Welcome to Episode 24 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with surfer, free diver, cyclist, snowboarder and climber, Andy Milne.
Andy hails from Dunedin, where, as a rebellious teenager, he discovered the vibrant world that was New Zealand climbing in the mid 80s. Equally drawn to the mountains and the crags, Andy threw himself in the deep end - an "all or nothing" approach that would come to define his relationship with a number of athletic disciplines.
Not long in the game, he witnessed climbing tragedy first hand when two friends died in a climbing accident on Mt Aspiring. Andy and his climbing companion were first on the scene. That experience changed the course of Andy's life, as he dropped out of art school and (perhaps paradoxically) 'doubled down' on his climbing obsession.
In our conversation, Andy reflects on the twists and turns that his life has taken since, as he moved into working in the outdoor equipment industry, moved around the South Island and pursued a number of other challenging and adventurous activities such as surfing, backcountry snowboarding, road cycling and free diving - all to a high standard. And yet he has continued to return to climbing - as much for the process as the outcome. Now on his 4th or 5th comeback, Andy's deltoids are as big as they ever were and his 6mm crimp game must be (pound for pound) as good as it gets.
Andy has dedicated this episode to lost (but not forgotten) friends Jeremy Strang, Grant Crumpton and Donald Hollows.
Welcome to Episode 23 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with crop harvester, committed shoveller and climber, Robin Hood.
Robin is one of the stand out characters from the Canterbury rock climbing scene of the 1980s and 1990s. He was particularly active at Castle Hill where he contributed a number of classic moderate sport routes to the area, including Tales From The Riverbank, Kiss In The Dreamhouse and On Some Faraway Beach. He was, however, also infamous for chipping and modification of climbs - something that he admits he did whilst noting that he was far from the only one doing it at the time.
In our conversation, Robin describes his upbringing on the Canterbury plains, the circumstances that led to him sharing a name with the legendary outlaw of Sherwood Forest, his early experiences of climbing at Castle Hill in the late 1970s and stories from the heyday of route development there. He also shares a lot about his personal life, including significant physical and mental health challenges. Some of Robin's experiences have been very traumatic and some listeners may find parts of the interview distressing. Listener discretion is advised.
Special thanks to Greg Cole for helping improve the audio quality on this one.
Welcome to Episode 22 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with grimdark writer, powerlifter, UFC enthusiast and retired boulderer, Stuart Kurth.
Stu was part of the first generation of New Zealand climbers born and raised on plastic - the gym generation. However, unlike most of his contemporaries, Stu developed his strength, skills and perspective on climbing in a state of (near total) isolation. That isolation allowed his imagination to run wild and, fuelled by international magazines and VHS copies of The Real Thing and Rampage, Stu hatched an outrageous plan - to climb V14 one day.
At the time, V14 was the global benchmark in bouldering difficulty. The hardest problem in New Zealand was only V8 (not that Stu knew that). Undeterred, he set about pursuing his goal with an almost single-minded obsession. His unashamed focus was on reaching the highest levels of difficulty, regardless of the time or energy that it took.
In our conversation, we cover the events and circumstances that led to this obsession, the 25 year pathway to realisation of Stu's dream and the price he paid for that realisation - a total loss of the love of climbing. But it's not all big grades and big ticks. There's powerlifting and grimdark chat too. Enjoy!
And if you want to check out Stu's book Two Blades, you'll find it here.
Welcome to Episode 21 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with climber, biker, glider, paddler, parapanter and future fly fisherman, Grant Davidson.
Grant was a key player in the development of cragging in the North Island in the late 1970s and 1980s. His name is associated with new routes at Mangatepopo, Motuoapa, Crag 2/25, Crag Serenity and Wharepapa South. He likely "discovered" and climbed the first routes at Kawakawa Bay. At Whanganui Bay, on the Winter Wall alone, there are 29 Grant Davidson first ascents. And his sacrifice for the development of climbing at Whanganui Bay is immortalised the "Lobotomy Buttress" name. Yes, he got around!
After growing up in various parts of New Zealand, a secondary school trip to the then newly established Outdoor Pursuits Centre at National Park introduced Grant to the challenge and reward of rock climbing. And he never looked back. In fact, despite a beckoning career in theoretical physics, Grant embraced an outdoor lifestyle that led him to pursue many adventurous activities and develop a professional life in the outdoors.
In our conversation, we cover his early years as a climber and alpinist, his reflections of the 'heydey' of central North Island rock climbing and his many travels and adventures abroad. He has some great stories and a fair bit of wisdom to share too. Not bad for a terminal intermediate. Enjoy!
Welcome to Episode 20 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with climber, instructor and indefatigable inspiration, Dave Brash.
Hailing from New Plymouth, Dave is a highly respected stalwart of the Dunedin climbing scene. Since arriving in Dunedin in the 1980s, there aren't many holds on the cliffs of Dunedin that Dave has not acquainted himself with.
Something of the late starter (having taken up climbing in his mid 20s), Dave has since made a life for himself and his family around climbing: both as a recreational pursuit and a profession. At 71 years young, he's still getting after it.
In our conversation, we traverse Dave's life from the pre-climbing years to his early experiences at Arapiles to a lifelong love affair with Long Beach to 'danger walking' in the Darrans to discovering the joys of climbing on Mt Taranaki - his turangawaewae. He also gives a brief insight into the dangers of hitch-hiking. Enjoy!
Welcome to Episode 19 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with friend, philosopher and photographer, Tom Hoyle.
Based in Christchurch where he runs the New Zealand Alpine Club climbing media empire, Tom (otherwise known as 'Gomez Garcia Gonzalez' or 'Big Tony') has been in the thick of the sport climbing and bouldering scene since the early 2000s.
With the physique of a heavy-weight body builder, it would be easy, from a distance, to dismiss Tom as a juiced-up jarhead. In fact, he is thoughtful, measured and highly creative, sporting a degree in philosophy, a masters in fine arts and an exquisite music collection. He's no ballerina on the rock, however, preferring beefy spans and wild dynos to minging finger stacks and precision toe pointing.
In our conversation, we cover Tom's background in climbing, his contributions to New Zealand climbing media over the last two decades, his experiences in some of Christchurch's more hardcore climbing flats and, of course, many of his more memorable climbing adventures - here and abroad. Enjoy!
Welcome to Episode 18 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with renowned mountain guide, climber, skier and opinion-holder, Murray Ball.
Based in Hawea Flat, Murray is a larger-than-life character who has climbed and skied all over the globe. He entered the mountains at young age and quickly began guiding. After serving his apprenticeship in the Southern Alps he moved to France where his alpine and rock climbing flourished. He lived, climbed and guided there for many years before returning to New Zealand in the early 2000s.
Once back and settled in the Wanaka region he became increasingly active in developing rock climbs both at the local crags and in Fiordland. Indeed, he co-authored what is probably the most popular multipitch alpine rock route in New Zealand - Lucky Strike on the Moir massif.
As he says himself, Murray has no filter and his blunt exchanges have left many bruised and bewildered (me included). He holds his opinions strongly and without apology.
In our conversation, we cover everything from his school days to redpoint soloing to bolt chopping in 2020. It's quite a ride. Enjoy!
Welcome to Episode 17 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with alpine legend, NZAC life member, international mountain guide and prolific rock route developer, Nick Cradock.
In a climbing life of over 4 decades, Nick has done it all. From hard first ascents in the Southern Alps to big walls in the Valley to summits in Patagonia and the greater ranges to epic multipitch rock routes in the Darrans to consumer classic clip-ups in Wanaka and back again.
Over a 6 pack of ice-cold Coronas (beers not viruses), we have a free-range and convivial chat about life and climbing. For a man with a reputation for a quick and ruthless wit, it seems Nick may have mellowed in his middle ages.
There's something for everyone here but for those who have climbed on one of Nick's many routes on the Moir massif in Fiordland, Nick's account of the Camp Dawg days will be especially interesting. It turns out that the secret to success on such high quality routes was to come top down, not go ground up. Who would have thought.
There's also an excellent story about the time that he pulled his mate off the top of what would have been a first ascent at Castle Hill. On purpose. Enjoy!
Welcome to Episode 16 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with Wanaka climber Jane Presto.
Jane is something of an undercover crusher with her own unique take on the sport of sport climbing. And she's not here to waste time. Despite starting climbing in her early 30s, with three young kids in tow, she has amassed an impressive ticklist of local Wanaka test pieces. In fact, her recent grade 30 redpoints put her (by some margin) atop the Aotearoa female rock climbing league table (well, they would if that league table actually existed).
In the interview, we talk about all the things that Jane did before she became a climber, from horse-riding to skiing to being "super mum". Then we talk about Jane's personal approach to climbing; specifically, her singular focus on siege-style ultra-hard redpoints. Jane is more than willing to sink 40+ into a project and still find a way to enjoy it. It is a remarkable skill.
Another remarkable skill that Jane has is the ability to juggle work, three kids and a redpoint obsession. It turns out that a bit of tittle tattle and an aversion to time wasting will carry you a long way. Maybe we can all take something from Jane's refreshing perspective to our favourite sport. Enjoy!
Welcome to Episode 15 of the Ω Powerband Podcast - a podcast dedicated to rock climbing in Aotearoa New Zealand.
In this episode, I speak with climber, cyclist, photographer, designer, author, editor and experientialist, Mark Watson.
Perhaps most widely known for his bike-packing exploits (Mark and his partner Hana were inches away from completing a 4 years bike-packing journey across the Americas when the COVID pandemic hit and they were forced to return to New Zealand), Mark is also a very accomplished and well-travelled climber, with a deep resumé across many climbing disciplines.
As you will hear, Mark has fashioned a life and a living for himself around climbing; he has worked in the local outdoor apparel and gear industry, he led the transformation of The Climber magazine from club newsletter to glossy news-stand publication and he worked his way to becoming one of New Zealand's best climbing and adventure photographers.
In between all of that, he has done a ton of climbing, often in a bold and uncompromising style. He has (by his own admission) a "pure" ethical approach to climbing, setting high personal standards that place a premium of intensity of experience and managing the many mental demands of climbing. Despite my own cravenness, I find his approach really inspiring and, hopefully, you will too.
There is plenty of crag chat, from the Port Hills to Castle Hill to the Darrans to Whanganui Bay and (of course) Baring Head. All the very best spots!
Check out Mark's amazing photos here. Or check out his amazing blog. Or if you want to hear Mark talk about biking, click here.