Holy schist – Climbing at Wanaka

Another day, another blue sky, another lump of looming rock in the distance waiting to be explored. After bouldering at Castle Hill and some indoor stuff on the one rainy day I’ve had since arriving, it was more than time to get my hands on real rock and my feet sky-high.

Wanaka is supposed to be one of the climbing gems of the South Island – or so I was told by a bunch of topless dudes smoking pot who had a climbing wall in their living room. As a clearly trustworthy source I set out, finally armed with the gear I had faithfully lugged from the UK.


Hospital Flat is a wide expanse of brown sun-baked grass, punctuated by the odd fluffy white wooly four-legged beast. The far side is littered with crags, rising above the grassy terrain with the promise of some decent routes but absolutely no shade.

A short trek through some scrubland and the odd boulder to dodge leads to the rock face, ┬áschist marbled quartz in banded layers with odd nuggets littering the face. It looked inviting enough, slabby with plenty of footholds – a dream after Castle Hill.

Leading outside for me is always dicey, as I’m a confidence climber and like to get a few top ropes in first to warm up. Especially on a type of rock I’ve never climbed before. The rock itself was very different to climb, the feet were fine but the hand holds were either pinchers or weird crimps – very textured with the aforementioned small nuggets all over the shop. It was easy climbing but required a lot of trust, not always my strong suit.

Nonetheless, up I went on a variety of climbs, leading without a single dyslexic back clip to my name. All were slabs, and on paper easy. For me the grading seemed tough but I think that can be attributed to a lack of hard climbing, a lack of sleep and a lack of confidence climbing with a complete stranger.

The most amusing moment of the day was climbing ‘Weaker Sex’ – whoever named that needs a slap or a drink, depending on just who they were aiming that title at. Today it certainly wasn’t me – I lead it in style with a smile on my face, which I would expect on a route of that grading.


Without looking at anything other than the easy routes, it is hard to know what to say about Hospital Flat, but it is well bolted, the guide-book is accurate and it is therefore a pretty easy place as a traveling climber to find your way around. The rock itself made me smile in between the moments of terror when I realised I was ten feet above a bolt with a complete stranger on the end of the rope.

If you are south of south and fancy a climb it is a beautiful spot. But probably not worth a special trip unless you are nearby. Nonetheless, the experience was rewarding, more leading outside is always a bonus and bit by bit I am becoming a more competent, assured climber. But in the meantime, I need to find a climbing partner I can trust implicitly – or always drag my partners in crime from back home in tow whenever I disappear on an adventure!


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