Castle Hill is located 120 km west of Christchurch close to the Great Alpine Highway 73, between Darfield and Arthur's Pass in New Zealand's South Island. Described as one of the world’s finest bouldering locations, Castle Hill is renowned for its stunning limestone rock formations nestled in grassy paddocks, each filled with hundreds of limestone boulders and thousand’s of named bouldering problems (climbing paths). The early Europeans named it “Castle Hill” because the imposing array of limestone boulders reminded them of old, run-down stone castle. Indeed, the front of ChristChurch Cathedral in Christchurch was made from Castle Hill limestone.
These limestone rock formations are what’s left after water eroded away the limestone formed during the Oligocene period 30-40 million years ago when much of present day New Zealand was covered by the sea. Natural erosion has weathered the higher parts into fantastic shapes, which are much loved by rock-climbers, and the whole area is a maze of towers, arches, holes and slabs that are a joy to explore.
The area around Castle Hill is of special cultural, spiritual and historical significance to Ngai Tahu who named it Kura Tawhiti, which literally means “the treasure from a distant land”. Hidden amongst the limestone outcrops of Castle Hill are traces of 500-year old charcoal drawings traditionally said to have been left by the Waitaha, the first people to travel through this area. In 1998, the area was designated the Kura Tawhiti Conservation Area to ensure that the values Ngai Tahu place on this area are recognized, acknowledged and respected.
This area has recently seen more visitors, as nearby Flock Hill station was used for the filming of the climactic battle scenes of the 2005 movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
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