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 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 Dragons 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 Dragons Tail and nearby areas became accessible. Many routes were bolted and climbed in the next few months.
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 crags are on private farmland, and permission to climb must be obtained from the farm manager, Giles Foley, on 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).
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 spur. The Gap itself is to the south with the farm track running through it.
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).
There are two approach routes. The “normal” route is through the Gap and up and over the ridge, then dropping down the ridge. The top of Karaka and Bobo Walls can be accessed by going down the ridge, with an abseil to the base of Bobo Wall. The alternative to the base of Bobo Wall, and to the crags lower down, is to take the new track though the gorse around the base of Bobo Wall. The track continues down to the Dragons Tail, with side tracks leading to the various smaller crags. Note that this is very steep terrain and good footwear is essential.
The alternative route takes a farm track that goes eastward from the spur through a gate, leading slowly 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 to the lower buttresses.
The main track skirts the base of the Baby Buttress, across a small gap and up to the base of the Dragons Tail. From there it is possible to go up the gully on the right, or continue left and up around the side of the Tail.