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The Sanctuary


This crag consists of the large west-facing walls on Point 1764 in Sanctuary Basin on the Mt Owen massif. It offers exceptional climbing on marble limestone, including large overhangs as well as slabs and faces marked by continuous large water runnels and is unique within New Zealand climbing in providing a Verdon-style climbing experience in a magnificent and tranquil alpine setting. The wall is home to both single pitch bolted climbs and to multi-pitch routes, the first route established was the six-pitch The Spruce Goose by Peter Allison and Tom Hoyle in March 2020.
The rock, where weathered, is exceptionally hard and can form quite sharp features, so climbers should take care that their ropes do not rub excessively on sharp features when climbing or abseiling. The yellow less-weathered rock is not as compact and can be loose or flakey in places. Despite the routes being equipped with modern stainless steel protection, this is not a sport climbing crag, the alpine setting and remote location means that climbers should exercise considerable caution as they may encounter loose rock and other hazardous conditions.

POINT (172.555133 -41.533704)
BR23 6289 0190

This crag is within Kahurangi National Park and therefore the area should be treated with all the care and respect a national park deserves. Climbers should seek to minimise their impact on flora, fauna and other park visitors as much as possible. The crag is accessed from, and visible by, the route from Granity Pass Hut to Mt Owen itself. Climbers should be aware that this is a popular route with trampers and seek to minimise their impact on the wilderness experience of those walking the track.
The crag is best accessed from Granity Pass Hut. Follow the Mt Owen track south from the hut through Sanctuary Basin and after around 20-30 mins it flattens off in an area around the tarns. At this point the crag is very obvious to the east. Leave the track in the direction of the crag, head down the slope and cross a small stream, and then up through grasses and then scree to the base of the crag.
As the walls face west, they are shaded in the morning and then receive sun until sunset. The alpine setting means that rock in the shade can be very cold, but in mid-summer it can also be very hot in the sun, with little shade to escape to on the longer routes. There is almost always a breeze of some kind once higher on the wall. Good climbing conditions can be found any time outside of winter.

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Reference Title Grade Length Pro Quality Operations
 The Spruce Goose, 24 24 168m 10

A little slice of Verdon in New Zealand. Superb face and slab climbing on mostly excellent rock (after Pitch 1) to the top of the pinnacle on Point 1764.
6 pitches, ~175m, climbable on a 60m rope with 12 draws.
The route is set up to rap the pitches as described for climbing, including a short mini rap from the Sanctuary Ledge to the Eagle Cave in order to then make the ground. The rope pulls are pretty clean but beware there are plenty of sharp, snaggy bits of rock around.

  • P1
  • 20
  • 40m
  • 10

The worst on the route, don't let this one discourage you, there's far better rock and climbing to come. Start off the top of the large block at the right hand end of the crag just before the grass slope turns to scree. It is easiest to ascend the block on the far side via a short scramble. A ramble through a garden system leads to steep moves out of the small cave up and right on sharp jugs. There is some loose rock if you stray too far from the line of bolts, be cautious. The belayer should be away to the left and safe from rock fall (belay from on top of the block). It is possible to climb all the way to the Sanctuary Ledge, but recommended to stop at the rap station in the Eagle Cave in order to reduce rope drag and make it nicer for the follower. Best to have 4-6 extendable draws for the initial bolts to help reduce the drag. You'll then need to climb an easy mini pitch to gain the big ledge.

  • P2
  • 24
  • 18m
  • 8

Absolutely superb face climbing on sidepulls and undercling features, and worth the walk for this pitch alone. Start from the left side of the Sanctuary Ledge at the single ring. The second and fifth bolts are tricky to clip, so be careful (there are good stances for each).

  • P3
  • 21
  • 30m
  • 8

A long, engaging pitch on mostly great rock. Low angle slab moves lead to a short steeper face. Belay at the base of the big ramp.

  • P4
  • 21
  • 20m
  • 5

Run up the immaculate hanging ramp to a slab boulder problem just before the comfy belay pod.

  • P5
  • 18
  • 30m
  • 7

Steeper moves right from the belay quickly relent to easier climbing to ledges (some loose rock sitting on ledges). Belay at the base of the headwall.

  • P6
  • 19
  • 30m
  • 9

Climb up to the vague groove and then onto the steeper headwall section to the top anchor.

 Pipiwharauroa, 24 24 35m 8

  • P1
  • 24
  • 35m
  • 8

Steep face to slab. A long standing project, bolted by Chris Butler and Sam Russek in 2008. Named due to the shiny appearance of stainless steel bolts.