Bound for Castle Hill

April 8, 2012 by Jeramie

The library, oh what a library! Lame you say, but this library has free unlimited wireless, new computers available for free use, all the up to date tech magazines you’d want (from the US), 42″ flat screens with modular couches playing rugby or whatever else you like, and PlayStations attached with individual headsets, multiple per screen. On top of all this, there’s a café, where you can order your Long Black, or Americano, or whatever. Take your number, and head wherever you want in the library, not just at one of the cafe tables, and they’ll serve you wherever you are, including the bean bag chairs we were splayed out in, charging all of our devices, and freakishly plugged in to Facebook etc. Anyway, after we successfully blew half of the day sitting there astounded, relaxing in our plush seats, we finally got on our way, and posted ads at several of the hostels in town, those that have not been destroyed by the quakes that is. We found out recently that the hostel capacity in Christchurch has gone from 2,500 beds to 750 due to the quakes! We finished this up as quickly as we could and bolted out of town, bound for Castle Hill, and a few more moments of bliss in the hillsides before the final push to sell Bertie.

All climbing areas are wonderful on some level, in some way, and each one is special. Obviously some people like some places more than others. Some have great climbing, some are beautiful, some are both, and others are neither, but they’re close to you… which makes them special in their own right. Castle Hill, first of all is absolutely stunning. It is one of those few places, as I believe the Buttermilks to be as well that appears from a climbers perspective, to have been built for us. For miles and miles approaching the area, nothing like it exists. There is no reason to expect it, and so when you turn the corner, and these massive curving pillars and mounds appear, it takes your breath away. Between Flock Hill, Castle Hill, and Wuthering Heights, all of which are within eyesight of each other if you’re high enough, make up the Castle Hill Basin. And collectively they makeup one of the biggest collections of climbable terrain I’ve ever encountered. From a distance it compares quite closely to the Buttermilks for me personally, and at first, seems to improve upon the one thing that can be bothersome at the milks, sand. Instead Castle Hill is filled with rolling hills of thick green grass, soft to land on, and won’t sting your eyes in a windstorm. Beyond this, the rocks have the same grand presence as the Peabody boulders, and many others in Bishop. When you get up close and personal though, everything changes. The rough, angular, edgy, painful surface of the buttermilks is replaced by a soft and smooth, seemingly blank collection of deformed gigantic marbles. Only rarely will you come across one and two finger pockets, which make you cringe as well as finally believe that climbing it may be feasible.

After a short walk through the boulders we came upon a small group (the only group out there) of 4 climbers. As always seems to happen when you’re half way around the world, half of them were from Northern California, Zoe’s backyard. We joined them for a few attempts at their last project of the day, and then to the recreation area they were staying. They tarped closed, the eating shelter to block out the wind and the cold, and we proceeded with boxed wine, good ole Jameson, home-made stove top flat bread and good conversation far into the evening.

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