Te Ahi-a-Tamatea (Rāpaki Rock)

(30 routes)

One of Christchurch’s most popular crags, due to its accessibility, availability of a number of reasonably easy trad climbs, easy access to the top, and partial shelter from the easterly.

The Māori name, and now official name for the crag, is Te Ahi-a-Tamatea – The Fire of Tamatea. The crag was known to climbers as Rāpaki Rock, and to European settlers as The Giant’s Causeway. The name arose when the famous explorer Tamatea stood on Te Poho-o-Tamatea (The Port Hills) and invoked a powerful incantation to a North Island tohunga, who sent down volcanic fire and ash to warm his travelling party who had been caught in a storm.

According to European mythology the crag is a large trachyte radial dyke of the Lyttelton Volcano, resulting in a coarse-grained rock that is generally solid and well-weathered to give a variety of features. Most of the climbs are based on more-or-less continuous cracks.

Though often regarded as suitable for beginner trad leaders, the crag has a long history of injury accidents, including a fatality in 2019. Despite its benign reputation the difficulty of protection placements on some climbs, coupled with a trend for the routes to be harshly graded, creates a trap for the unwary leader. Therefore take appropriate care: ensure that protection placements are good and be prepared to back off. A substantial rack is needed because some climbs will take plentiful protection, and gear is also required for setting anchors at the top.

There are no bolt anchors, and placing bolts either as anchors or as protection could set climbers at odds with the owners.

Top-roping is often set up as there are generally good protection placements and some large boulders for long slings at the top, and there is easy access to the top. The crag is extensively used by outdoor education groups of various stripes.

There is no record of climbing at the crag prior to 1968, when 11 routes were included in New Zealand’s first rock climbing guidebook, which covered Castle Rock and Rāpaki Rock, with a total of about 50 climbs. Most notable among the early ascents was Body and Soul (19) by Gavin Wills, who was later the general manager of Alpine Guides at Aoraki/Mount Cook. Since then the other climbs have been progressively added, with the first ascents not always known.

On the left side is the classic beginner route Crow’s Nest. Just left of the overhangs is Monkee Poop. Right of the overhangs Main Royale goes up the thin face and the earthquake-scarred rock above. A convoluted chimney on the right is Bilge.

Walk time: 

The crag is on land owned by Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke, who are based at Rāpaki Bay. The owners are happy for climbers to climb freely at the crag, but the usual courtesies should be observed. Be respectful by leaving no trace of your visit, and by sharing the crag with others.
Drive up Dyers Pass Road to The Sign of the Kiwi café at Dyers Pass and turn left on to the Summit Road. After about 5 km a parking area is reached at the saddle where the Rāpaki Track meets the road.
Walk up the established track from the north end of the car park to the north end of the crag; then along the base to reach the climbs. There is easy access around the north end for setting up top ropes.

-43.594079000000, 172.676139000000
M36 839 348
BX24 739 732
Reference Title Grade Length Quality Bolts Gone Natural pro Link to edit content
LE Left End 15 16m
wire representing trad
On left side of crag. Up through face on left of crag.
LF Left Face 16 16m
wire representing trad
The face between the LH Arete and CN. Thought provoking pro.
CN Crows Nest 12 16m
wire representing trad
Start over the blocky slab and climb straight up into a hideaway scoop. Get psyched and move slightly left from the 'cave' then straight up to top out through jugs.
Fa Face Variation 17 16m
wire representing trad
The face/ slab to the right of CN. Protection can be hard to find on the lower third of the route and has resulted in at least one serious accident. After a fatality in 2019 the Mountain Safety Council recommended climbers do not lead the route.
B Barricoe 14 15m
wire representing trad
An easy lower section gives access to a short steep wall.
BC Bosun's Chair 16 15m
wire representing trad
Up vague crack, around bulge to ledge. Use hand crack form ledge to top. Poor pro!
Ra Ratlines 12 14m
wire representing trad
A steep crack with small but good holds leads to ledges. Finish by trending up left. A harder direct finish continues up from the top of a large flake.
Fc Fo'c's'le 14 18m
wire representing trad
Up rib to slanting roof. Step left, and bridge up past protruding block into corner. Finish up the prow or exit left.
Sy Scurvy 13 18m
wire representing trad
The Left Crack past nose. At small bulge below nose, go right to monkey poop, then left back to crack. Bridge past nose, move right and finish on the left hand of the two deep cracks.
MP Monkee Poop 13 18m
wire representing trad
Smooth rock near the bottom becomes more inviting under a small but prominent nose. Climb up one side or other of the nose, continue up either a narrow slab or an adjacent crack.
Blankety Blank 24
The steep wall, with no pro.
Tony Burnell '98
Banalarama 24 18m
2bolts wire representing trad
Steep and scaly wall 5m right of MP. Left side of large scoop below the overhangs, thin crack through roof to the right. Run out but pleasant enough.
Dave Fearnley 1988
Waives the Rules 23
Climbs the weakness up the RHS of the Banalarama slab, then up the overhanging corner with thin crack
Alan Hill, 1999
PC Penile Decay 23 18m
2bolts wire representing trad 1
Right side of the scoop, past 2 bolts, over bulge and up overhanging headwall. Flaky rock.
Steve Elder '89
GG Galley Gulley 16 15m
wire representing trad
Climb up into the vee chimney, bridge and chimney to exit right onto the upper wall. Continue to the top. Good protection.
Anchors Away 22
Wall and scoop left of a Bridge too Far then up short crack to easier ground.
Alan Hill, 1999
B2F The Bridge Too Far 22 16m
wire representing trad
Climb easily up into the groove, then bridge up to the roof. Continue bridging and exit with difficulty on to the top wall. Adequate protection.
John Howard '78
Sr Spinnaker 18 16m
wire representing trad
Formerly known as Greasy Joan. Start up a thin crack angling R with marginal wires to the scoop, then steeply on jugs to a ledge. - an easier variation goes R to the arete. Continue up easier ground over a small bulge to a slab and up.
Lindsay Main' 79
Whose Turn In The Barrel? 16 18m
wire representing trad
Irregular rib with a bulge. Place protection in the slot two metres up and move left for cams in the diagonal crack. Climb the arête to the ledge, and finish as for Spinnaker over a small bulge up a slab and up.
F Forecourse 15 18m
wire representing trad
Climb the corner at the left end of a ledge until the corner runs out. Ignore the easy finish off left, move up across a shallow hollow to the right. Continue straight up to the top.
MR Main Royale 17 18m
wire representing trad
Classic climb with good pro. Climb the face directly upwards, following the intermittent crack to the R facing corner, then exit leftwards onto ledge. Sound gear. and great climb despite the earthquake damage.
Ya Yardarm 18 18m
wire representing trad
The corner crack on the right hand side of the M.R wall. Can be pointed out because of the useless piton right at the start. Climb the corner for 5 metres with good pro. Once you reach the fractured new rock (Result of seismic activity) the gear runs out, the climbing gets harder and it gets quite spicy.
Strawberry Box 17
wire representing trad
Climb the corner, move right onto the wall, then move up with some difficulty to gain a niche. Continue up the easier top section
Graham Dingle 1971
Mn Mizzen 18 18m
wire representing trad
Climb the rib on small holds (hard, very poor pro). Then up and into the chimney. Climb the chimney on to the ledge, then easy climbing to the top out. Varied climbing. Good protection once you are in the chimney. An easier start more in keeping with the rest of the climb would be the jam crack on the left.
Brown Tongue 22 17m
The brown pillar right of Yardarm. No pro.
Tony Burnell 1999
FW Freakey's Wall 22
wire representing trad 2
Climb the wall at the left of B & S ledge. Place gear in the cavity/hole before the crux at half height. Small run-out after that to good gear before trending right and up the faint crack. Good gear but some of it is far apart.
John Allen 1980
B&S Body and Soul 19 18m
wire representing trad 2 2
Start on the small foot ledge down and left. Work your way right then up to the bulbous ledge. Step left off the ledge and up through the overhang to the big hole, gain the crack and charge to the top. Good pro.
Gavin Wills 1967
DR Dr Rock and the Carbo Kid 20 16m
wire representing trad
Climb up the pillar beneath the roof. Follow the good pro.
Dave Macleod 1988
Bl Bilge 15 15m
wire representing trad
Thrutch up the chimney, or swing up with technique. A traverse to the left using a horizontal crack leads to an easier groove between the big overhang on the left and the block on the right.
FJ Flying Jib 14 17m
wire representing trad 1
Starts at a lower level, climb the steep wall and gain the groove. Climb up the crack moving right near the top. Good protection
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Information by Lindsay Main & Previously hosted on website by John Davis

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Hi Greg,
To back up cragrat -Rapaki is a trad crag and has always been so with lots of blocks at the top to set trad anchors( slings, wires, hexes etc ).
The remedial work has been done and its as safe as it ever will be for a Christchurch Crag !
There are some fantastic beginners climbs on the left end and although severly damaged by the earthquakes, in the middle - 'Main Royale' and 'Yardarm' are still really good climbs.
As with all crags pre earthquakes in Christchurch, its just a matter of checking those holds a little more than one would in the past.
Happy climbing !

I went to have a look today at this. All top anchors have been removed and there are no bolts that i could see unless i just missed them. Seems to be a lot of earthquake damage and does kinda look unsafe… shame really because it is just off the summit road.

Hi Greg
Not quite sure what you mean by "all top anchors have been removed" as Rapaki has never had fixed anchors and has very few bolted routes. The crag has been remediated several times both by council funded rope access team working on a threat area above the northern access and experienced climbers. By all accounts from those climbing on it it's ok and just needs treating like an alpine crag but is generally pretty good.