Dragon Crags is the new name applied to the collection of trachyte cliffs and buttresses to the east of the main Devils Gap cliff. This area has been separated into its own crag area because of the number of routes now established and the distinctive style of the area.
The main cliff faces north-east so it is hot on a sunny afternoon, and dries well after rain. However the area is exposed to winds from various directions and calm days are preferable. Because the crags are downhill somewhat, there is some shelter from nor-westers
This crag has a very long but sketchy and poorly documented history of development, going back to the early 1970s. In those days there was minimal gorse, so access to the area was much easier, but the lack of bolting technology limited development.
The first route documented was a 60 metre climb on the Dragon's Tail by John Madgwick in 1991; however the vigorous growth of gorse restricted later activities to more accessible walls. Matt Squires established the first two routes on Karaka Wall in 2005, and Gabriel Lincourt added two hard routes on Karaka and Bobo Wall in 2007. It wasn’t until 2018 that track-cutting started in earnest, and the Dragon's Tail and nearby areas became accessible. Many routes were bolted and climbed in the next few months. The first team in action was Hugh Logan, Joe Arts, and Lindsay Main, assisted at times by Hamish Castle, Marcus Arts, George Gerard, and Felix Collins. During spring 2018 they developed the Dragon's Tail,and in summer moved on to the multi-pitch routes to the right. Meanwhile another team spearheaded by Warrick Matheson and Doug Atkinson started developing the Upper Pillars area, and also Bobo Wall.
The rock is an unusual rhyolitic form of trachyte, the remnant of a large extrusion dome of the Akaroa volcano. It is generally clean and very grippy, varying between very featured walls and bare slabs. There are few cracks, so most routes are fully bolted. Caves formed by gas bubbles are common and can be quite large, and “egg-shell” structures of wafer-thin rock are sometimes found. Anchor stations are provided to enable single-rope abseils with a 60-metre rope.
The crag is now open for climbing, following the lambing period. However, there are different stock in various paddocks, so it is more important than usual that gates are not left open. .
The crags are on private farmland, and permission to climb must be obtained from the farm manager, Giles Foley, on 03 325-1109. It is not always possible to make contact, so a back-up plan is advised (Coffin Rock is nearby and on public land).
Note: It is not reasonable to expect Giles to call you back, so please don't ask for this. Just try calling again.
It is not uncommon for farming activities to require the farm to be closed to the public. This may occur because of lambing, stock movements, helicopter spraying, or other reasons.
NOTE: A gate was recently left open. This is very annoying for the farmer, whose goodwill we depend upon for continued access to the crags.
Drive toward Little River and turn off to the east just before the town, on Kinloch Road, continuing uphill to the south to join Bossu Road. Drive 2 km east and turn south again on Gap Road toward Robin Hood Bay. The best parking is just before a gate near the pine trees. Walk along the road 100 metres to another gate with an NZAC sign and track. Walk south along the track and on to the main ridge wit a view to Peraki Valley. The Gap itself is to the south, with the farm track running through it.
There are two approach routes. The upper track crosses the main ridge and follows the farm track to the Gap. The Red Slab is adjacent to the Gap on the left, with the other crags downhill along the ridge to the east. (The cliff on the right side of The Gap is the East Cliff of Devils Gap). At the Gap cross the fence and head south and then east up and over the rocky ridge; then following the rough track down the ridge to the top of Karaka Wall and then Bobo Wall below Karaka Wall. However, the track departs the ridge to the south (right-hand side) about 15m before you reach Karaka Wall, and descends steeply through the gorse and scrub to the south end of Bobo Wall. It traverses below Bobo Wall toward the ridge, meeting the south end of Gaga Wall, the lowest of the three walls cutting across the ridge, where a side track leads off to the ridge and then down the north side for access to the Upper Pillars, before descending steeply again for about 150 metres to the Dragon's Tail. From a flat area it is possible to scramble up to the col beside the Dragon's Tail summit, or to the top of the Little Pillar. The main track continues down and rightward before cutting across and then down below the Dragon's Tail, where it meets the lower track.
Note that this is very steep terrain and good footwear is essential.
The lower track takes a farm track that goes eastward from the ridge through a gate, leading gradually down the slope. Past an area of gorse and kanuka that has been sprayed, drop down through the paddock to a branch track below that cuts back to the west, and then swings south toward the crags. This old overgrown farm track runs level to a small clearing, and then a foot track ascends through the gorse and scrub to the lower buttresses.
The main track is marked with pink flagging tape, and goes directly to the start of The Road to Perdition in the Multi-pitch area, with a side track leading off from an area of bush to Pioneer Ridge on the right. The main track continues past the base of the Baby Buttress, across a small gap, and up to the base of the Dragon's Tail. A side track goes steeply up to the right to The Gully area and the top of the Baby Buttress, while the main track continues up to the Dragon's Tail, and then left and up around to join the upper track.
|Reference||Title||Grade||Length||Quality||Bolts||Gone||Natural pro||Link to edit content|
It is possible to climb from the base of the Dragons Tail right up the main ridge, taking in various pitches from different walls en route. Though there are many possible variations, the “classic” combination described here starts up On The Edge and continues up the climbs closest to the main ridge. The first Integral, in July 2019, took in a couple of bonus pitches, A Litany of Woe and Jungle Jim on Bobo Wall, instead of the more obvious and direct unroped pitch, Easy Way Home. Among other options one of the multi-pitch routes could be climbed, before continuing up climbs on Split Buttress and Gaga, Bobo, and Karaka Walls. Depending on the combination, the total integral will include between six and ten pitches and one or two sections of scrambling.
|Type||Title||Link to edit content|
|Wall||The Red Slab (4 routes)|
|Wall||Karaka Wall (4 routes)|
|Wall||Bobo Wall (7 routes)|
|Wall||Upper Walls (4 routes)|
|Wall||Gaga Wall (5 routes)|
|Wall||Upper Pillars (7 routes)|
|Wall||Multi-pitch routes (5 routes)|
|Wall||The Gully (4 routes)|
|Wall||Baby Buttress (2 routes)|
|Wall||Dragon's Tail (10 routes)|
|Wall||Little Pillar (1 route)|
|Wall||Lower slabs (1 route)|