sign in a cave in Laos

8 June 2008

Rock climbing in Krabi - BT

Published on The Brunei Times (

The high life in Thai climbing heaven

Ascending to thrilling heights: Krabi in southwest Thailand is a paradise of tropical beaches, great rock climbing, a range of water activities and affordable room and board. Pictures: Liz Price

Liz Price

Friday, April 4, 2008

THE cliff face in front of me had dozens of ropes hanging from the rocky heights above, and attached to these ropes were human spiders. It was like the scene from a science fiction film, human spiders creating a giant size web to trap some unseen prey. These Homo-arachnids were strung at various heights up the cliff, all with one goal, to reach the top.

The spectacular limestone towers of Phra Nang in Krabi district dominate the scenery. High cliffs extend right down to the water's edge, and the Andaman sea is dotted with numerous islands of a multitude of shapes and sizes.

This limestone actually starts in Malaysia, on the islands of Langkawi and extends north into Thailand, running through the Taratao islands, and up the peninsula through Satun and Trang, and into Krabi and Phang Nga provinces.

Many climbers flock to the Krabi area to climb spectacular walls in one of the word's most beautiful tropical beach environments. The weather is ideal and there are climbs to suit all levels of skill. There are challenging 8c routes for the expert climber, but for novice there are short walls specially geared up for beginners.

One wall suitable for beginners is Muay Thai, 50m high with around 20 climbs. In the high season, as many as 300 visitors a day will climb this wall. That explains the abundance of ropes dangling down like colourful spaghetti.

For the real novice, there is a shorter wall about 15m high. I watched in fascination as one farang (foreigner) climbed towards the top of the cliff, and had to negotiate a very exposed overhang. The Thai instructor shouted encouragement and advice from below. The view from those rocky heights must be truly spectacular.

The local instructors scale the rock faces as if it was a Sunday stroll, they are such superb climbers, having developed their skills by climbing almost every day.

Rock climbing is a fast growing sport. The appeal is immediate and the rewards are addictive. People of all ages respond to the thrills, psychological challenges and exhilaration that are an integral part of every climb.

Macho strength is not necessarily required, some climbers have quite a gymnastic style. Even some young children were enjoying themselves scaling the rock faces.

The Krabi climbing industry started to boom in the 1990s, once the secret was out among the international climbing community. Word soon spread that this was a magical area, a rock heaven and Krabi soon became a Mecca for climbing enthusiasts.

Stories went around of spectacular limestone cliffs towering above golden sands and clear blue waters. The first trickle of European climbers arrived in the mid-eighties. The Phi Phi islands drew most of the pioneers and numerous routes were soon established. Then the climbers discovered Phra Nang on the mainland, where Railay beach had long been a favourite destination for backpackers, offering very cheap bamboo huts.

A talented group of young Thais soon began climbing and established a local climbing club. Although they started out as novices they studied the skills from the visiting climbers and became expert climbers themselves. They learnt the basic techniques then set about to conquer the walls. Soon they were setting up their own routes.

The cliffs of Phra Nang are well known. Although Phra Nang is part of the mainland it is effectively isolated from the outside world by the large cliffs and steep valleys.

These great walls of Phra Nang provide a stunning backdrop to the beaches that are packed with European sunbathers. These beaches, Phra Nang, Railay and Tonsai, can only be reached by boat.

I was amazed at the number of sun worshippers, there was hardly a spare metre of sand between the bronzed bodies, talk about sardines in a can.

And the enterprising Thais were walking around selling cold drinks, fresh fruits, sticky rice and even sarongs and mats, and doing quite good business. Long-tailed boats were bobbing gently in the aquamarine water, well away from the area reserved for swimming. It was good to see that safety is a prime concern here and that the boats are restricted to where they can moor.

There are now several climbing schools in operation, offering courses ranging from a half day to three days. The packages include instruction, equipment and insurance.

Or you can just rent equipment, or hire a private guide as a climbing partner. The climbing shops at Railay work closely together to provide a high standard and safe climbing practices.

There are more than 700 bolted climbs. The climbs range from easy, short pitches with relatively large hand hold and stalactites to pull up on, to desperate faces of extreme difficulty.

The routes are all named, generally very imaginatively, such as Massage Secrets, Beauty and the Beast, Getting to Know You, Lord of the Thais.

The climbing walls are generally shady, and easily accessible from the bungalows, or by long tailed boat. Certain rock walls are off limits because they are part of the Hat Nopparat Thara - Mu Ko Phi Phi National Marine Parks.

This area of Krabi is really stunning in terms of scenery and offers a range of rock and water activities. Accommodation is plentiful and caters for all budgets from simple huts through to luxury resorts.

Food is also varied; Thai, European and Muslim cuisines are found everywhere. It is certainly a great place to brush up those climbing skills.

The Brunei Times


Source URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment