Bouldering at Castle Hill, New Zealand

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Bouldering Castle Hill Quantum Hill Spittle Hill

If you’ve come to New Zealand, looking for rocks, then look no further. Castle Hill bouldering is a premiere climbing destination. Or at least it should be, with thousands of problems within a ten minute walk of the parking lot (or car park, as the kiwis call ’em).

We spent two and a half days romping around Spittle Hill and Quantum Hill. We’ve got all the beta for bouldering Castle Hill.

Castle Hill Spittle Hill Bouldering

When to climb at Castle Hill

Winter has the best temps, but it may be cold and there may be snow.

You can never go wrong with spring or fall.

Summer, the high season in New Zealand, is less than ideal. Polished limestone in the hot, beating sun means everything is glassy. There’s no friction. There’s relatively no shade.

Castle Hill Spittle Hill Bouldering

Where to rent crash pads for Castle Hill

If you’re not coming to New Zealand specifically to boulder, chances are you didn’t lug your crash pad with you internationally. Fear not, you can rent crash pads from Smylies on your way into Castle Hill from Christchurch.

Their pads are all by Edelrid. The largest is the Edelrid Crux pad. They also have a handful of smaller pads. Crux pad rentals start at $18 NZD per day and gets cheaper the more days you rent.

Castle Hill Spittle Hill Bouldering

Forgot your shoes? Smylies rents shoes too, starting at $10 per day.

Smylies also rents the Castle Hill bouldering book for $10 NZD per day. The guide is $60 NZD. It’s not an amazing guide, and not really worth keeping. Smylies will buy it back from you if it has minimal wear and tear.

The front desk is not always staffed, so time your pick up carefully. There is always someone available between 8-10AM and 5-9PM.

Bivouac Outdoor in Christchurch may also rent crash pads.

What to bring to Castle Hill

Castle Hill Spittle Hill Bouldering

Aside from the obvious climbing gear, here’s a list of things that might come in handy for your time at the boulders:

  • Water! Bring lots of it! There’s no potable water and there’s no shade. It can get hot, hot hot.
  • Sunscreen! Keep your skin youthful and cancer-free. The sun here is fierce.
  • Comfy shoes. Leave your approach shoes behind and grab your sandals. The approaches are all super mellow.
  • Mantle skills. You better be good at mantling, or learn how to quick. These topouts are no joke.

Where to stay near Castle Hill

The closest spot to stay is at Porters Lodge. It’s approximately a 15 minute drive to the Castle Hill car park and has unlimited WiFi (unlike Forest Lodge). Lights out is at 10pm, though, when the generator turns off. Three styles of room and board are available: private room, shared, or camping.

We stayed during February. We booked a private room, but in hindsight, should have booked a shared room. There was literally nobody at the lodge.

If you have a camper van or are sleeping out of your car, there are four sites available, with hookups. This is the most cost-effective option, and you’ll have full access to the lodge, minus beds, of course.

Castle Hill Quantum Hill Bouldering

Porters Lodge also has a small restaurant on-site. If you’re too lazy to cook, or if you didn’t bring any cookware, this is a good option to stay fueled.

The busy season for Porters Lodge is winter, since the ski area is right there. Weekends tend to be fairly packed with Christchurch weekend warriors and tourists as well. Mid-week in the summer, we had almost the entire place to ourselves.

Summer rates are cheaper than winter rates. Check their website for most up-to-date prices. To book, get in contact with Porters Lodge.

Other places to stay include the Smylies Hostel in Springfield (30 min), Forest Lodge (15 min), and AirBnBs in Castle Hill Village (approx. 10 min).

Castle Hill Bouldering

Which climbs are the easiest at Castle Hill?

Climbing at Castle Hill is hard. Grades are sandbagged. The rock is polished and glassy. Expect to get shut down.

We made the most of our trip by climbing everything obscure, which meant it still had texture.

Castle Hill Quantum Hill Bouldering

Some of our favorite (by favorite, I mean, places we could actually climb stuff) spots were…

Castle Hill Basin is an awesome resource for identifying boulders. It’s best to cross-reference with the guidebook though, since it’s definitely not comprehensive. The Crag is another resource and follows the book more closely, though most of the areas are not mapped. If you want to pick up the book before you go, knock yourself out.

Castle Hill Bouldering

Despite being terrible and hard climbing–I hate slopers, compression, and mantles–I would go back to Castle Hill in a heartbeat. Castle Hill bouldering is so beautiful and picturesque, who cares if you get shut down?

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