Castle hill is in New Zealand, which is a little English speaking country in the south of the Pacific Ocean. It has lots of
mountain climbing type stuff and is a real outdoor paradise. Hey, if you what to know more, use a search engine and look up some
touristy sites. What we are concerned with is climbing (probably bouldering as that's en vogue). We have climbing on all types of
rock but generally on a smaller scale, except the Darrens, which is a huge granite big walling type place and there is bound to
be some bouldering too. All the other areas are great, but if you want boulders - Castle Hill is the place. It is a place like no
other, a style not found anywhere else in the world.
Even better, New Zealand is cheap; our dollar is as weak as toilet paper. What else is good... the weather - all year round climbing. Summer is hot and the rock has bad friction but summer still seems most popular. Winter is cold with a bit of snow, but friction to die for. Autumn and spring are the seasons that you should aim for. Castle Hill is in a basin so the weather is weird - it is the last place to get rain and not much wind ever gets in. Of course when it does rain just go to Christchurch and hang out, or climb there, if its fine, at one of the dozen local crags.
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How to get there: Firstly, find New Zealand if you're not here already. Castle Hill Basin is in the South Island, 100 km west from Christchurch (just over 1 hours drive), and 250 km east from Greymouth. If driving from Christchurch, head towards Arthur's Pass; After 60-70 km you will pass Sheffield and Springfield which are good for food and drink after a day's climbing. Once over Porter's Pass go another 10 km and look for thousands of large boulders on the left. This is the Homestead. Park next to pine trees, walk five minutes, go hard.
Another 5 km down the road is the Cave Stream carpark. From here is access to the Cave Stream Boulders, Flock Hill and Dry Valley.
Area description: The Basin is surrounded by the Craigieburn and the Torlesse Ranges and the valley floor is covered by tussock and grasses. There is little water so bring your own, and only a few trees. In this open and desolate looking place rise unique, rounded grey limestone boulders ranging in height from 1-50m. The two main areas are the Homestead and Flock Hill. The Homestead includes Quantum Field, Spittle Hill, Dark Castle and Wuthering Heights. Flock Hill includes Cave Stream, Dry Valley and Flock Hill itself. Quantum Field's 1500+ problems account for only one tenth of the total limestone boulders in the Castle Hill Basin.
Bouldering description: There are many slabs, vertical walls and slight overhangs (no big roofs). Holds range from very small edges through to pockets of various sizes and of course slopers of all hideousness. Overall the bouldering can be considered technical but, in many cases, very powerful. Expect to get those little used muscles exercised if you haven't bouldered there before. The landings are generally flat and grassy, but a crashmat is recomended for a lot of problems.
Grading: For Route climbing the Ewbank system is used. Bouldering Grades are in the V-system. The lower end has been extended to include VE (easy) and VM (medium) below V0. The grades below V4 tend to be a little soft, the V7 and up end is compressed and sometimes a bit hard. As there have been only few people repeating problems at the upper end the grades may change in time. We try to grade for the average ascentionist and in average conditons. Since the climbing is so friction reliant, temperature plays a big role in difficulty and some climbs will go up or down one grade depending on conditions.
Accommodation: No camping is allowed at any of the Fields. The Land Manager (phone 03 3188466) of the Homestead runs a Back Packers for $15 a night to stay at the shearers house. 5km past cave stream is Craigeburn Campground, which is free and has toilets, firewood and a shelter. The shelter contains many excellent boulder problems.
On the way to Christchurch is the Springfield Domain which cost $4 a night but is a good place to stop and have a 50 cent shower on the way for a night on the town.
Of course you can not climb many days in a row here so staying in Christchurch and making day trips is another option.
Other Areas: But wait, there's more! Next door to Quantum Field is an area called Dark Castle. This is currently closed to climbers but permission can be obtained by ringing the land manger (details in accomodation section) on weekdays only. It is primarily a route climbing area, including Angel Of Pain 32(5.14a) by Eric Talmadge. Details of the routes are in "South Island Rock".
Up the hill behind Dark Castle is Wuthering Heights - a smaller boulder field with potential for about 600 problems. The development is very slow as you must walk though Quantum to get there (it takes about 15min from Quantum). All reconnaissance missons have been very positive.
At Cave Stream there are many boulders which have been very popular in the past due to the proximity to the car park. Yet just a little futher up a hill opposite the stream mouth is the Cave Boulders (15min walk) which has been vistited only a handful of times and appears to have many more abruptly angled boulders. This is the first area in the completely undeveloped Pebble Hill and George Hill areas. It is on private land the walk looks about 45min-90min to get to the main fields. These areas are huge of course and are good for an adventure once in a while. In the future they may get developed a little more.
At the back of Flock Hill below the escarpement is the Head Wall Boulders. Yet another seldom visted field as you have to walk through or around Flock Hill to get there (about an hour). But the angles look wild as the boulders have rolled down the back of Flock Hill.