Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The unadventurous climber visits Kawakawa Bay

The unadventurous climber: no trad, no mountaineering, no runouts, no highballs. Just climbing.

Lisia not climbing Coconut Bikini Arête
Photo: Tessa Jacobsen-Grocott

Kawakawa Bay offers plenty of scope for unadventurous climbers as well as for their more adventurous friends.

If, like me, you are unused to carrying a heavy pack full of climbing and camping gear, it will be money well spent to eschew the walk in to Kawakawa Bay favour of taking the boat, especially in summer when the walk over the hill from Kinloch, although pretty, is sweltering, and likely to leave you without energy to climb.

The campsite is beautiful, with little spaces for tents nestled among the trees. A toilet at the east end of the bay and another some way along mark the edges of the main campsite, but if there are boats moored along the campsite beach you might prefer to pitch your tent beyond the second toilet if you like to sleep at night, as some of the boaties come to the bay to socialize, and like to do so loudly late into the night.

The pebbly beach is narrow with just enough space to sit back and admire the view. The water is crystal clear and exactly what is wanted after a hot day’s climbing.

And the climbing itself? In amongst the trad and mixed routes and the exposed multi-pitches are some bolted gems.

Cracks Wall

Rohan’s Little Sister (16)

Stick clip the first clip. Balance moves on a slab, with the occasional positive edge and some good holds around the arête. Two of us found it scary because we felt insecure on our feet, but it is a satisfying challenge.

Coconut Bikini Arête (23?)

Rock Deluxe North gives the grade as 20, but the lower section of the route felt a lot harder than 20 to my party, so much so that we decided the guide’s instruction to “Climb left of the arête,” must be meant to be interpreted liberally, so we climbed the crack left of the face until climbing the arête became easier. This made for fun and interesting climbing, but placed the climber considerably left of one of the bolts (the 4th or 5th?). With my left hand in the crack, my feet on small edges on the face, and both arms at full stretch, I managed after 20 nerve-tingling seconds of pushing the quickdraw at the hanger to hook it in, knowing this couldn’t be what the equippers intended. Later, we learned that other guides give the route a grade of 23.

The Lower Bluff

Jug Addiction (16)

A little crux in the middle to provide interest, and comforting jugs the rest of the way. Enjoyable climbing.

Unnamed (19) just right of Jug Addiction

Enjoyable climbing.

Predator (22)

I tried the moves on toprope: very nice moves; pumpy; the topout looked to me like it would be run out on lead but no one else thought so and I approached it awkwardly - sort of crouched and side-on to the rock - so my perspective may have been skewed. I'm keen to get back to it.

Aliens Resurrection pitch 1 (18)

Big jugs all the way. Fun. Unusual rock: there are bits sticking out all over the place providing lots of opportunities for heel hooks and drop knees, but making falling an unattractive prospect. However, falling is very unlikely - there are places to rest.

Jugzilla pitch 1 (17)

Big jugs all the way as for Aliens Resurrection. And even more opportunities for heel hooks and drop knees as well as a no-hands rest I achieved by jamming my hips in a crevice! Unadventurous climbers will feel the exposure behind them when they climb out of the gully onto the face. My recommendation is not to look at the view until you’ve climbed to the chains and set up to abseil down. Only when you’ve done your checks and are ready to go, turn around and take a few moments to marvel at where you are.

Pitch 1 of Aliens Resurrection and pitch 1 of Jugzilla can be climbed together as an ideal first multi-pitch for unadventurous climbers. At the chains for Aliens Resurrection pitch 1, the leader clips a quickdraw as if this is just another bolt on the route, then traverses two more bolts to the left, then climbs a couple of metres down to the ground to belay the second at the belay bolt. The second needs to take care climbing down to the belay bolt after removing the last quickdraw, as a fall, in amongst sharp, pointy bits of rock, however unlikely, would be unpleasant.

I’ve only had a taste of the climbing at Kawakawa Bay. I’m keen to return and would love to hear route recommendations for unadventurous climbers.

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