ALPINE SCHOOL ARCO LAKE GARDA DOLOMITES ITALY Alpinguide news - Guided rock climbing and courses in Thailand

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This short report is a summary from our Thailand trips where we have spent months for rock climbing trekking and diving. Many of our friends are asking information and news by e-mail and we are trying to give our honest opinion.

Krabi is not only a renowned holiday destination but also a world-famous rock climbing spot. The limestone crags in impressive Phra Nang peninsula near Krabi are home to the well-known Railay and Tonsai venues. Here there are many excellent single pitch sport routes and some bolted multi-pitch routes most of which are right off the beach in fascinating surroundings. In addition to the rock climbing around Krabi many more climbing areas are being developed especially in the South and around Chiang Mai in the North. On Phi Phi Island there is a much higher potentiality of setting up new further routes in addition to the currently about 30 existing rock climbing lines. Personally, I have a particular attraction to rock climbing on the Island of Phi Phi because it is part of my history. If they tell you that the climbing on Phi Phi Island is not convenient don' t believe it and when you go there, you will be satisfied. According to my opinion on Phi Phi Island there are the most beautiful easy routes in Thailand.

GUIDED THAILAND Tonsai beach Krabi at sunset the meeting point of the world's best climbers

Safety first (not only in Thailand)

A 12 mm spit in Italy may sustain 2500 kg for many years, here the duration lasts only a few months. Are stainless steel bolts better? No, they only have two to three years of life! That is the reason why you find in many guide books of Thailand the note on some routes "rusted bolts, do not climb here!" Don' t believe it but go and check for yourself. Maybe the route has been rebolted with titanium bolts in the meantime. Titanium bolts seem to be the only ones which resist salt water areal. Our major suggestion here: check very well what kind of bolts are on the routes and the condition of the anchors.

The difficulty of routes

The rock in Thailand is fantastic, a world of walls colored stalactites and mostly the sea in the background! But ... almost always overhanging: prepare your body for resistance, you always find grips and hold everywhere but most of the time you hang on your arms. Climbing 6b for the leading climber is a must in many rock climbing spots. Easy and good bolted routes (5b-6a) are unfortunately only on Phi Phi Island. Regarding the evaluations of difficulty: we struggled on a 6a in Chiang Mai and considered a 6c on Phi Phi easy, therefore don' t trust so much your guide book and always evaluate yourself.

ROCK CLIMBING COURSES Rock climbing on Thaiwand Railay beach a wall of 120 m. a fantastic seaside overhang!

The guides and the offers of courses

One day we were in Diamond Cave (Krabi) as a young Thai boy observed my technique asking me since how many years I have been rock climbing. Reply from an old man: "I have got about 50 years". Laughing out loud he boy said that he had been experienced only for three months: the danger was that he was there with his foreign clients (farang) who had booked a course with him. There are agencies which are offering rock climbing courses without any hesitation and are sending their customers with these kind of "guides" because it is inexpensive. The result is that some of these guys got injured and this is not acceptable! Forget to do a serious guiding in Thailand: your guides will tell you, in his broken English: "to the right" or "to the left" or the maximum: "You have to grip at 11 o' clock". We smile but the sad reality is that here nobody is able to teach you proper techniques and rope maneuvers, (with some exceptions).
The second recommendation: if you need a guide DON' T CONTACT one of the many agencies you find around but LOOK DIRECTLY for the School. In Chiang Mai (CMRCA) and on Phi Phi Island there are good schools, Railay and Tonsai in Krabi is crowded with people and everyone is just trying to collect a lot of money from the pretentious tourists ... Don' t get mesmerized!

GUIDED ROCK CLIMBING The beach and the walls of Tonsai, a symbol for the world's best climbers

What you should bring and what to leave at home

This is a problem which has been haunting us for almost twenty years. Anyone would think to leave the rope at home because it weighs four to five kg: "it will be available for rent on site!" Completely wrong: wherever you go the hire of a rope will cost you around 3000 Baht per day (about 70 Euro) which is the value of half a rope. Considering all the rock climbing and apnea/free diving gear (flippers including) we have a total weight of 44 kg for two people. Leave at home underpants, socks, shoes, ll you need here a is a t-shirt, a pair of shorts, a swimsuit and a pair of comfortable slippers. Remember that when the temperature in Thailand drops below 20 degrees it is a national emergency whereas 35 degrees are the normality and therefore take with you a comfortable shoes because in this heat it would be impossible to climb with our tight European shoes sizes.
Do not be ashamed to bring with you a couple of friends, cordlets and carabiners to leave there. We have seen a few climbers in serious difficulties on the famours "run outs" as well as on long abseiling routes on some multi-pitch climbing routes. Don' t forget that in Thailand there is no alpine rescue and that the first orthopedic center worth mentioning is located in Bangkok which might be away several hundreds of kilometers away from the crag. Therefore we recommend extreme caution.

GUIDED COURSES Do not hesitate to get under water in Thailand

Where to stay and where to eat

This is a little problematic! In twenty years we have tried many options and we have found only a few places we liked. One of these is in Chiang Mai another one is on Phi Phi island but a place that is reserved because it is a result of our friendship. Phi Phi is an extremely touristic island and consequently expensive (apart from the food) and is impossible to find decent accommodation for less than 2000 Baht per room. Regarding Railay, we are of the opinion that it is convenient to stay at Tonsai Beach even if the quality of most accommodations leaves much to be desired. Also note that in Thailand things are changing significantly from year to year and it is almost impossible to have stable points of reference.
Common food here are rice dishes combined with fish, chicken, seafood, various curries, different type of fish and seafood, spicy soups... mostly all of them with garlic and spicy. Recently many restaurants in tourist areas have adjusted their traditional food to European tastes and are trying to imitate Italian pasta and pizzas with more or less success. We recommend to try the typical Pad Thai (pasta rice in many variations) and the Khao tom plaa (rice soup with seafood) and of course barracuda fish with different types of sauces.

ALPINGUIDE NEWS Thungnangdam Island nothing for the best climbers but one of the few remaining paradises in Thailand

News of rock climbing spot: Thungnangdam Island

Some time ago we have been contacted by a wealthy and pleasant entrepreneur from Bangkok, engineer Mr. Kitty who is the owner of a small resort on Thungnangdam Island about 90 km away from Khao Lak. We sped onto the island where we were greeted divinely. The cliff is a little out of the ordinary considering the concept of crags in Europe. You should imagine climbing amidst a dense jungle, on black slippery rock. While we were on the wall two bald eagles flew above us intrigued by these crazy mans hanging on the rock. The island is famous for its multitude of birds, flowers, trees, fruits and shells, never seen before; an island full of flora and fauna endemism. Looking for a simple cliff, we have thus discovered perhaps the last tropical paradise in Thailand. The tourist development of the island has just begun but we believe that Mr. Kitty, given that he is the owner of half of the island, he is a lover of nature, and has here its his native home, does not allow the touristic massacre which has perpetrated other beautiful islands. On our part, if he will promote his spot on Thungnangdam Island, we reciprocate the kindness and the availability of Mr Kitti and we will help him in his undertaking to equip the cliff in the Thai jungle.

COURSES IN THAILAND Laoliang Island a paradise for the best rock climbers in the middle of the sea

Island Laoliang - Krabi: new spot in Chong Phlee

We came back from our long trip tp the deep south of Thailand. Laoliang Island is certainly a unique place in the world for rock climbing: a wall planted amidst the sea, the beach is not larger than two soccer fields and there are about 25 large tents where you can live very well. The rock is fantastic, the cliff is small and consists of about twenty routes but unfortunately mainly graded 6b-6c. Often the routes are starting with difficult bouldering parts (to facilitate the difficult starts, they kindly provide a ladder - not ethical but ... more secure!). We have rarely climbed on such interesting rocks from a technical point of view and regarding movement but make sure to bring all your equipment with you. The School on the place exists only when groups of Chinese or other students are about to arrive and the equipment on the island is very limited. Don' t worry about overcrowding. If there are 20 people on the island not more than half will be devoted to rock climbing. There is a small self-service restaurant on the island. They are preparing tasty typical Thai dishes. Surprise: Laoliang is one of the few places where every morning at breakfast we found fresh fruit and yoghurt. The price of your strange vacation will be expensive: ca. 800 Baht for the boat and 1500 Baht/person for full board per day but once in your life it is worth it.
Return from the deep south of Thailand, for purely logistical reasons (visit to friends) we again stayed at Krabi, where we tried to find, without excessive hopes, the new cliff Chong Phlee. Also here a pleasant surprise: a Swedish climber who lives in the vicinity is taking care of equipping the new rock climbing spot. We climbed there one day only: fantastic! We will definitely come back there again. Our next destination, the city of Lopburi (near Bangkok) where there is also a crag which we have never seen before. We will report in detail !


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