The gate was unlocked, but it still felt like we were breaking the rules.
“There aren’t any signs saying ‘Private Property’, so I guess we can just let ourselves in?” I said to Christina.
“This is the right spot?”
“I think so.”
It turned out that we were indeed in the right spot, the right spot in many ways. We’d just entered Stony Batter Historic Preserve on Waiheke Island, a short ferry ride from Auckland, New Zealand. We felt so privileged to go bouldering in one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen, it seemed illegal.
Boulders dotted the green pasture as if they had rained down from the heavens that afternoon. There were panoramic views to the sea, with waves crashing on rock outcroppings and peninsulas hundreds of feet below. Clouds rolled over jagged volcanic islands in the distance while tiny sailboats bobbed miles away as they drifted from island to island. It was enough to bring even the hairiest of men to tears.
I’ll be honest – the climbing was good, not great. But it didn’t matter. Anyone complaining about sending average problems in this kind of setting needs to reexamine their priorities. That’s not to say the climbing was bad – several problems on the Thumb Boulder and in the Zoo Area were great fun. But they were the exception rather than the norm. Check out this guide for in-depth directions and problem descriptions. Many thanks to the authors of that document.
Access of this kind shouldn’t be taken for granted. In another part of Waiheke Island, what’s said to be the most romantic beach in New Zealand has been shuttered from public overland access. Reasoning depends on who you ask, but some say that a native tree species that had been introduced to the property surrounding the beach was threatened. Stony Batter, where we’re climbing in a field populated by sheep and cows on a site rich with World War II history, could easily suffer a similar fate. And would it be wrong?
If indeed those trees were being threatened then it was right to limit damage. Humans make enough of an impact on the natural world. If we see an opportunity to curb the damage, we should seize it.
The same story can be told at any climbing area. Sections of the Gunks are perpetually closed due to nesting birds. Rumney State Park is home to a rare type of fern, limiting access to a main sport climbing wall. And this is exactly how it should be.
It takes buy-in on every level for access to remain open. City officials must see the benefit, property owners must take pity, and climbers must follow the rules. Oh, and it helps to put your money where your mouth is by donating to the Access Fund.