PHUKET: For travellers looking for an active holiday, both Phuket and Krabi offer many solutions, such as snorkeling trips, scuba diving or kayaking, but many travellers have yet to try an experience that is rapidly gaining in popularity – rock climbing!
Krabi and Phang Nga provinces are literally packed with dramatic limestone formations. In the last ten years, spots like Railay Beach and Tonsai Beach have attracted thousands of climbers from all over the world, making this corner of Thailand a climbing Mecca in Southeast Asia. Yet the entire region still holds almost limitless potential for veteran climbers looking for a new challenge in uncharted territory.
Rock climbing is one of those activities considered “dangerous” by the majority of international tour operators, therefore, due to the limited availability of insurance, it’s almost impossible to buy a climbing package from overseas or book a climbing course for beginners through a tour operator.
Luckily, in Tonsai and Railay there are now many climbing schools offering professional services to individuals or groups and it’s remarkable to see how many people are now approaching this amazing activity for the first time.
I have been climbing for many years, and I’ve had the chance to climb in many different countries in Europe and Asia. However, the magical atmosphere that Railay provides compels me to come back whenever I can.
What I love about rock climbing is that it’s generally suitable for everybody and the range of emotions that climbers experience are always the same – elation and satisfaction. But be very careful, it’s heavily addictive. The kick of adrenaline an experienced climber gets from climbing a hard route is a huge part of the attraction of rock climbing, but beginners can, and should, get the same kick on a much easier climb. This adrenaline boost produces a phenomena that keeps climbers always pushing forward and always looking for kicks. Until the rock kicks you out!
“Move your right feet up on the right, grab that jug with your left hand, come on you can do it!”
“No, I can’t…
“Yes, come on!
“No, I’m scared.
“Come on mate.
This is what a typical rock climbing conversation sounds like when an instructor is leading a climbing course and encouraging a novice. Every time I climb and see those beginners having such a good time, it reminds me of the old days when I started climbing, and makes me regret that I didn’t start earlier.
Now for a bit of technical detail. Climbing routes are classified by difficulty using a grading system that is recognized worldwide. The French scale is indeed the most common one and the majority of climbing guide books refer to this system.
The scale starts with the 5 grade and proceeds following a system of letters and plus signs for example: 5a, 5a+, 5b, 5b+, 5c, 5c+, 6a, 6a+ and so on. The hardest route ever climbed has a grade of 9b+ and it was realized by Adam Ondra, an extremely talented 18-year-old from the Czech Republic.
Just about anybody is able to climb the 5 graded routes. In fact, a few years ago I went out climbing with my father who, at the age of 60, climbed his first 5c. Most regular climbers can usually climb up to 6c+, after that the world of 7s starts. From here on, climbers require excellent fitness, physical and mental strength and specific climbing techniques.
Railay is the perfect spot for beginners looking to try out their climbing legs (and hands). Many sectors have plenty of routes from 5 to 7 which allow everybody to have a challenging and fun time. On Railay West, there is a crag called Thaiwand Wall, where there are some amazing climbing routes overlooking the entire bay – which I guarantee will deliver amazing views.
Being perched dozens of meters above the sea, overlooking a spectacular view, really allows you to get into better contact with your inner thoughts – to discover yourself and understand your fears. Interacting with nature as you rise slowly, hand over hand, your mind feels lighter than ever. The energy flows through your veins, and after a day of climbing, a magic sensation stays all over your body.
Rock climbing is indeed an activity that requires some dedication in order to get better results, however, anybody can try it and have an amazing experience.
The best way to reach Railay beach is to take a long tail boat from Ao Nang. The ticket costs 100 baht each way and boats operate from sunrise to sunset. In both Railay and Tonsai there are plenty of different hotels starting from 500 baht up. There are also scores of locally run restaurants that serve up cheap and tasty meals, perfect for replacing all that energy you used up during your climb.
For more information about participating in a rock climbing experience that will definitely change your life, you can type the magic words “Climbing in Phuket” into your search engine or message me through my personal blog at phuketclimbing.blogspot.com.
— Ricardo Mereu
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