South Island Rock - Review

By: Tony Burnell

Iím probably not the best qualified person to review this book, I do not have the in-depth knowledge of the crags outside the Christchurch area or, for that matter, the historical knowledge of the areas development and ethics. Thankfully I can consult experts, who between them have over forty years of local knowledge - and thatís just two of them.

 My mother told me if you canít say anything good donít say anything. Bearing this in mind, I have to tell you, I really like the cover picture. As a contributor to the guide (information only), writing this review is a bit of a poison chalice, especially as a free copy arrived on my doorstep the day after I was asked to pen this.

 What can I say?  Firstly; gram for gram itís a lot dearer than the Christchurch Press Ė its debatable which is more informative and at $44 itís a heck of a lot dearer, especially when you consider the majority of the information your buying hasnít been updated since the first guide. Even the wit has been recycled.

 The guide purports to be ďA guide to the best rock climbing areas in the South islandĒ, it certainly isnít a definitive guide and although it does cover some great areas it hasnít kept pace with developments around Canterbury: it favours Cattlestop Crag over major developments like Dawn Wall and Britten Crag. At Dawn Wall there are about fifty routes, it gets the morning sun, its up to twenty five metres high and there are some classic routes there. At Britten Crag there are over one hundred and thirty routes with good cross section of grades and many high quality routes.

 If I had bought ďA guide to the best rock climbing areas in the South islandĒ and ended up at Cattlestop (and this is purely personnel), Iíd feel cheated. Furthermore Cattlestop Crag did make it into the guide, but the best route didnít, ďSurgical StrikeĒ along with about fifteen others went AWOL. Cattlestop Crag did get a make over in terms of the addition of a specific history section but itís a pity it ended more or less in 1992 (more or less). Other crags received the same fate: the Fantasy Factory history was lifted straight from the last guide and the development of the 90ís was summarised as ďin the late 90ís Tony Burnell, Alan Hill and Richard Kimberley added some routesĒ. This seems a little derogatory given that the number of routes at the crag more than doubled, and that the new routes climbed are some of the best lines at the crag both with and without bolts. With statements like, ďSince then a few fillers have been addedĒ you have to wonder if the routes have been climbed and checked or if the authors ever visited the crags.

 Earlier I said I liked the cover picture. This was true and inside there are some good black and white action shots. The crag shots are another thing. They are not the greatest quality, and are not new, it would have been better to commission some decent drawings similar to Marcus Thomasís drawing of Dawn Wall, (see relevant issue of New Zealand Climber). Drawings tend to show the salient features of the crag or the route without the clutter of the minute detail and the confusion of shadows.

 It might have been a mistake to continue with the crag photoís but thatís only a minor problem compared to some of the others. The crags that I am familiar with have numerous errors. Even the information I provided was incorrectly incorporated, without going into the grades (who dares these days) here are a few errors that my spies have pointed out to me. 

bulletJane Fonda is shown in the wrong location on the map it is shown where Farm Park actually is, a repeated error from Canterbury Rock.
bulletThe route sequence at Leech Wall is incorrect.
bulletJoe Arts climbed seven new routes at The Monument all of which were left out.
bullet.At Cattlestop Crag about 15 routes have gone AWOL.
bulletThe route sequence at Fantasy Factory is incorrect.

 Itís easy to summarise - I think the book needed a lot more work put into it.

 As a parting comment, a sixty-six page bouldering guide within a selected climbing guide covering such an expansive area seems like overkill.



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Copyright Steven Riddell 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2003.