Sport climbing

Climbing at Mangorewa, Mangaokewa and Waitomo

My shoulders ache, my fingers feel like they’ve been polished and I don’t think I have any muscles left to do a pull up but the bright sun shine is making it hard for today to be a rest day.

The top spot from the last ten days was Mangorewa, a crag half way between Tauranga and Rotorua which requires you to stop along a main road, climb over a crash barrier to follow a rough path down to a river. You then walk down the stream for 20 minutes before the aptly named ‘River wall’ rises steeply from the water, a 30 meter vertical to overhanging cliff with the hardest and most impressive routes the area has to offer. To the right there’s a path up the bank to a few more friendly offerings, and in front of you there’s a river pool deep enough to swim in and some convenient flat rocks for some unofficial camping. The rock’s ignimbrite, and the routes are mostly steep, cruxy and interesting.

When we arrived Kerry and Owen were bolting new routes. A quick flick through the guide book tells you that the pair are almost entirely to thank for developing the areas lines, most of which feel like extended boulder problems – even the easier climbs have a sequence to master. We also met Glenda, a brilliantly strong female climber who easily cruised the 23s (French 6c+) and graces many of the guidebooks best route pictures. You quickly learn how different the scene is here to back home: it’s a much smaller community and all the rock is far less developed. Many of the harder routes have still only had a couple of assents and at Mangorewa there’s no such thing as a polished hold. Within an hour or so we’d learnt about the history of the crag’s development, had tips on the best lines to try and even had offers of sofas to sleep on (with an on-site 45 degree boulder wall!). It’s pretty inspiring.

Bad weather sent us packing from Wharepapa (one of the most developed areas of the North Island) despite the charming Wharepapa South school campsite. Instead we headed to Mangoakewa for overhands climbable even in poor conditions. The ‘Colloseum’ wall describes the overall appearance of the crag – a 60m curve of rock which follows the river bend and overlooks the free camping area beneath. The rock was limestone but lower tiers of rock suffered from over chalking and slippery holds resulting in lower quality routes. Day two’s climbing on the ‘Wall of Teeth’ was far more fun with cleaner holds, better views and gymnastic moves onto stalactites. In particular, we’d recommend ‘Angry American’ (18) and ‘Stalactitis’ (23). We also met Aki and Janna, a Finnish couple on climbing and traveling sabbatical (

Next we headed over to Waitomo, famous with tourists for the abundance of glow worm filled caves and celebrated by climbers for high quality bouldering. There was at least three days’ worth of things to play on, and huge potential for more development. Unlike Fontainebleau there were no heinous mantle rock overs at the end of the routes, but lots of high ball stuff to get your heart beat up. With only one day to spare, Philipp and I spent the morning working the moves on the Skyline Boulders with Aki, Janna, Max and Benni and explored the other areas in the afternoon. In the evening we camped back at Mangoakewa to get a few last routes in before parting ways to continue our travels further south.