an account form a visiting climber describing his experiences in New
Zealand, it's fairly typical of the feedback we get.
writes - “I've
never been outside of the United States other than short trips to our
friendly neighbours up north, Canada. To travel overseas for me was
something I had dreamed of since childhood. As I got older became addicted
to climbing (which I'm sure if you're reading this right now you are also
hooked on it), my dream of travelling the world grew stronger and became
more of a reality, as did my dream of climbing around the world.
saved a little money for my trip working as a bartender during University.
In the states, bartenders can make a reasonable amount of money in tips.
Europeans shudder at the thought of this kind of work. I got a large glass
jar from work, wrapped it with climbing tape and wrote the words "The
Cause" in big black letters on the side. When I returned from work
each night, I split a little cash from my tips and threw it in the jar
saying all the while, "to the cause baby." "The Cause"
became my dream to climb all over the world.
order to get into climbing, I discovered I had to teach myself and seek
out partners more experienced than me. Since I did not know too many
people with substantial experience, it took me a few years to locate
partners willing to teach me and climb with me. I was never surrounded by
climbers growing up, and it wasn't until my roommate at school taught me
his own basic knowledge of top roping at a local crag that I had the
opportunity to pull on rock. I quickly became addicted. As I learned to
climb on my own, it was time to learn to travel the world on my own!
how quickly it would take me to meet other climbers along the way, I
packed my sport rack, harness, shoes, a few clothes, a camera and bought a
ticket around the world thanks to three years devoted to "The
Cause," and a little extra love from mom and dad.
First climbing destination, New Zealand. First stop, Auckland. As a
climber, flying into Auckland can be intimidating. Auckland is New
Zealand's largest city. Crowded and busy, it was like being right back in
Seattle, but this time I was not a local. The huge hostel I checked into
was an over-crowded shopping mall of backpackers' buying or selling cars,
booking tour buses, or just passing through. So where do I start?
went to four outdoor shops downtown Auckland hoping to pick up some gear
and collect some beta on the climbing in New Zealand. As you can imagine
at any outdoor store in the heart of a city, the sales lady didn't know
the difference between a quick draw and a carabineer, let alone climbing
spots or any other information about climbing.
Giving up on the stores, I headed to a local indoor gym hoping to meet
fellow climbers who could point me in the right direction. I know what
you're thinking - indoor gym in the middle of the city equals gym rats
that get outside once or twice a century. Well you're right, and Auckland
is no different. All the climbers I had talked to hadn't even been on the
south island of their own country, but they guaranteed me there was great
climbing on both islands.
I gave up on the indoor gym after a conversation with a strong looking
middle aged man who had just flashed a tough overhung route.
where do you suggest I start a climbing trip around New Zealand?" I
"There's great climbing on the north island and heaps of climbing on
the south," he said.
"Could you recommend some good crags to start at?" I asked.
"Well I don't climb outside too often," he answered
uncomfortably. "And I've never climbed on the south island."
"Thanks!" I said on my way out the door with an annoyed tone.
What now? Where do I go - north, south, east or west? Luckily at
university I was an attentive journalism major with a focus in climbing,
bars and all other stereotypical student behaviour, so I thought to do a
little research before I left.
across the "Climb New Zealand" web site browsing the Internet
back home and began emailing Steve Riddell the diligent IT
consultant/climber who works his ass off to keep the site updated. Steve
had given me his phone number probably thinking I wouldn't call. Me being
a determined climber, I called Steve right away and we quickly began
talking like we had known each other for years, though we had never spoken
to one another and only exchanged emails a few times. Let me
backtrack here. Steve's reaction to a random guy from the states (probably
the most disrespected country in the world) is just an example of the
hospitality and friendliness of New Zealanders. Not only was he friendly
to me (the random, pushy U.S. guy), he made a break in his schedule to
meet me for lunch and picked up the tab. Steve fed me with the beta I had
so desperately and frantically been looking for. When I asked where to
start, he answered me with three words that began my most memorable and
awesome New Zealand climbing trip, "Go to Bryce's!"
is a climbing hostel just two hours south of Auckland smack dab in the
middle of the north island and some of New Zealand's best rock climbing
crags. Steve told me Bryce had a nice hostel, indoor boulder cave with
free guest use, full menu cafe and fully stocked gear shop all in all for
only $15NZ pp per night. Perfect, I thought. I've got a destination. After
lunch I thanked Steve and headed straight to Bryce's, more than happy to
get away from the chaos of the city.
drove two hours through farmland and beautiful, green rolling hills. It
seemed I had been warped into Bilbo Baggins' hometown of Hobbiton from the
movie Lord of the Rings. In fact, I had, since the movie was filmed all
over New Zealand and I discovered the actual Hobbiton was only an hour
away. Go figure. I soon began to worry I was lost until I turned a blind
corner and literally in the middle of nowhere stood the sign,
most rock climbers do, I arrived later than planned and the sign on the
cafe door read "closed." While peering through the window, an
overly energetic man with a rugged climber look leaped over the front
counter, pulled the door open and flung his hand out in front of me to
invite me in faster than I had a chance to say hello. I was shaking hands
with a 54-year-old man with the body a 25-year-old climber dreams about. I
had to catch my breath when I walked through the door. Two hours from any
decent outdoor store, and on the walls in front of me hung more climbing
gear, guides and accessories than I had ever seen in some of the states
biggest climbing stores. Bryce has everything a climber could ever want
and things most climbers have never seen. His competitive prices are
incredible, and cheaper than Auckland.
also has a full menu cafe with an inviting feel to it. The large wooden
deck and eye pleasing wood panelled floor present a relaxed, welcoming
environment. If you're on a real holiday (basically, willing to spend
extra money) sitting on the large front deck in the morning sun with a
breakfast and espresso menu that competes with any big city restaurant
will get the fast pace city out of you. I watch people stroll through the
cafe browsing the climbing accessories (indoor holds, clothes, ropes,
guides, etc), and they all seem to stop at the wall in the back corner.
The wall is filled with pictures featuring Bryce himself during the past
30 years leading 25 (5.12b) traditional routes. Next to the collage of
pictures is Bryce's personal and donated gear museum with retired pieces
from the 60's and 70's. Hell, looking at some of the shit they were using
as pros back then freaks me out. I'm talking about hollow metal pipes they
drilled holes in themselves, and wrapped slings through to place in cracks
- ya, dodgy. I had not just entered any hospitable and cozy hostel, but a
climbing museum run by a local legend.
wide open staring at gear paradise thinking this place couldn't get any
better; I followed Bryce to the next surprise. He led me through the cafe,
and we passed through a large wooden door. I immediately felt like a kid
let loose in Willy Wonka's Chocolate factory! In the back of the cafe
attached to the hostels spacious kitchen and lounge area is a two car
garage sized boulder cave. The cave is blanketed with quality holds with
some type of mark next to them labelling a route or problem. Immediately I
could tell these are serious problems set by strong and keen climbers.
me break down this cave for you real quick. You could spend a year in this
cave and not have all the routes dialled in, unless you're Chris Sharma or
David Graham. And I'm not talking about three to four move problems. Each
problem starts on a new corner of the cave and circles around the room,
heads up the overhang, and ends on the ceiling with some crazy two-handed
dead hang. And if you're a freak dyno person, he's even got a set-up to
rate, compete and extend vertical dynos; usually others will put on their
helmets and strap boulder mates to their chest in order to protect you and
moving on. Though the cave is great, I wasn't here to pull on plastic. I
wanted to get on some real rock. No problem! Bryce's personal knowledge of
New Zealand climbing extends back 30 years. The next day, Bryce
personally escorted my partner and I to the recently developed crag
Waipapa. It is surrounded by beautiful bush, which offers good protection
from the hot sun and cooling river to jump into after a full day on the
rock. Within three days, I had climbed my fingers raw and muscles torn. As
I sat down for dinner, I browsed through a choice of climbing magazines
dating back ten to twenty years piled on the shelves in the lounge then
made my way to the usual hostel visitors comment books. It was no surprise
to me to read inserts like the one form Meghan Beriault of Squamish Canada
who said, "Fantastic climbing, hospitality, generosity, and good
company. Thanks for everything - and most of all the laughter and fun!
Come visit us and climb Squamish."
through many other similar comments from past climbers, I looked around
the room and began to feel just what Meghan must have felt. I became close
with five other over seas climbers also staying at Bryce's within three
days, who I continued my climbing adventure with throughout the rest of
New Zealand. Byrce himself, his family and his shop made the transition to
New Zealand Climbing fun, realizing and easy.
staying with Bryce, you have great access to the local guide books, from
five minutes to an hour away. If you've been climbing hard for a few days
straight and your body is demanding a rest day, you can find plenty to do
close by. The backpacker towns of Rotorua and Taupo are only an hour away,
and the always adventuresome Black Water Rafting is just 20 minutes away.
If surfing is a side hobby, then Raglan, one of the world's best surf
beaches is also only an hour away. "Only an hour away," becomes
the common phrase among visitors. Bryce's is strategically placed within
spitting distance of the North Island's best climbs and an hour away from
civilization and tourist activities. You can leave and do these trip in a
couple of days returning to Bryce's to climb and prepare for your next
adventure, or you can make most trips in one day and return to Bryce's of
the usual late night bouldering and beers.
makes for a great base and start for a climbing trip around New Zealand.
If you decide to take an excursion around the islands but plan on
returning, Bryce will happily hold packages and faxes for you, and the
cafe also has access to Internet and email.
If you're "that guy or girl" travelling by yourself, you'll have
no problem finding others to climb with, hitch a ride with and crack a
beer with at the end of a day. The amount of overseas climbers passing
through Bryce's gives you a chance to meet people from all over the world
and locals, and you'll have no problem getting up to date beta for
climbing all over New Zealand.
Easy bus access can be found from Auckland to Te Awamutu, which is only 15
minutes from Bryce's. From Te Awamutu, you can easily hitchhike,
especially if you sport your climbing shoes and/or rope on your pack. If
hitchhiking isn't your thing, which is a bit strange if you're a climber,
give Bryce a call and he'll be glad to pick you up - unless he's in the
middle of a bouldering sesson witht the other guests.
an exciting new development of routes and crags around Bryce's are
springing up in the area and has local climbers excited about the area.
The serene wooded walls of Waipapa offer long, hard sport routes only a
few meters from sustained cracks, which take bomber pro. This past summer,
a number of local climbers have been spending a considerable amount of
time rebolting, cleaning and setting new routes. Bryce himself has a few
surprises hidden up his sleeve.
And with that, I suggest when planning a climbing trip to New Zealand, to
heed the simple words of Steve Riddell, "GO TO BRYCE'S!"