, but I am not the biggest fan of limestone. Partly because I’m not too good at climbing it, but mainly because limestone does tend to get very polished from frequent use so the routes are often slipperier than glass. And all the popular climbs also tend to be stiff in grading because of this.

 

Another short walk through farm fields (seriously, are all the farmers professional climbers in New Zealand??) and over an electric wire fence saw Lanna and I in heavily overgrown limestone cliffs. For some reason the weather had turned very humid here and with more bad weather incoming, we had a quick climb and called it quits.

 

 

From what I did climb, it is your usual limestone climbing. Pockets and crimps, polished as per normal, are the theme.

 

The most memorable part of the day was hopping back over that electric fence. A piece of alloy gear from my harness caught mid step and required careful gymnastics and swearing to remove.

 

 

Yeah, you guessed it, I got zapped!

 

So forgive the verdict for this crag, if limestone is your thing you will have a blast here I'm sure.

 

CRAG VERDICT: 4/10

CRAG LINK: Find it on Climb NZ HERE.

 


 

IS TIMARU A WORTHWHILE STOP FOR ROCK CLIMBERS?

 

At first glance it won’t hold up to the more popular places in New Zealand like Wanaka, Queenstown or Nelson, but I think it still deserves a decent look by any enthusiastic climber. 

 

Just don’t be too fussy, embrace the adventure that will follow, and watch out stepping over those electric fences!

 

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