Climbing in Thailand

Climbing in Thailand

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January 30, 2017

New inspiration post from ClimbBnB user Sunny stroeer.

Climbing in Thailand

I remember when I was in grad school, a rookie climber who hadn’t yet left the gym and was barely beginning to understand climbing lingo.  I had just learned what a tick list was when I stumbled across a photo of some girl looking badass while stemming between stalactites on Humanality, a classic five pitch 5.10c/d route in Tonsai.  Not only did the route look awesome, but the photographer had managed to frame the shot so that you could not only see the climber and the stalactite, but also the bar at the base of the route. As I clicked into the route description I read something about lowering off directly onto the deck of the Freedom Bar, and voila – all a sudden I had a route on my tick list.  

A lot has happened between then and now, but until a couple months ago there was one constant: Humanality remained at the top of my tick list, and though I kept talking about climbing in Tonsai (just like I’ve been talking about returning to JoSiTo, which was my home and backdrop for some of the best two months of my life after I finally graduated from cranking on plastic!) I never actually made it to that corner of Thailand. 

But then everything changed: after grad school and four years in a high octane business career I quit my job to climb and run full-time, and all a sudden found myself with no income but plenty of time on my hands.  All I wanted was to be able to climb, spend time in beautiful places, and not spend a ton of money.  All a sudden, Humanality was a real possibility.    

I touch down in Tonsai at the end of September, planning to spend the next several weeks working on becoming a stronger sport climber (since I’m a vertical all-rounder with a focus on high altitude endurance adventures and big wall climbs).  Even in the off-season Tonsai is an easy place for solo travelers to find climbing partners, and after a day or two of learning my way around the bay I link up with an international hodgepodge of sport climbers that are getting after it at one of Tonsai and Railay’s many crags every day, rain or shine.  September and October are still part of the rainy season, so we’re getting lots of precipitation – not a big deal since the rock dries fast and a lot of Tonsai’s crags are steep enough to climb in the rain. 


After ten days of getting to know the rock and exploring the area, I make my way to the Krabi airport to pick up my boyfriend – he still has a full-time job, but managed to take a few weeks off to come climbing in paradise with me.  We move from my little lowkey Tonsai bungalow (that I paid $10/night for, what’s not to love!) to a bit more luxurious place in Railay and spend the next two weeks in a suspended state of bliss ticking off many of peninsula’s moderate classics.  

And, yes, one random Tuesday morning I find myself on the deck of the Freedom Bar, staring up at the ladder that marks the start of the approach pitches to Humanality. My boyfriend Paul and I had talked about swinging leads so I rack up to for the first of two approach pitches; only to find a wet, slimy and not easily protectable obstacle course behind and around alien-looking stalactites.  After some hesitation I back off and turn the lead over to Paul.  It’s an inauspicious start to the route and sure enough: I end up following the whole thing, flailing and hanging and french-freeing my way through the approach pitches as well as the four money pitches of the route, putting me into a bad enough funk that I’m not even enjoying the climbing; this is not how I wanted the day to turn out!  So as Paul finishes leading the final pitch I yell up to him and ask if he’d mind repeating the route.  Being his typical awesome self he agrees even though the wall is coming into the sun, we’re out of water, and there now is another party climbing starting the lower pitches.  We rap to the top of the approach pitches, hang out for a while as the other party is working through the opening pitch, and then we’re off again – this time I lead the 5.10- pitch that I had had my eyes on from the start, and rather than aiding through the upper cruxes I manage to follow the classic stalactite pitch clean.  A few hours later, there’s a big smile on my face as we rappel straight into the Freedom Bar and grab a couple tall Singhas to celebrate the climb.  

If you’re thinking about heading to Tonsai yourself, make sure to put Humanality on the list – it really is that fun and different.  Just be aware that the two approach pitches do NOT stay dry in the rain (and unless you’re a solid 5.11 climber they are not trivial). 


Other must-do’s:

  • Cobra Venom (5.11a, Cobra Wall)
  • Lord of the Thais (5.10b for the first pitch, 5.12b if you take it to the top; Thaiwand)
  • The Best Route in Minnesota (5.11a, Escher World)

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