Connect with us

Phuket

Park chief kills Koh Yao Noi climbing

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

PHUKET: A new national park chief has banned rock climbing on a number of internationally popular limestone outcroppings in areas under his jurisdiction, ruling the sites as unsafe.

“Climbing is an extreme sport and a risky activity. Even though there are safety regulations, and well-tested equipment is being used, there is still the possibility of someone falling and dying,” said Worapot Lomlim, the Ao Phang Na National Park chief. “There is no need for an expert’s opinion on this; I can see myself that it is not safe.”

The move by Mr Worapot, who took up his post in November, to close Dump Wall, Watchtower, Big Tree Wall, The Mitt, HD Wall, Koh Roi, Grateful Wall and The Hang, kills some of Thailand’s top off-the-beaten path climbing holiday destinations.

DESTINATION CLIMBING

“In the last decade, Thailand has been able to position itself as an exotic climbing destination that is able to offer a nice combination of sea and rock experiences,” explained Riccardo Mereu, a certified Climbing Wall Instructor (CWI) and the blogger behind the popular PhuketClimbing.Blogspot.com. “Rock climbing is very popular in Railay, Tonsai and Chong Plee here in the south, while the north is dominated by the Crazy Horse Crag in Chiang Mai.”

Thailand climbing destinations, such as Railey, Tonsai and Crazy Horse, regularly attract world-class rock climbers. This month, Alex Johnson, professional climber for The North Face, and Sasha DiGiulian, Climbing Female Overall World Champion and member of the USA climbing team, both put their hands on Thai rock.

“Hanging out over the Andaman Sea climbing a beautiful limestone roof. Paradise living here!” Ms DiGuilian recently posted on an Instagram photo of her deepwater soloing, that is, climbing over deep water without ropes, in Railey.

SAFETY

The major safety concerns in rock climbing can be broken down into three different categories: loose rocks, human error and unsafe protection – such as steel bolts placed into the wall that have since corroded, explained Heather Miner of The Mountain Shop Adventures.

Despite Mr Worapot’s concerns about the safety of climbing in Koh Yao Noi, Ms Miner assured the Phuket Gazette that the walls are incredibly safe.

“The rock is high quality, the protection is safe and the climbing is located in a spectacular setting,” Ms Miner said. “The walls have been cleaned of loose rock as much as possible… and bolted with titanium bolts to ensure that the protection is safe… Human error can happen anywhere.”

The use of titanium bolts, which can rake up a bill of between 5,500-8,000 baht per route, is essential in Thailand. Over the last few years, stainless steel bolts on routes in the Kingdom have been swapped out with titanium bolts and new routes put up throughout Thailand are being done so with titanium bolts.

“Stainless steel bolts are commonly used throughout the world in climbing areas. These bolts have been proven to break in environments such as Thailand. Titanium bolts are the solution to this problem,” Ms Miner explained.

In 2012, there were about 100 bolted routes on Koh Yao Noi, with more routes having gone up since then.

The costs of bolting the routes is mostly footed by a small group of dedicated rock climbers, reported Climbing, a US-based magazine, in 2012.

“Koh Yao Noi has been entirely equipped using titanium bolts and red-glue, which at the moment are the top material in terms of safety standards. This outstanding job was started in 2004, a few days before the tsunami, by Marc Miner [Ms Miner’s husband] and his friends,” explained Mr Mereu.

A number of the bolts used in Koh Yao Noi were donated by the Thaitanium Project, which accepts cash donations from climbers around the world, and then passes those donations to the climbers placing the orders for bolts each year.

“Considering that most of the climbing areas are frequented by local climbers, hence constantly inspected, all the routes are very safe and there is very little room for danger,” Mr Mereu explained. “In any case, we need to remember that we are talking about rock climbing, which is itself an activity that exposes its lovers to a higher dose of risk than badminton, for instance.”

ECONOMIC FACTORS

Unlike Railey, the climbing in Koh Yao Noi is still a relatively ‘small business’. Nonetheless, it provides an important source of income for local communities on the island.

“Rock climbing is a large part of the economy of Tha Khao [one of the villages on Koh Yao Noi], as well as the island in general. Bungalows, restaurants, massage shops, local boatmen and so on, are all losing business because of the closure,” explained Ms Miner. “Tha Khao is the closest village to the climbing routes, and it is where boats to the climbing areas depart from, so this is the village that is being most affected.”

Though rock climbers are not known for being five-star hotel guests, the money they spend is mostly directly injected into local communities instead of feeding the profits of large travel organizations, explained Mr Mereu, who works for a large travel company in Phuket.

“Closing Koh Yao Noi simply means deliberately obstructing the growth and the respectability of Thailand as a world-class climbing destination, and most importantly, depriving the local community of an additional income that would otherwise be entirely lost.”

However, Mr Worapot said that the closure of the routes will not have any major impact on tourism or local businesses on the island.

“Only a small number of the tourists who come to Koh Yao Noi do so for climbing. The safety and lives of those visiting our park is much more important than the small amount of income that can be derived by allowing the activity. I hope that people will understand this and enjoy other activities offered on our island,” Mr Worapot said.

DASHED SOLUTION

Climbing in national parks is not illegal, confirmed Mr Worapot. However, it is necessary to file certain paperwork, and permission must be granted by the park chief.

“Normally, climbing can be done in a park if the operators get permission from officers. All they have to do is send a letter requesting permission to conduct this kind of business in the area,” Mr Worapot said.

“In this case, it doesn’t matter if they do apply to designate the area as a climbing zone, as I have already decided to ban this activity. The walls are too steep, it is too dangerous.

“Please do not compare us to other places, as every officer has their own way of making decisions, and I say ‘no’ to this.”

Mr Worapot explained that he was taking a hard line on the issue following operators disobeying orders banning climbing.

“We have warned them a number of times, but the businesses keep getting bigger and bigger. I must be firm.”

Mr Worapot has posted signs informing operators and tourists that climbing in the area is illegal. However, he pointed out that tourists weren’t his primary focus.

“Operators know that they are not supposed to climb, but still do. Tourists will not climb without operators to lead them,” he said. “So, we will not press charges against tourists or fine them.”

Additional reporting by Kongleaphy Keam.

— Isaac Stone Simonelli

 

Want more from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates

Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Thaiger Talk Forums.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Phuket. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Tourism8 hours ago

Pattaya October reopening hampered by obstacles

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Thong Lor again: 31 arrested in club violating Covid-19 rules

Coronavirus (Covid-19)10 hours ago

Pfizer vaccine application received, review process begun

Phuket Sandbox July 1st

days
hours
minutes
seconds

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Sponsored by image

Visa13 hours ago

Covid-19 prevention leads to 14 arrests of longterm overstays

Coronavirus (Covid-19)14 hours ago

Covid UPDATE: 3,277 new infections and 29 deaths, provincial totals

Thailand14 hours ago

Red tape and restrictions suggest a slow Phuket reopening

Phuket14 hours ago

UPDATE: Tourism Minister reportedly says July 1 ‘sandbox’ won’t happen

Tourism15 hours ago

Koh Samui eyes August 1 reopening, “Samui Sealed Route”

Weather16 hours ago

Village need rain? Have you considered a giant penis?

Coronavirus (Covid-19)19 hours ago

Covid UPDATE Saturday: 3,277 new infections and 29 deaths

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

8.3% of Thailand’s 50 million vaccine target reached so far

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Site launched for June 14 vaccine signup for all foreigners

Coronavirus (Covid-19)1 day ago

Free quarantine accommodation for arriving Thais to be cancelled

Thailand1 day ago

Thailand News Today | Sandbox – bar, clubs closed? Local AZ problems, Sex toy arrest | June 11

Drugs1 day ago

UN report: Changes in Southeast Asia drug trafficking during the pandemic

Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism3 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Trending