Castle Hill: Stopping Spot through Arthur’s Pass

OK, so you have picked up your Wilderness campervan from our Christchurch depot and are heading straight for the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass.This pass is 100% pure scenic splendour but you need to learn to stop off and enjoy the spots along the way. We drove our Wilderness Escape 4 through Arthur’s Pass and were intending to get to Greymouth in about 4-5 hours. It took us THREE DAYS! For us there were so many captivating spots to explore that we started our trip with serious timetable problems. There was no way we were going to see the whole South Island in three weeks!

Castle Hill is located close to State Highway 73 between Darfield and Arthur’s Pass. The area is a high country sheep and cattle station and if ever you are lucky enough to read Christine Fernhough’s book “The Road to Castle Hill: A High Country Love Story” you will sense a true connection.  An imposing collection of giant limestone boulders dotted around the grassy landscape gives the impression of old castle ruins. These boulders act like a magnet. You just have to take a closer look. In 2002 they impressed the Dalai Lama so much that he called them the ‘spiritual centre of the universe’. It is hard to understand the magic they contain until you are actually there.

It is believed the area was once under a large shallow inland sea and pressure over time caused extensive uplift that thrust these limestone rocks up from their origin. The water eroded the limestone into the sculptured landforms we can see today. Some are up to fifty metres high. Apart from their mere presence, they make an ideal playground for people hooked on bouldering. Bare-handed climbers from all over the world scale the rocks like human geckos! They are often seen without the use of equipment, relying on their own skill and improvisation. All sort of crazy terms are used: like pockets, slopers, overhangs and slabs. Apparently there are a large number of bolted climbs within the reserve too. Not for the faint-hearted, especially when you are advised crash-mats are recommended! It is easier to sit and watch them while enjoying a picnic lunch.

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