Bouldering at Castle Hill & Lake Pukaki

Our third day in New Zealand began as we put Christchurch behind us, and steered our little blue rental car towards Castle Hill, an area where a friend advised us we could find some interesting bouldering.  It was a little out of our way, as our final destination for the day, Twizel, was in the opposite direction, but we wanted to make sure we fit in some climbing during our two week adventure.

We arrived at castle hill in the late morning, and the sun was already beating down on the hills relentlessly.  We coated on some sunscreen before taking a short track from the car park up to the boulders.  We picked an interesting looking rock for our first climb and quickly discovered that the boulders were as smooth as glass.  We had to rely heavily on smearing (placing the sole of your climbing shoe against the rock to create friction rather than using a hold) and proper weight distribution rather than strength.  We made sure to also spend plenty of time wandering around and admiring the phenomenal rock formations in addition to climbing.  I felt dwarfed walking between the tall boulders, which seemed like giants purveying their territory.

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We hiked/climbed our way to the top of the hill, stopping to gape at the panoramic mountain views.

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It was with regret that we descended from the hill and returned to the car park, but we had a long drive ahead of us before we would reach Twizel, our gateway to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.  With that in mind, we took off down the road, retracing our path through the foothills before heading southwest toward Twizel.  We made quick stops along the way at the Rakaia River Gorge and Lake Tekapo, but the most stunning view of the day was yet to come.

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The sun was beginning to hang low in the sky as we finally caught a glimpse of the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki.  The brilliant color of the lake is caused very fine rock particles that feed into the water from the glaciers in the area.

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Standing on the shore of Lake Pukaki feels like being in a postcard.  Mount Cook looms in the distance across the frigid water, it’s snowy peak glistening in the sun.  Vince and I took a peaceful walk along the shore and just enjoyed each other’s company and the spectacular view as the day came closer to an end.

Later we checked into our second Airbnb and began to make plans for our big day in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park.

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