Amidst the lush green vegetation of New Zealand’s lovely native bush arise the compact grey limestone cliffs of Golden Bay, the steep chiseled diorite bowls of the Fiordland, and the lakeside crags of Whanganui Bay. A geologically diverse land has given rise to a variety of suitable rock climbing features including slabby, pocketed volcanic regions, cylindrical basalt, and the coveted compact grey limestone tucked away between chossy swathes and mossy faces. New Zealand offers a variety of climbing, including moderate trad, hard sport, and delicate bouldering. Let’s take a look at some of the best sport climbing routes the country has to offer — so that you can plan your next visit. Because of difficulty variations, the multi-pitch factor, and subjectivity of scoring systems, we’re going to look at moderate, single pitch climbs between the difficulties of 16 and 24. Here are the 12 best sport climbing routes in New Zealand.
Goodbye Cream-Poofters, 16
This moderate sport climb is located on the South Island of New Zealand in the Paynes Ford rock climbing area. The Paynes Ford area is one of New Zealand’s most popular sport climbing crags offering mostly vertical cliffs with some slightly overhanging lines and steep roofs. Paynes Ford is a scenic reserve, so local climbers ask that visitors treat the place with care. The 5-15 minute approach makes for the possibility of crowds on a nice day and it is west facing, which means plenty of warm, afternoon sunlight. Goodbye Cream Poofters is located at the Creese Wall. This is the first wall you come to on the trail from the parking lot. The climb requires six draws, as it is four bolts to a double chain. Prepare to start on easy terrain and try not to clench your teeth as you work your way through the low cruxes.
1080 and the Letter G, 23
Also located in the Paynes Ford climbing area, this overhanging route requires you to step up your technical game. Although the crux is short, the start might have you soiling your pants, but persevere and be rewarded with a nice rest. It is located on the Wall of Thugs and comprises six bolts to the anchors.
There’s a reason Golden Bay is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most popular climbing areas — and Paynes Ford has a lot to do with it. Rawhide is another steep, overhanging route comprised of fun, pocketed features down low that lead to a tricky, slabby finish. You’ll need enough draws for five bolts and a double anchor for this one. It is located on the Creese Wall.
Temples of Stone, 18
One of the longest and most classic climbs in the Paynes Ford climbing area, Temples of Stone will leave you smiling for days. This climb is located on the Stone Symposium Wall which requires a little bit of scrambling up to the start ledge, but is definitely worth the trouble. The climb is located just to the left of an obvious arete. Temples of Stone will satisfy all styles of climbers with its awesome blend of slab, slopers, bouldery moves, and jugs.
The Mission, 16
This climb is located in Queenstown on the southern end of the South Island, in a location often regarded as the “adventure capital“. The walking track runs for about 20 minutes before you reach a sign leading to the crag, opposite a waterfall. Wye Creek is comprised of high-quality compact schist, ideal for sport climbing. The Mission is located on the Main Wall, which is the first wall you come to once you reach the cliff. Climb up onto the arete and enjoy the stupendous exposure. You will need enough draws for nine bolts and the anchor.
Headbanger’s Arete, 17
This climb is located just outside of Wanaka in the Matukituki Valley, also on the South Island of New Zealand. Headbanger’s Arete is a beautiful, sharp arete feature offering moderately sustained climbing on quality schist. This classic is located on the Main Cliff in the Hospital Flat area of Wanaka, serving as the heart of rock climbing in the region. The sunny cliff is quick to dry. Arrive early to beat the crowds if it’s going to be a nice day.
The Arches, 18
Journey to the North Island to explore the Wharepapa region of Waikato, offering cliffs predominantly comprised of ingnmbrite. The Arches is a true classic for the area, following an impressive left facing corner with a crux at the start and the finish. Begin with a difficult layback on the corner, transition to a finger crack, then traverse right under a massive roof to finish on a belay ledge.
Angry American, 18
The Waikato and King Country Climbing area is also located on the North Island, in the upper middle area. Mangorewa offers quality sport climbs in a river gorge setting, and Angry American is one of the best. This aptly-named climb is situated on the Wall of Teeth. Climb through a puzzle of intertwined stalactites — very much unlike the pocketed features found elsewhere on the island. Bring an open mind and prepare to be humbled. You’ll need enough draws for six bolts and a double bolted anchor.
Terror Incognito, 18
The Waikato and King Country rock climbing region is home to popular Froggatt Edge area, which has been referred to as an outdoor indoor gym. Its easy access makes for a high level of popularity and Terror Incognito is a definite area classic. The climb begins in a corner than transitions out onto an arete. The route offers sustained climbing for the grade and requires enough draws for seven bolts plus an anchor.
Monsterpiece Theatre, 20
Located right beside Terror Incognito, this climb is the harder classic on the Main Cliff of the Froggatt Edge area. Ascend mostly slabby terrain within a defined dihedral before cutting across to the left in order to pull the roof. Ten bolts offer adequate protection, so while in the Froggatt Edge area don’t be afraid to give this one a go.
The final classic sport climb on our list hails from the limestone cliffs of the Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve in the The Waikato and King Country area of the North Island. This featured climb begins on a steep roof with plenty of holds and continues through a collection of exquisite stalactites, finishing on a mixture of teeth-clenching crimpers and relieving in-cut plates. This climb is located in the Grandstands area and offers fixed draws.