As I wrote last week, I have been able to go out climbing a respectable amount considering my intense work schedule. Considering how much “holiday” I take in general right now it’s only fair that I spend a month here and there doing nothing but make money. Upon the ending of that month, however, I went out with my Kiwi climbing buddy on a mission to discover what the heck everybody has been all excited about with Wye Creek.
Johann picked me up in Arrowtown and we drove about half an hour on Highway 6 heading towards Te Anau. We took a left turn off the road and drove to a grassy carpark. We had to walk the rest of the road because it was 4WD and Johann drives a respectable little Nissan Sunny, which unfortunately will just not do that particular trick.
I will not lie, the walk up to the crag was a bit of a battle for me. It’s been a long time since I walked much vertical let alone with the weight of water, food, and gear on my back, and I was feeling angry with myself for having let go of my fitness in the last couple months. The road was also not the most exciting walking track, and so we just had to trudge up it until we reached the second car park, what is officially deemed the Lower Wye Creek Track trailhead.
From there, the walk became a single, very steep track through alternating dark forests and sunny Beech tree groves. (Plant aside: Beech trees in NZ are native, very precious trees. If anyone remembers the scene in LOTR1 when Boromir dies, you have seen a beech forest. They are lovely.) The creek has been harnessed by small hydro-electric dams and so there is a lot of piping and infrastructure along the way. One we reached the proper elevation, we crossed the creek via the dam bridge and walked along the piping to another creek which was really a long waterfall.
Just beyond the waterfall were the crags. Delicious, sticky granite schist with a variety of holds, a nice number of medium-grade climbs, overall good bolting choices, and lots and lots of sun. Lots of sun is something to be grateful yet cautious about in NZ thanks to the glaring hole in the ozone layer above us that exposes us to a billion times more UV than anywhere else. I was in the yard for about 10 minutes one day and got a burn. They are very serious about their sunscreen here, which does not make it any less expensive, let me tell you.
Johann and I spent the rest of the day cruising through some really nice climbing. My first climb was the worst, featuring a strange, insecure clipping sequence paired with my extreme lack of self confidence having just huffed and puffed my way up a simple approach.
New Zealand uses the “Ewbank System” of grading difficulty of climbing, and I am beginning to become fluent in the system. The ratings start at 1 for easy and go all the way up to 35. I’ve currently been climbing 15-18, which is about 5.7-5.9. This makes sense, although I’ve been slightly disappointed with how difficult I’ve been finding the 15s around here….
For anyone looking for details on the climbs, here is a list.
On the Main Wall of Wye Creek:
- Indecent Exposure- 15 (5.7), 7 bolts, 15 meters. It started in a big corner with a high bolt on the right then asked to you run out quite a bit of rope before making a strange, nervous clip on a face to the left. After the first two bolts, its mostly slab with a few steep bits on horizontal holds.
- The Quest- 16 (5.8), 5 bolts, 13 meters. Totally different holds on this face, being bumpy and jagged at the same time. Extremely well bolted route, very fun and cruisy with interesting holds to problem solve.
- Oh La La!- 16 (5.8) 5 bolts, 15 meters. On the right on the same face as the Quest but using an arête edge on the right for a lot of the climb. Feels a bit exposed in an exciting way. Nice sticky rock and well bolted. Shares and anchor with The Quest.
- Leap Frog- 19 (5.10a/b) 6 bolts, 15 meters. An extremely well bolted once move wonder, and if you have longer arms, the very key second clip is a breeze. The steep section at the beginning as a beautiful sequence that was just beyond me and I did this on top rope, not being quite brave enough to face the steep. After the initial steep section is fairly cruisy slab with one tricky spot above a bolt.
- The Mission- 16 (5.8) 8 bolts, 28 meters. One of the longest climbs to be found in Wye Creek (if not NZ, honestly). A beauty of a climb, a bit trickier than its rating in my opinion if for no other reason than it’s run out for the hole thing. An additional two bolts or a little more bravery on my part would have made this climb feel absolutely magical. Lots of exciting exposure at the top, scary moves high above bolts, and slightly greasier rock are also balanced by super cool, big moves to make on good holds and a chance to practice a little more endurance on a relatively easy climb.
On the Liver Abuse Buttress:
- Wet Sunday- 15 (5.7). A bit of a sandbagged 15 if you ask me. Tricky to find, crimpy and slippery holds on a spread out face that gets easier as it goes.
- Windy September- 15 (5.7) 6 bolts, 16 meters. I was underenthused at the start of this climb and ended up psyched because of one beautiful move featuring a juggy sidepull/footcrossing that made me feel like a super hero.
- Liver Abuse- 16 (5.8) 4 bolts, 12 meters. We decided to end with this climb, having Johann belay me to the top to practice his top belay anchor set up. The top of the buttress is the bottom of the Main Wall so we had the bonus of avoiding an overly steep, grassy ascent back up to the main trail. This climb was not much to write home about but a good way to end the day.
I can’t remember the last time I finished 8 climbs in a day, and Lordy did it feel good. Our carpark beer was well-earned. The coolest thing was that the next day I didn’t feel as sore or tired as I thought I would. Maybe I’m in better shape than I think I am….