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  • Writer's pictureMaddy Whittaker

Dunedin Rock: compiling the classics into one list

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

Dunedin has grown many great New Zealand alpinists. The Otago University Tramping Club is a key part of this, often launching keen trampers into the transalpine and climbing scene. The abundance of good local climbing at outdoor crags also has a role to play, providing Dunedinites a great playground for keeping rock fit and honing rope skills. With rapid route development in the area, it can be hard to keep track of where to start if you are new to the area, or just passing through and are wanting to jump on the classics. So I asked a number of locals and NZAT team members and collated the list below. It’s well worth visiting Dunedin for the climbing, especially when its raining hard in Fiordland, or Wanaka is under the inversion….


Long Beach:

This is the probably the most accessible and popular climbing area in Dunedin. It’s a 20-30 minute drive north from Central Dunedin. There are a number of climbing areas on this beach, with a range of grades - both bolted and trad. The crowd favourites are as listed below:


  • Labours of Love (24 - bolted). Found in the Bolt City climbing area. Quite a beta intensive climb, it is a favourite project among locals. NZAT team member Maddy is pictured on it to the left (photo taken by Steve Carr).

  • Crime and Punishment (22 - mixed trad and bolts). With some fairly run out sections, this one gets the heart racing, but its a classic for a reason. Timeless climbing. On Main Cliff.

  • Cunningham’s crack (19 - trad) - A crack climb in an open book corner, found on the Pinnacle - a section of rock that juts out into the sand part way along the beach.

  • Love Al Root (20 - trad). This climb and the next two in the list below are all found side by side. Love Al Root gives you everything. Mini roofs to pull through, layback climbing and generally fantastic moves.

  • Morning Glory (20 - bolts). Climb up a striking line on Main Cliff. A full value route, nearly 30m in length.

  • Burning Sky (19 - trad). A great trad route, with an old rusty piton halfway through for true oldschool ambiance. Cool bridging moves, 3D climbing.

  • Surreptitious (18 - bolts) - a great warm up for other climbs in this list, with a boulder move at the start. Kate Wilkinson is pictured to the left on this route.

  • Tempest (22 - can be climbed on bolts or using natural pro). Inclusion of this one on the list of best climbs was controversial. It’s a more recent climb, being put up in the last few years. It’s found in the Hidden Wall area - tucked behind the trees on the beach. There is significant rockfall overhead hazard, and if it hasn’t been climbing in a while, this climb will be pretty dirty. But when it’s clean - its beautiful climbing.

Long Beach also offers some bouldering. Jodi’s traverse (V8), Peace and Sunshine (V7), Snake Bite (V12/13), Kronos (V12/13) and Mini Dream Catcher Project (speculated to be V12/13) are the ones most worth your time.




Mihiwaka

Mikiwaka is on the way out to Long Beach - at the top of the hill between Port Chalmers and Purakaunui. It’s a trad only crag with fantastic views. The climbs are full quality with grades starting at 13, but requiring proper stances for gear placement e.g. Deep Wide and Frequent is an overhanging grade 13! Aqualung (17) is a bit of a rite of passage trad climb for Dunedin locals. Good weather is key for this crag, which can often stay wet after rain for a few days. On the right Tom Hadley is photographed from above at Mihiwaka. You can walk to the top of the crag which allows for easy top roping too.




Lovers Leap

Undoubtedly Lovers Leap offers the most quality rock climbing in the area. With immense ambience (think crashing waves echoing around a rocky amphitheatre directly below you), this organ pipe like crag offers incredible crack climbing (most climbs 2-3 stars) from grade 18 upwards, with the notable grade 28 Maximum Psuedo Likelihood found here. Climb Nz describes the area as “wonderful climbing on shallow basalt organ pipe extrusions offering a multitude of intricate movement options in sustained sequences. The protection is excellent on nearly all of the routes, unless described in the guide. Trad skills essential to make the most of this crag. Access to this crag is limited during spring due to lambing, and can be wet through winter, but is well worth a visit or two or three - its absolutely classic climbing. Parallel Universe (25) is another particularly good route here, although half of Lovers Leap has 2 or 3 stars, so you can’t go very wrong here.


Riley Smith is pictured above on Side Effect (22) and Maddy Whittaker is pictured to the left on Triple Treat (19), both at Lovers Leap.




Mapoutahi

A lesser frequently crag not far from Long Beach. Less range in the easier grades - good to be able to climb at least grade 18 to climb here. Parts of the climbing wall become a waterfall in winter, so save this one for summer. The site provides great swimming, and plenty of blackberries for snacks.




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