Hot Rock Krabi Thailand
My first climbing experience
My first climbing experience
Hot Rock Climbing School in Railey was to make it happen: my first
climb. Having pondered it for years, savored it, dreamed about, but
never got around to actually doing it, there I was. In Railey. After
a filling breakfast of coffee and pancake besides the white sandy beach
with my assistant Mae, and a peep at the day’s newspaper courtesy of
Newspaperdirect, I was excited and ready to follow Luang, his Swedish
wife Saralisa and their staff for that half day introductory climbing
Luang arrived in Railey at the end of the 80’s and lived for a while
in a cave he reached by climbing. He subsequently started to guide the
few tourists who visited the area for some good climbing, developing
his profession further and founding Hot Rock Climbing with his wife
in 1994. The school is in continuous expansion and is considered to
be one of the most trusted in Railey.
We left the shop, located at Bobo Plaza on West Railey, after having
been geared up and chosen the right size of shoes, which have to be
tight so to be at one with the feet. The harness carries up to 2 tons
and it has to be just tight enough not to slip down the hips; we were
fitted out with one of them and started to look like proper climbers.
The colorful equipment comprises of a couple of ropes, harness, chalk
bag, shoes, locking carabineers and a dozen or so quick-draws. Nou informed
us that all equipment has been tested; he took time to explain technical
features, stressing on safety measures. His English is excellent; we
had no difficulty in understanding all his instructions. He speaks slowly
and anyone from any nationality with a basic knowledge of the language
should do fine.
“Climbing must be fun” said Nou, “so try never to make a serious face”.
70% of his customers are first time climbers. Experienced climbers use
their service too as it saves them time to get to the best routes if
they do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the area. The day was
cloudy and not so hot, good in a way, so we would not sweat too much,
but if it rains the rock might get slippery. “In Railey there are safe
routes also on rainy days”, Nou reassured us.
Nou is originally from North East Thailand; at the early age of 6 he
moved to Chiang Mai, and at 16 he did his first climb with local climbers.
He liked the sport so much that when he heard about the top location
of Railey he moved to the area. He is now 24, and has 6 years climbing
experience. He talks quite a lot and makes you feel at ease; he explained
to us that Hot Rock Climbing has 7 climbing instructors; small groups
is one of the characteristics of the company, a maximum of 3 customers
per instructor. In ten minutes we reached the most popular climbing
area called Seaview 1/2/3, a level 5 for a ½ day course considered to
be one of the top ten in the world. It is ideal for first time climbers,
and a crowd had already gathered there by the time we arrived. Other
areas include the nearby Thai Boxing, so called for the position your
body must assume in order to tackle the ascent; then there is Diamond
Cave, for a 1 day course, and for the best views from the top, Taiwan
Hole, included in the 3 days course. Nou informs us that there are now
over 600 official routes in the Railey peninsula.
On arrival, Nou unrolled the mat and dropped the 60 meters rope on it;
he started to check the whole length of it with his fingers. “Good climbers
always check the rope before every climb. I used this rope 1000 times,
and still, I check it. If you eat food and some bits drop on the rope,
for instance, rats might start chewing it. We need to minimize the risk
to the lowest level”. Around this beautiful location, we observed the
ease with which other people were climbing, and felt safe.
We learnt how to use the belay plate, a device used to “slack”, or to
feed rope, and to make it tight when a climber is leading, or in the
jargon, “belaying”. He taught us how to secure the rope onto the harness
with a double 8 knot, how to use the locking carabineers, and other
useful tips on how to react once we are up there.
A fresh wind cooled our bodies; a few drops of rain wet our faces while
we started to wonder what it would be like. It was time to start. Nou
lead-climbed the route first, with Mae belaying; he climbed all the
way to the top attaching the quick draws to the bolts screwed and cemented
onto the rock and fixing the rope through the safety point, or anchor.
He did so to prepare the rope for our climb, and at the same time he
drew our attention on how he tried to find holes and gaps for good grips.
Mae climbed first and found it relatively easy to get grips and proceed
to the top. Once the anchor is reached, Nou asked her to let go and
lowered her to the ground.
Some people find this sport natural enough, especially if they do not
feel scared at the first attempt. With me it was a different matter:
at times I struggled to maintain the grip and to find gaps, some of
the points were tricky and the tips of the fingers started to hurt.
Nou began to give me directions and advised me to keep the rope in between
my hands, to use the power from my feet and not only from the fingers,
and it all became easier; he knows too well where all the gaps are.
The rock is flat and bare on the way up; the top is covered by trees
and thick tropical vegetation. I made it to the top, and believe me,
the accomplishment was rewarding. The view is just spectacular: I was
resting on limestone at only 15 meters high in one of the most impressive
karst formation I have ever seen, and the whole bay was under my feet.
Some birds flew over my head and started to dive for fish, while I viewed
boats, swimmers, and the palm trees that line the coast and dominate
the horizon below. I was top rope, which means the rope was tense and
secured to the bolts and hangers spaced sufficiently so one was never
far from me. When I needed to take a rest I could just relax without
releasing the grip; if I made a mistake and let go, I would be safe
as the maximum falling distance is only 20 cm to the next double-draw.
Perhaps the hardest moment comes when it is the time to let go of the
rock. You must learn to trust your equipment, and your belayer too.
I knew it was safe and that I was in good hands, and still could not
help but slightly worry when I saw the double 8 knot tighten under my
weight. Nou made me stop at different levels to collect the quick draws.
Once down, he congratulated me and collected the rope. “You must get
to trust the gear”, Nou confirmed; “first timers normally feel scared,
but once you learn to trust the gear, you forget fear. And do not forget
that shoes must be taken off at the end of every climb, and the soles
cleaned from sand at the beginning of the next”.
We attempted another 3 climbs, after which our limbs started to ache.
Hot Rock Climbing policy only allows the ½ day tour to first time climbers;
“some schools care more about the amount of money they can make and
take first timers to full day trips, which I find unethical”, Nou stated.
I must agree: a full day climb would just be too much for someone who
attempts this sport for the first time. Nou told us that, as we have
successfully tackled level 5 climbs we could, in future sessions, attempt
level 6 and learn how to be lead climber and secure the quick draws
to the bolts.
We met Nat, another instructor with Hot Rock Climbing; he is 28 years
old and is from the Trang, in the south of Thailand. He moved to Railey
9 years ago, earning a living as a housekeeper. He then started as a
waiter in a restaurant and during his time there he worked shifts, climbing
in his free time. He did a 2 years training with Hot Rock Climbing.
“First time climbers sometimes think areas like 1/2/3 are too easy for
them and refuse to attempt it. It is in our policy to let first timers
do only ½ day here so to assess their skills on the rock and to see
if they have aptitude for climbing. If you decide to go out with us
you should stick to what we say, for safety reasons. We teach only small
groups so we can take more care of the customers, who get more value
for their money”.
We stopped to rest and to observe the buzzing activities around us.
Climbers are an easy bunch, with only a few exceptions. They share ropes,
help each other to smooth operations in the busy high season when every
climbing school takes customers here almost every day and at any time
between 9am and 6pm. Experienced climbers head towards harder routes
only a few minutes away; if you take a Hot Rock Climbing course and
want to continue independently, the instructors are very helpful in
giving you advice on equipment and suitable routes.
A Scandinavian child about 7 years old was having the time of his life;
his parents were cheering him as he reached a 20 meters goal before
being lowered by his belayer. A middle-aged couple was being directed
by Hot Rock Climbing staff on how to attempt their first climb. An independent
couple in their 60s tried to find a free route to approach, not an easy
task in a busy day.
At around 1pm we collected the equipment, hung the shoes to the harness
and made our way back to the shop. Nou told us a bit about Railey. Rai
in Thai means farm, and Ley means sea. The peninsula was once home to
settled farmers who planted rubber trees and the hundreds of coconut
palms that today give shade to this idyllic corner of the world, protected
from becoming another tourist ghetto thanks to the very quality that
makes it a climber's heaven: very little horizontal space!
It had been a wonderful experience, and for this we must thank Hot Rock
Climbing for their dedication and professionalism. It had been a fun,
safe and exciting 4 hours, we would definitely recommend this to anyone
looking for something different. We were provided with all the necessary
equipment to ensure our safety and our enjoyment, and the instructors
enabled us to give rock climbing a go with safety, and did their best
to make this an unforgettable experience for us.
As a final note, an advice for every would-be climber. Before climbing
you should follow these guidelines: - have enough sleep the night before.
– have a good breakfast on the day of the climb. – do not drink too
much alcohol the night prior to climbing. – wear clothes that make you
Luang and Saralisa live on a sailing yacht and can also offer sailing
trips to complement your climbing experience with some sea adventure.
Their motto is: “come as our guest and leave as our friend”. Check their
website’s guestbook, www.railayadventure.com Hot Rock Climbing is registered
at the Tourist Authority of Thailand, has full insurance for their customers,
and can arrange accommodation in one of the few resorts of the area,
with prices to suit all budgets. Their current rates are 800 baht for
a ½ day introduction course, 1,500 baht for a full day adventure course
and 5,000 baht for a 3 days complete course.
We parted from Luang, Saralisa and their staff and enjoyed coffee in
the afternoon breeze in The New Scholar Coffee House nearby, the perfect
place to rest sore muscles from climbing. The limestone rock was there,
majestic, looking down on us, waiting for more people to attempt to
climb it while the evening reddish rays of the setting sun began to