Pohara. New Zealand’s Best Seaside Rock Climbing?
Blowing the chalk off my hands, I watch as the wind carries it away. Waves crash below and seagulls squawk as they drift in the wind. With the sun shining above and the teal coloured water moving to and fro against the lush greenery below, Pohara captured my attention that day.
Right as you pull up under the cliffs, you know it’s going to be a cruisy day. It doesn’t get much closer than this. Park car. Walk across road. Start climbing.
As with most seaside towns and places, the atmosphere is relaxed and carefree. I’m usually a bit go-go-go but found at Pohara I was in no hurry to start quickly. Maybe it’s that 3 minute walk in?
The base of the climbs are nice and open, and walking along the crowds are also very welcoming. You'll meet people from around the world, everyone in a good mood, happy to be in such a beautiful place.
Limestone isn’t my favorite rock to climb on, with its polished edges and sloping holds, its a hard sport climbers rock type. And that’s certainly not me!
But Pohara is quite nice. Lots of horizontal seams provide good, solid holds and easy route finding. The lower grades are all graded well, with bolts agreeable distances apart.
On one climb, I panicked a little seeing the spacing on the lower section but as I climbed up, good holds gave way to easy climbing leaving me breathing easy again.
There are some climbs with high first bolts so bring a stick clip to make it easier. I didn’t find I needed one, but I was also sticking to lower grades which seemed to be fine.
At higher grades, overhangs are popular and the climbing gets, well, sportier!
While I didn’t try any high graded climbs (as I’m pretty unfit), those climbing 20 (5.10b/6a) or below like me will still have a wealth of stuff to climb!
Doing the classic, ‘Franklin’s Tower’ (16/5.9/5b) and ringing the bell at the top was fantastic and highly recommended. I love little quirky things like this. The crag has its own character and vibe. Stairway to the gods (17) was another awesome one I highly recommend.
Ring the bell at the top!
On all climbs, it’s imperative to stop and look around when at the top. No really. You just have to. The views are incredible!
PLANNING A TRIP AND GETTING THERE
Pohara is very accessible with transport and accommodation options. There are a few lodges and B&B’s which would mean you can walk to all the crags. But my best advice though is to stay at Hangdog Camp outside Takaka. You will meet plenty of climbers willing to go to Pohara with you, its a very friendly place.
From the Hangdog camp, it’s a 10 minute drive to the crags. How good is that!? Not to mention there’s climbing at Hangdog camp with Paynes Ford a mere stone’s throw away. It couldn’t be any better suited for a climbing trip.
Staying in Takaka is also an option. We had the self contained van which meant we were able to make use of free camping areas. If you plan on staying 2 months or more in New Zealand, doing the vanlife thing is a must, especially if you climb!
POHARA ROCK CLIMBING- THE ESSENTIALS
SEASONS: All year round, but summer weather (Nov-Feb) is best.
CRAG AREA CARPARK: HERE.
WALK IN TIME: 3 minutes.
MAIN CLIMBING STYLES: Sport, tiny bit of trad.
CLIMBS TO TRY:
◘ Franklins Tower (16/5.9/5b)
◘ Stairway to the gods (17/5.9/5b)
◘ Dolomiti Dream (18/5.9/5b)
◘ Some overhangs may still have loose rocks at the top, wear a helmet!
◘ Pohara dries quicker than nearby Paynes Ford (less seepage), and is far quieter, yet still social.
◘ A 60 meter rope is great, but a 50 meter may not make some of the longer climbs.
◘ Some gear can be hired from Hangdog camp. Send them an email or call beforehand to confirm.
I have to say as a lover of mountains over sea, Pohara definitely combines the two together for a fantastic seaside climbing experience. There’s nowhere else quite like it!