The 22 February 2011 Christchurch earthquake caused major damage to this crag. There has been major rockfall and many loose blocks remain. With aftershocks an added hazard, please stay clear.
A prominent volcanic feature with classic, airy routes. Solid rock, good climbs in most grades and easy access make Castle Rock Christchurch’s most popular crag. You can find somewhere sheltered to climb on most days. Probably the crag with the longest tradition of climbing in Canterbury, Castle Rock is handily located just above the Heathcote valley. It offers a good mix of traditionally protected routes up to about grade 24, and even a few bolt-protected harder routes (most notably The Cave Route).
This is definitely the longest-used rockclimbing area in the Canterbury region. Many of the routes were aided, and the area was regarded as just a belaying training area. Unfortunately, there was little recorded history prior to Don Hutton's 1968 guide, though there is a mention of rock falls in 1967 (hence the name Cannonball Gully for the area left of the Cave). So all the names of existing climbs originated from the 1968 guidebook editors, and no first ascentionists are credited. One preserved early name, from 1940, is `Hamilton's Crack' for Hawk/Eagle Cleft. After the publishing of the first guide, there was little development. Then in 1971 Rob Rainsbury added *Gibbet 18. Allegedly he thought it was the normal finish to ***Gargoyle 16 and became committed. Also that year, Bill Denz led the very necky **Alhambra 18 with minimal pro. 1972 saw Colin Dodge complete **Court Jester 20, the first climb at this grade at Castle Rock. Rob Rainsbury added the excellent **Rawhide 18. Murray Judge (the Southern Raider) pulled off the plum of ***Judgement 20. In 1974 John Barnett did **Executioner 19.
Little was added then until 1978. As some of his earliest efforts in NZ, John Allen added *Bill's Hat 21, **Marc Bolan Memorial Arete 19 and Corkscrew 19. 1979 saw an increase in activity and visitors such as Tobin Sorenson, who did the testing *Ex Cathedra 24 and soloed *Breakfast of Champions 21. John Allen came out with Passion Play 23. Rick McGregor produced the bold classic **Peregrinus 22 and Dave Fearnley added Sid Vicious Arete 21, one of his earliest new routes.
1980 saw John Allen become the Uncompromising Vulture 22, following John Howard's good efforts in placing all the protection. Allen and his team then turned their attention to the steeply overhanging Barbican Wall. *Tales of Machismo 24 and *Wall of Shame 23 resulted. The last route was aptly named as it represented the first `real' use of a bolt at Castle Rock. Allen paid `fifty cents a day' for a student labourer to drill the hole, which took 2 days with Mike Law's massive sandstone bit. 1981 saw Brian Fish do the other obvious lines on this wall, the pumpy **Poetry in Motion 25 and Jeni's Gang 24. Visitor Charlie Creese added Roof of the World 24, and Dave Fearnley did the last of the cracks on the Keep, *The SS 24.
Fearnley published a guide to Castle Rock in 1982, which contained some 130 routes for the Rock, which was nearly 100 more than the 1968 guide. Following that there was a definite slowing of pace. Perhaps Castle Rock has basically been mined-out!
The crag is now open again for climbers and other visitors. Given that the old safe decent route at Sea Breezes wall no longer exists, John Entwisle has set up the following abseil anchors.
- One pair at the top of Flying Buttress-this is a 29m rap with clear visibility to the ground; 60m rope required.
- One pair at the top of Hangman and Executioner-this is a 29m rap with clear visibility to the ground; 60m rope required.
- One pair above the cave at Arrow and Eclipse. This is a shorter rap (23m) but visibility to the ground isn't clear.
Please report any issues, observations to Christchurch City Council (03) 941 8999 24/7
. Descents from other areas are fairly straight forward.