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North Island Rock Climbing 

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Location: -37.0086, 174.7863 View Map  Incorrect?
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Administrators: Cameron Fraser, Kristine Hoffman (sitewide)
Submitted By: Ryan Kelly on Apr 2, 2009

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The North Island of New Zealand for some reason hides in the shadow of its larger brother to the south when it comes to rock climbing. Despite warmer weather and less crowds, not to mention a dense strip of established climbing areas (several thousand routes within an hour drive), I have yet to hear anyone refer to North Island climbing save the handful of people I met while climbing there.

It may not have the expansive peaks, nor world famous bouldering of the south, but when it comes to cragging there’s enough rock here to keep you busy for months, if not years. There are bits of rock all over the island here or there, but the main accumulation of established climbable rock is located in the central region of the island (Wharepapa South and Lake Taupo areas). A good percentage of this rock is volvanic, a vestige of one of the largest volcanic eruptions in earth’s history. The rock, ignimbrite, can vary considerably from worthless choss to pocketed sport climbing to “fully-welded” – a denser formation with smooth cracks capable of holding sound gear. The rock at Lake Taupo, ground zero, is a purer Rhyolite; it’s denser that the ignimbrite round in Wharepapa South.

One of the best features of North Island climbing is the great variety of rock types and climbing styles all within close proximity to each other. For example at Waipapa there is delicate slab and crack climbing on welded ignimbrite, and just around the corner at Mangaokewa there is steep and powerful sport climbing on limestone. There is beautiful scenery in the North Island around most of the climbing areas, from the turquoise waters of Lake Taupo to the rolling planes of the Waikato, and lush native forest abounds. Be sure to check out Kawakawa bay (Lake Taupo) for some of the Islands best rock climbing. Castle Rock Coromandel is a close second with stunning multi pitch sport lines.

Having said all this, if you are visiting from overseas and only have time to visit one island I would recommend the South Island. Mountain project is not very comprehensive for South Island climbing, but there is alot of good stuff to do there (especially alpine style). Also consider the Arapiles in nearby Australia, it has some of the best trad climbing in the world.

Getting There 

Fly in through Auckland or Wellington. Can also fly directly to Rotorua from Australia in certain seasons.


Rock Climbing Photo: Your one stop guide to North Island rock climbing....
Your one stop guide to North Island rock climbing. Released September 2014. Can be purchased from

Another resource for Topos is the local website It has free downloadable and printible PDF's covering most of the crags. It is generally comprehensive but can sometimes be out of date for crags that are either being devloped, or smaller older crags that have been abandoned.

The website has recently become alot more comprehensive, and now contains alot of information about climbing routes in the North Island, especially for alpine style areas.

Main Areas 

Kawakawa Bay, Lake Taupo
Rock Climbing Photo: Kawakawa Bay, multi pitch sport and trad  in a stu...
Kawakawa Bay, multi pitch sport and trad in a stunning location

Castle Rock, Coromandel
Rock Climbing Photo: Castle Rock, Coromandel. Great multipitch sport cl...
Castle Rock, Coromandel. Great multipitch sport climbing.

Whanganui Bay, Lake Taupo
Rock Climbing Photo: View down Whekanui Wall on a surprisingly nice day...
View down Whekanui Wall on a surprisingly nice day in winter.

Froggatt's Edge, Wharepapa South
Rock Climbing Photo: Froggatt, a popular sport crag
Froggatt, a popular sport crag

Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve
Rock Climbing Photo: Roof climbing at Mangaokewa
Roof climbing at Mangaokewa

Waipapa, Wharepapa South
Rock Climbing Photo: Climber on the Classic "Arches"
Climber on the Classic "Arches"

Tongariro National Park
Rock Climbing Photo: Whakapapa Gorge, Tongariro National Park
Whakapapa Gorge, Tongariro National Park

Mangorewa Gorge
(not to be confused with Mangaokewa)
Rock Climbing Photo: Climbers on Archimedes wall
Climbers on Archimedes wall

Grade conversion 

New Zealand (along with Australia and South Africa) use the Ewbank grading system. See the grade conversion table below.
Rock Climbing Photo: YDS-Ewbank grade conversion
YDS-Ewbank grade conversion

Climbing Season

Weather station 0.9 miles from here

234 Total Climbing Routes

['4 Stars',19],['3 Stars',56],['2 Stars',97],['1 Star',53],['Bomb',7]

Classic Climbing Routes in North Island

Mountain Project's determination of the classic, most popular, highest rated climbing routes for North Island:
High Hopes   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c     Sport, 2 pitches, 150'   Kawakawa Bay : The Point
Tibia   5.8 5b 16 VI- 15 HVS 4c R     Trad, 3 pitches, 200'   Whanganui Bay : Whekenui Wall
Millennium Madness   5.9 5c 17 VI 17 HVS 5a     Trad, 90'   Main Cliff : Millenium Wall
The Arches   5.10a 6a 18 VI+ 18 E1 5a     Sport, 100'   Main Cliff : The Arch Area
Terror Incognito   5.10b 6a+ 19 VII- 19 E2 5b     Sport, 1 pitch, 90'   Froggatt's Edge : Main Wall
Monsterpiece Theatre   5.10d 6b+ 21 VII+ 21 E3 5b     Sport, 90'   Froggatt's Edge : Main Wall
Prokarstination   5.11a 6c 22 VII+ 22 E3 5c     Sport, 1 pitch   Mangaokewa : The Grandstands
Browse More Rock Climbing Classics in North Island

Featured Route For North Island
Rock Climbing Photo: Semi awkward belay before starting the crux pitch....

Mexican Americans 5.11 6c+ 23 VIII- 23 E4 5c  Oceania : New Zealand : ... : The Point
This recently established sport route is the longest climb at K-bay. Set to become a classic for sure.Aside from a short section of grade 23/24 most of this route is grade 18ish. If you cant quite onsite 23/24 but still want to experience this awesome climb, you can always pull on a draw...If you don't link any pitches together, it is 6 pitches in total.Pitch 1 - 18Begin up the arete (first pitch of after the sunset). Can do the trad line to the left instead as they finish at the same anchors.Pi...[more]   Browse More Classics in International

Photos of North Island Slideshow Add Photo
Rock Climbing Photo: Jo Frances on Gecko Groove
Jo Frances on Gecko Groove
Rock Climbing Photo: Ti Point
Ti Point
Rock Climbing Photo: River wall, Mangorewa Gorge
River wall, Mangorewa Gorge
Rock Climbing Photo: Pakeho, Northern Taranaki
Pakeho, Northern Taranaki
Rock Climbing Photo: Mt Maunganui beach, as seen from the crag.
Mt Maunganui beach, as seen from the crag.
Rock Climbing Photo: New Zealand's answer to Thailand's famous beachsid...
New Zealand's answer to Thailand's famous beachsid...
Rock Climbing Photo: Because Buck Rock is located part way up Mt Te Aro...
Because Buck Rock is located part way up Mt Te Aro...

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