Let’s make it official, a fistful of classic Castle Rock climbing routes were destroyed by Christchurch’s 22 February earthquake.
[Update 2 April 2011: The best source of information on the state of Port Hills crags is the Facebook page for the Canterbury-Westland section of the NZ Alpine Club https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=273657&id=682996858&l=8ed42e4c91]
Castle Rock hit the news when well-known multi-sport promoter Robin Judkins told National Radio that he saw Castle Rock “explode” during the quake.
This appears to have resulted in a feverish rash of Google searches ending up at my September 2010 blog documenting the effects of the first quake on Castle Rock. See https://blog.petertaylor.co.nz/2010/09/11/day-8-castle-rock/
In addition to a couple of light-coloured patches on the summit, where it is clear what has departed, a closer examination confirms that some very significant pieces are missing.
[UPDATE 2 April 2011: Due to aftershocks and weathering, there has been considerably more rock lost off Castle Rock since these observations. Climbs to the right of Hangman have definitely gone since this photo was taken. Considerably more rock has accumulated in the avalanche path.]
This photo was taken from the end of Horotane Valley Rd. Please excuse the hopeless quality of my surviving camera. But resolution is enough to see what my own eyes confirmed:
The generally recognised classic of the crag, grade 17 Hangman, is no more. You can see a faint brown patch where two very large blocks have detached into the Horotane valley. You can see the blocks on the grass slope below in the lower right of the photo.
Given the strength of the aftershock that just rumbled through my place as I type, I am not about to go and take a closer look. But I am guessing that we have lost all the routes (L-R) from Arrow through to Hangman at least. I reckon further right that Judgement might still be there.
Above is a perspective from Port Hills Rd.
Here is a view of the west side of Castle Rock from a few metres up the (closed) Bridal Path. The damage will be familiar from the September earthquake. But it looks as though more may have calved off the affected area. The northern view of the crag shows two new patches on the summit where blocks have fallen off. News media have reported that boulders from here knocked out the Lyttelton Road Tunnel control building. Standing there today I found that hard to believe, they would have had to have achieved a huge bounce factor; but happy to stand corrected.
[UPDATE 2 April 2011: Having driven through to Lyttelton last evening, I completely withdraw my doubts about rock fall affecting the road tunnel building. The view from the road makes it obvious that the road and tunnel building are very much in the line of fire. My earlier perspective, from the Bridle Path, gave a misleading impression.]
Again, apologies for the ludicrously poor photo quality. Now is not a good time to be pestering friends to borrow their surviving cameras. No doubt more precise and useful detail will come from our local crag guardians via the NZ Alpine Club in the future.