Mount Horrible Crackfest and Mysterious Steampunk

Mt Horrible in South Canterbury is a favourite little crag of mine. Having climbed there for a day a few years ago, returning brings back only fond memories. This is the spot I did my first ‘real’ crack climbing – I first weighted jams and got the confidence to fall on cams on the excellent gear placements available on pretty much every line.

Having failed to find the nearby camping spot mentioned in the South Island Rock guide we decided to head straight to the crag. The guide gives good directions to where to park on Mount Horrible road (opposite the paddock with a pond) and if you go too far the road ends just past the crag anyway so it’s no big deal. Upon arrival we found a happy resting spot for the Mighty Bongo just in time to cook dinner before dark.

We woke to a questionable sky so were glad we’d decided to hang around a day or two before heading to Mount Cook, where the weather is generally more fickle. The climbing at Mount Horrible bears no resemblance to the name – there’s no sign of a mountain, and it is not even close to horrible.

From the driveway it is about a 10 minute walk initially following the fence line into the paddock then turning right at the line of trees. Again the guidebook covers this well. The crag appears from nowhere – in the middle of flat farmland there is a lone massive pine tree, with the 15 meter high cliffs dropping down immediately behind it. It’s best to fix an abseil rope for the day on the pine with a loop for attaching anchors for belaying, as this allows you to quickly get through routes without faffing about setting up anchors each time.

Every climb at Mount Horrible is worth climbing – you really can’t go wrong on any of the 30ish routes. After our first climb the clouds gave us a quick shower, enough to cause debate about staying or going. Luckily we decided to stick around and it eased off after a while. The day was spent in light showers, but the climbing was dry enough and so fun that we had no inclination to leave. After plowing through about 8 routes in the day (last time here we did 10) the clouds seemingly succumbed to the forces of gravity, and instantly dumped all they had  onto us. We hastily packed up and ran back to the van totally drenched.

Mount Horrible is by far my favourite easy access trad crag. The moves are pleasant, gear is excellent, and there is a good variety of both easy and hard lines to keep anyone interested. I can see how you would tire after climbing everything, but for casual visits it is amazing.

Having satisfied our urges for crack climbing we were soaked, filthy, and in dire need of another shower and washing trip. We scoped out campsites in the area and on the way to our next destination, Mount Cook Village.  We opted to take the scenic route via Timaru and Oamaru and found a great little campsite on my $5 Rankers campsite finding ipod app – Waitake Waters Holiday Park . For $11 per person we got showers, free washing machine use, 2 lounges and kitchens, and $3 for unlimited internet. After a good nights sleep and a clean up, we squeezed in an inevitable internet spree, then headed off to do the tourist thing in Oamaru.

Steampunk HQ in Oamaru

We began by indulging in the Whitestone cheese factory’s free look into their inner workings, folllowed by a taster platter ($5 for 6 cheeses on top of the 3 free ones they offered us) and learnt more than I could imagine I would ever know about cheese. It was then onto the crazy Steampunk HQ warehouse that was bordering on an insane asylum, which for $10 per person occupied an hour and really messed with your mind. Definitely something I recommend if you are into the weird and wacky. We then roamed the old style streets taking in the arts and culture before finally tackling New Zealands only Whisky distillery. We sat in the little hovel and were guided through a $10 tasting session and 4 nice whiskys,  and after a good lesson from the hostess and satisfied taste buds we left with a bottle of 12 year old double wood Oamaruvian in hand.

It’s now time to start praying to the weather gods for a good weather window as we make our way through to Mount Cook, otherwise the Whisky might not last as long as we had hoped.

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