Directly after our spectacular two days of paddling the islands of the southern Thailand, we set off for some rock climbing in Krabi, Thailand.
Krabi is considered one of the best locations on earth to sport climb and we are spending the next three days with Hot Rocks Climbing School. Railay, Ton Sai and Phra Nang are the main climbing areas of Krabi, but recently shops have started doing deep water soloing in surrounding islands which looks like a a thrill of a lifetime or a terrifying experience depending on how you look at it.
The magnificent karst formations jut out of the Andaman Sea creating the perfect location for climbers seeking thousands of bolted routes.
It was 11 years ago that we first came to Thailand and made a b-line directly to Railay in Krabi to learn to climb.
We were hooked and took up rock climbing for a couple of years in Canada and even returned to Thailand to climb again. With all the traveling we have done lately, we haven’t had the chance to keep it up, so a three day refresher course was exactly what we needed to get ourselves back on track.
Staying in Ao Nang at the fabulous Ao Nang Paradise, we checked into the poolside suite to relax before our day at the crag. It was 8:30 am sharp that Sarah from Hot Rocks picked us up to send us off on our 15 minute longtail boat ride to Railay. Hot Rocks offers free shuttle from Ao Nang to Railay when taking a climbing course. While I would recommend staying on Railay or on the more affordable Ton Sai Beach, most people stay in the more developed Ao Nang on the mainland with more choices of accommodation and dining.
We would be starting our day at 1,2, 3 Wall.
Our guide Toto has been working in Krabi for several years and spends his free time rebolting the old routes that have been here since King the Founder of King Klimbers explored the area, starting climbing and bolting routes and made Krabi famous to climbers all around the world. They are doing a big push to rebolt the old routes around the island and fixing them with stronger titanium bolts to make climbing safer for all.
We were in excellent hands. Toto talked with us about our skills and what we were looking to get out of climbing with him. What I liked about Hot Rocks was that both Sarah and Toto made sure to get a clear picture of what we wanted out of the next three days. We let them know that we used to climb quite a bit, but are rusty and wanted to get back into lead climbing. It was a far cry from our climbing experience in China.
The 3 Day course normally consists of:
- refreshing your climbing skills and doing some fun climbs on day one.
- Going over the basics of lead climbing on day two
- And tackling a multipitch on day 3
We set out to the crag where Toto assessed our skills. We already knew how to belay, climb and tie in to the rope, so it was a quick launch directly into climbing.
We belayed Toto as he climbed effortlessly up an easy route to set up our top rope anchors. He did this a few times throughout the morning to allow us to do some fun climbs of varying degree and get back into the feel of climbing again. The great thing about top rope climbing is you don’t have to worry about falling. The rope is secured to an anchor at the top and all you have to do is tie yourself onto the rope, have fun and climb up the rock face.
We spent the morning getting a feel for climbing again and working on trying to remember our technique. It all came back, but our stamina ran out quickly. Climbing uses different muscles than you are used to and it wasn’t long until our forearms were aching.
After spending the morning climbing, we made our way to Diamond Cave Wall after lunch. Here we went over our lead climbing skills.
What is Lead Climbing?
Lead climbing is climbing up a route with your rope attached to your harness. As you ascend, you clip the rope into anchors spaced throughout the rockface. The climber carries quick draws that are clipped into anchors that are bolted to into the rock up the route. He then clips the rope into the other end of the quick draw. Bolts are spaced a few meters apart and as you carry up the climbing rope you clip it into each anchor making protection for yourself as you climb up. The person belaying at the bottom then pulls the rope tight which keeps you from falling too far.
It all came back to us in no time and it wasn’t long before we were doing some practice lead climbs. The way you practice leading is to climb on top rope, while pulling up another rope to simulate lead climbing. We climbed a few routes this way. Dave and I would belay on the lead climbing rope while Toto belayed with the top rope. He kept the rope very loose however so that if we did fall we would fall a couple of meters like we are on a lead rope and not a tight top rope.
It was a super afternoon. By the time 6:00 came around we were ready to finish for the night. Climbing takes a lot out of you and we needed a rest for the next day. In another 14 hours, we would be back at the crag starting the day all over again.
- A 3 day climbing course costs 6000 bought – $200 USD
- They also offer half day and full day courses starting at 1000 baht
- Includes gear, guide, and lessons as well as water and snacks.
It’s our final day of rock climbing in Railay, Thailand. It was 11 years ago that we fell in love with Krabi and our interest in travel was sparked.
It was also a time that we first became interested in rock climbing, a sport that we pursued for a few years and loved, but stopped when we decided to cycle Africa.
Now we are back where it all began and we are excited to be back on the wall experiencing the thrill of climbing again. What a blast we have had with Hot Rocks Climbing School.
Rock Climbing Railay in Thailand
We have had 3 glorious days in Southern Thailand and it is sad to see the end coming. We are ready to come back and spend a month exploring routes ourselves one day soon. Now that we have had our refresher course on lead climbing we feel confident to do so.
The Final Day
The day started out on a relaxing note. We decided that we didn’t want to do the multipitch route that normally happens on day three of the lead climbing course. Since we had already done it is 2004, we thought that we would just spend the day tackling different lead climbing routes. So there was no hurry to get down to business.
Instead, we made our way to Diamond Cave and while we waited for the crowded routes to clear out we enjoyed a latte.
There is a fabulous cafe right beside the crag where coffee is ground by hand and milk is frothed the old-fashioned way. We pulled up a cushion and sat on the deck watching people climb while we enjoyed the creamiest coffee we have had in all of Thailand.
Once we were thoroughly pumped with caffeine, it was time to get down to business. I couldn’t believe how comfortable we were climbing. I used to be a little high strung as a climber and scrambled up as fast as I could. These days I felt more relaxed and at home on the rock. I took the climbing slow, figuring out each move before pushing on.
Back in Canada, when I was climbing a lot, I started to develop nerves whenever I was leading. Here in Thailand I was soaking it all in and enjoying the view.
Feeling at Ease
I really think it was Toto’s instruction. He showed us little tricks and tips that made everything easier. His relaxed attitude made us both feel calm and after spending 3 days with him we felt confident again. Maybe it also had to do a little bit with age.
The past couple of years while travelling I have found that we have both mellowed out about the little things and have started to enjoy the moment. All the extra worries and “stuff” that used to go through our brains doesn’t happen anymore.
Now if I didn’t feel confident with a move, I would down climb a bit, take a break and look for an alternate solution, or rest up enough to be able to do it. In the past I would barrel through without thinking.
When you are lead climbing, you can easily fall up to 10 meters. If you fall above your last clip, your protection is below you so you are not only going to fall down to the last place that you clipped in, you are also going to fall further down the length of the rope that isn’t attached to anything. This used to freak me out. Today however both Dave and I were calm and cool.
Rock climbing used to be my sport more than Dave’s. It is the one thing that I can do better than him. He wasn’t really thrilled about having to do a climbing course, he was ready to get back into it and enjoyed every minute.
He seemed to be better at climbing now than when we used to climb 3 times a week at the gym and once a week outdoors.
We were both surprised with how relaxed we were whenever we had to set up our top anchor. It was methodical and smooth and controlled and most of all fun.
We only had enough time for a couple more climbs when I noticed my ankle had swollen up to the size of a golf ball. We had no idea what happened. It didn’t hurt and I didn’t remember banging it on anything so we came the conclusion that a spider or something bit me. Just to be on the safe side, we went to the clinic which is just around the corner on the beach.
They didn’t seem too concerned and Toto had already run to get me some ice to bring down the swelling. It looked far worse than it felt and besides worrying that something poisonous bit me, I felt fine.
Dave was more worried than anyone because he saw my small cut turn into a serious infection of severe cellulitus in Africa, so he didn’t want to take any chances. I didn’t want him to miss out on any more climbing so after being reassured by the pharmacy and the locals that there aren’t any deadly bug bites in Thailand, we decided that we would stick around and let Dave do a few more climbs.
While I iced my foot, I felt a little left out. I noticed two little marks that looked like a bite so, being me, I had to give it a squeeze. Sure enough stuff came out and the swelling went down a little bit. Just enough for me to get back on the wall. I had to try the Little Monkey Wall. It’s a cool climb with a bit of an overhang. That used to be my specialty when I climbed a lot and just had to try it on lead.
So we both tackled it and conquered it just in time for the day to end.
We had an incredible time climbing with Hot Rocks in Railay. Dave had never climbed better in his life and I remembered just how much I love the sport.
We decided that when we return home, we are going to get our gear out of storage and start up again, it is a fantastic hobby that can be pursued at any age or time of life.
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Dave and Deb’s Thailand Adventure is sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand