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Con Air First Ascent Airport Wall

Updated: Apr 11

Established over several trips to the wall, Llewellyn Murdoch and Daniel Joll made the first free ascent of this new all free line on the Airport Wall in Milford Sound.

Con Air, 26, 11 pitches

Rack A full single set of cams .2 – 4 and Double .2 and .3 cams, Single set of nuts, 12 quickdraws,  60m rope. 

Named after a 90's Nicolas Cage movie about convicts who take over a plane, luckily the climbing is pretty good. 

This is the easiest way to climb a full free route on Airport Wall. 

Pitches 1 &2 are sometimes wet in the morning as the waterfall often hits them during the night when the day breeze stops. A good strategy for this route and Dream Liner / Adventure Tourism is to walk in, during the morning. Then after 3pm when the wall goes into the shade climb the first couple of pitches. They are usually dry with better friction in the afternoons. ( this is for summer. In winter conditions can vary and the wall goes into the shade earlier and there is less water flowing off the top of the wall during winter)

During a good fine spell they will be dry. 

P1 25m, 24, all bolts.  Climb the easy looking dyke, that is a bit harder than it looks. 

P2 30m, 23, all bolts.  Follow the bolts up the slab.  A hard move off the belay followed by easier face climbing. Climb past the first anchor you see.

(This is the second to last rap anchor as part of the Dream Liner rap line. Climb 5 more meters up around the trees to a good stance. If you are hauling pass your haul line on the other side of the trees to the side (climbers left) for an easier haul.)

P3 20m, 20, 5 Bolts + .75 & 1 Cam. Move up off the belay then traverse left across the wall to a double bolt belay.

P4 30m, 23, 7 bolts + single rack to # 4. Step right after the second bolt then bridge up a corner passing more bolts and gear before moving up and left across a slab to a good stance and a double bolt belay.

P5 30m, 25, 10 bolts + single .4 & .5 cams. After the third bolt head up then left to a good finger pod for the .4 cam. Then up and left again on good holds to a bolt. From here straight up through the final roof. A great pumpy pitch.

P6 30m, 24, 6 bolts Single set of cams to #2 double .2 - .3. The first bolt of the following pitch can be used as a re direct for the followers when being belayed.

P7 25m , 25, 7 bolts plus #3 cam. From the good stance in the rotten corner. Step up and right around the arete. Then follow the bolts on a rising right-wards line to a technical and pumpy crux at the end of the pitch. Make the final moves right to gain a dyke and crack before a good sloping ledge belay stance.

(The original route at Pitch 7 stepped around the arete then went straight up.  This was a rather crazy lead by Llew climbing a wild loose chimney to a final overhanging bulge.  Approx grade 27.  We thought this pitch would take to long to clean up so moved the route to the right on nicer rock.  If you want to give it a brush and grab the first free ascent on this wild lead go for it.  From the top of the pitch follow a couple of bolts right and across to the ledge where the Sky Couch Bivy is.  Several bolts and a single rack to #1 if you are trying the original exit.)

P8 30m , 26, 7 bolts + Double x # 0.3 & single # 0.2, #2 & #4 Cam.  Head up the overhanging dyke on big holds.  Then a section of technical slab climbing before a steep pumpy finish on gear. At the end of the pitch you climb a short offwidth crack with a bolt at the top of it. Clip this bolt as a directional for the follower then move right across the ledge to a belay at the base of the next pitch.

Sky Couch Bivy Ledge.  Approx 40L of water is here in two buckets.  Follow the fixed rope across the ledge and up to the bivy. 

Pitch 9 – 11 as per Dream Liner

Pitch 9 25, 30m  A single set of wires and cams.  Head up the pumpy short crack stepping left past some exposed moved to a good stance.  Clip a high bolt before stepping back down and breaking back right, a tricky mantle and two more bolts takes you up to a double bolt belay.  Move past this first belay to the second double bolt belay 6m to your right.

(You will pass the first set of rings which are the belay for the “Great White Dyke project” Go to the next set of rings just a bit more to your right.  The Dyke is a closed project approx. grade 32 we think ?)

Pitch 10 21, 15m A short tricky section of climbing past two bolts leads to a number 3 cam placement.  Head up a few more meters past this and find a small cam placement in a break either 2 x .2 cams equalised or a .2 and a .3 cam equalised.  Place these well before breaking right across a friction slab with a bolt and then a belay on a nice ledge. 

Pitch 11, 24 30m Head up a steep overhang with a small cam in the roof after the initial bolts.  Once you gain the face head up and leftwards on a rising traverse following the line of weakness.  Eventually you will reach some pumpy moves at the finish of the pitch where it joins the “Great  White Dyke project”

Decent/ Bailing options:

All pitches an be rapped with a single 60m 

Pitches 1-8:

It is possible to bail at any point, be aware that on the traverse pitches you would have to leave a directional carabiner or two if rapping down the climb Especially on pitches 3, 4 & 6. Bring a few old snap gates for this.

Descending from pitch 8

If you are wanting to bail at this point, rather than trying to rap down the route traverse across the ledge following the fixed line and head out to the top of pitch 8 on Dream Liner.  As you reach the end of the fixed line the first double set of rings you find is the start of the rap line.  Approx. 10m across this ledge the second set of rings you find is the top of pitch 8 on Dream liner ( the end of the fixed line)  Make sure you read the Dream Liner rap instructions before heading down the overhang.  The first two raps are steep and you must clip into the two re-belay bolts on the first rap.  On the second rap off the ledge you place a #1 cam then clip a re-belay bolt.  You must clip these bolts to make it to the next station.  From here its straight forward steep raps down to the ground. 

From the top of the route:

You can rap the Descent route with a single 60m rope. Make sure you clip a couple of bolts on the Dyke as you head down to keep you close enough to the wall to reach the next rap anchor.  Otherwise you will be stuck out in space !  When you reach the long ledge at the top of pitch 8 head climbers right across the ledge (See Above)




Airport Wall

The Airport Wall provides one of the highest concentrations of hard multi pitch climbs in NZ.  Its unique location allows for sunny warm climbing in winter and breezy cool conditions in summer, few other multi pitch venues in NZ offering year round climbing. 

Some basic conditions beta.

Mile High Club usually needs a full 24 hours after rain for the lower half to fully dry out.  Spring is usually the time of year with the most seepage.  Winter the pitches will usually be dry in a good fine spell. The upper half of the route dries very quicky (Koru Club and above)

Water drums can be found at all bivy’s on the wall and on Pitch 18 of Mile High Club.  This more or less means you don’t have to carry much water with you on the wall when you climb.

The Dream Liner buttress is accessed by approx. 300 m of fixed lines linking the Departure Lounge bivy with the Business Premier Bivy at the base of Dream Liner.  There is a knotted up hand line and a down rappel line.  For going up you do not need a jumar, just put your micro trax on the down line for safety and climb up the knotted hand line.  These lines are not maintained so its advisable to use your own rope if you are unsure of their current condition.

Dream liner and Adventure Tourism drys very fast after rain.  Usually its just the first 10m of Dream Liner that gets wet the rest stays quite dry.  There is a waterfall that flows off the top of the wall and overnight when its still if this is running (early summer) the first pitch of Dream Liner and the first two pitches of Con air can get wet.  They are usually dry most afternoons, so a good idea can be to walk in during the morning and climb the first pitches that afternoon before heading up the rest of the routes the next day.


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