Basecamp Adventures' guide to climbing in Wanaka

By Basecamp Wanaka

Wanaka is well-known as one of the best sport climbing areas in New Zealand and deservedly so.

With close to a thousand routes of grades 8-31 you’ll be sure to find something to satisfy your climbing cravings.  Pick up a copy of the Wanaka Rock guidebook or, if you’re climbing around the South Island, Rock Deluxe gives a good overview of the best climbing areas. The Wanaka Rock Climbing Club Facebook page is a great place to meet climbing partners and get the latest beta.

You are best to come with all your own gear as gear rental options are limited and impossible for items such as ropes and quickdraws.  If you are travelling light with just your rock shoes there are a couple of small bouldering areas; Lakeside and Luggate Boulders being the most well-known. Once you’re geared up, let the fun begin!

From beginner to expert

Riverside is a justifiably popular crag with a range of grades (including beginner options), a great picnic spot and of course the Motatapu River is right there for a mid or post-climb dip.  Wade upstream for the harder routes at Garden Bar and Toad Hall.

Climber at Main Cliff in Wanaka, New Zealand

Other top beginner crags are all within convenient striking distance of the carpark at Hospital Flat - Main Cliff has loads of routes (check out Headbangers Arete (17)) and the only top-accessed climbs around, but gets super hot on a summer's day.  Kai Whaka Pai is worth the walk for some shadier routes and some of Wanaka’s few trad climbs. 

Trad climber at Kai Whaka Pai in Wanaka, New Zealand

Diamond Lake hosts arguably the best range and quantity of climbs for summer conditions but is slow to dry out after rain.

Multipitches and rainy days

For a multipitch classic, you can’t go past Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out (16) on Little Big Wall - just make sure you have double ropes for the 40m free-hanging abseil descent!

Climbers clipped in at the top of Little Big Wall in Wanaka, New Zealand

On a rainy day, you might squeeze in a few routes on the backside of Mt Iron - Next Best Thing (mostly 18-23) or Iron Curtain (~22-27) both have routes that are climbable in the rain.  If it’s really hosing down, then a drive out to Queensbury might still be dry otherwise, an indoor sesh at Basecamp Wanaka is probably on the cards!

Basecampclimbing indoor

Local favourites

Sunnyside is Wanaka’s best winter crag, basking in full sun. Although the routes are mostly on the shorter side, there are dozens of climbs over a range of grades.

Road Side Attraction is, as the name suggests, right next to the road. Easy access, a range of grades and climbable in all-seasons; it’s a popular choice.  Shortcut to Exposure (17), Aretenaphobia (20) and Everything But The Formalities (22) are three of the classics.

A child climbs Main Cliff and Al Cap in Wanaka, New Zealand

Al Cap has to be Wanaka’s best crag at the top of the grade range (24-31) - think steep faces on excellent rock, high above the Matukituki River.

Whichever locale you choose to explore first, you can be sure that you’ll not be short of inspiration and will finish your trip vowing to return to tick off your next project!