Check the weather, check the tide, check the swell!
Great rock climbing exists on seacliffs near Charleston, on the West Coast between Greymouth and Westport. The cliffs are up to 40 metres high and consist of gneiss, a metamorphised granite. The quality is generally good. A great variety of climbing is found: delicate face climbs, crack climbs, chimneys, corners and overhangs. The holds are usually large and the harder climbs are steep. Friction is excellent. Most are easy to middle grade, with only few hard routes. Many fantastic lines await ascents. Most climbs are walk on and walk off.
The West Coast has a reputation for rain, but often it is enjoying a glorious fine spell when it’s raining in Canterbury. Climbing is very pleasant throughout the year.
Routes are described from north to south, and left to right facing the cliffs. Access is walk-on, with wave-cut platforms at the base of the cliffs. Be wary of waves breaking over the platform, and keep clear of surge holes. Cover up against sandflies.
Generally the rock is sound – often perfect – but care needs to be taken with occasional loose blocks and flakes, particularly on first ascents. Bring a good rack with CDs, hexes, wedges, and so on. Climb it as you see it.
We apologise to any first ascentionists not credited. There is a strong local convention of on-sight leading of new routes: “These cliffs suit the adventurous, and not so much the tricksters.” So let's try for that ideal, and report first ascent methods precisely. Some new routes will need bolts though, and these should be placed in the best positions from a top rope. Bolts, hangers and inserts must be of stainless steel only, because of the high corrosion rate.
Early use was made of the cliffs by Buller High School under the watchful eye of Paul Caffyn. Since then, more than 170 routes have been led. Key figures in the development of the cliffs include Paul Wopereis, Ronan Grew, and Rick Harding. Visitors such as Louise Shepherd and Dave Fearnley have added some hard lines.
More recently Nick Craddock and friends have been adding more modern routes into the area.
Charleston used to be a goldrush boomtown. In 1868 several thousand diggers were in residence, serviced by 60 hotels. It’s a little quieter now.
Please be responsible and clean campers and use the campground or motel. Camping at Constant Bay is no longer permitted.