Hot Rock Krabi Thailand
An Interview with Jane
Looking out across the Railay peninsula, I could see both Railay East
and Railay West, the views across the bay were naturally stunning as
it was a rather typical day in Krabi province; hot and sunny with clear
skies and the odd white puffy cloud dotting the sky. With Ton Sai Beach
in the distance it was a remarkable view. But this wasn’t the kind of
view you get from just strolling onto the beach, it had taken some effort.
In all honesty it had been worth it. I mean the pains one has to go
through sometimes in order to reach an outlook that will provide such
a vista. Today, after a short hike through jungle to reach the foot
of what is known to the local climbing community as ‘Thaiwand Wall’
I had climbed the thirty or so meters to the first anchor on a route
named ‘To live and Let Thai’.
If you don’t already know, the bolted routes on the Railay peninsula
are considered by many to be among the best in the World. The convenience
of Railay also means that it’s possible to get a room within a short
walk from many of the walls and stumble out onto the beach and within
minutes, can be climbing. Add to that the rather pleasant views and
great beaches make Railay a simply superb place to base yourself for
a few days whether you’re a climber or not. Since the 1980’s climbers
from all over the World have been shoring up on Railay to tackle the
limestone crags and the interest has resulted in a close-knit community
of dedicated climbers and hundreds of bolted sports routes ranging from
easy 5a’s to classic multi-pitch 6a’s to dizzying 8c’s for the fearless,
brave or just plain crazy.
So, there I was, armed with my trusty camera, having reached the anchor
and dangling some thirty meters from the ground suspended from my waist
by a harness and a piece of rope. Was I scared? Nope, not a bit of it!
Was I enjoying the view? Oh yes, and I was enjoying the feeling of having
scaled a thirty meter vertical too. It’s easy to see why sports such
as climbing become addictive. It’s not just the ‘buzz’ you get from
the height or the view, but it’s the sense of achievement also. It can
be tough, very tough. Especially in the heat of the Thai sunshine, sweat
literally pouring, hands wet but for the super-absorbent chalk used
to maintain friction on the limestone.
About 15 meters up I got a typical climbers ailment; what I like to
call ‘disco leg’, uncontrollable shaking of the leg due to fatigue and
caused by the build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue. This condition
often signifies imminent retreat and the return to terra-firma, either
voluntary or gravity-assisted, but my guide Jane told me it can be cured
by shaking or by pushing the heel downwards whilst keeping the toes
on the rock. It worked, but only for a moment; seconds later it was
off again, like an over enthusiastic Elvis impersonator I clenched at
the rock and tried to steady myself. I wasn’t about to give up, a final
push and I found a ledge and was able to rest for a while, gasping for
breath, shaking with adrenalin, hugging the rock-face, my chest pressed
against the limestone while I held on with the fingers of my left hand
pushed into a tiny crack just big enough to provide some grip. Looking
above to see where my next hold would be, I reached up with my right
hand, feeling above my head for any pieces of jagged rock that might
be out of sight. Climbing is not just about strength, technique is extremely
important too. You need to use your head as much as your muscles, constantly
looking for cracks, holds and ledges. The other thing, Jane told me
and it’s the thing that people usually forget; use your legs!
Jane is part of the Hot Rock Climbing team, a climbing outfit based
in Railay and one of the most established. We were lucky to have Jane
as our guide as she happens to be Thailand’s top ranked female climber
and part of the Thai National Team. After getting fitted for our gear
we padded out onto Railay West and headed for the southern end of the
beach for the hike up to Thaiwand Wall where I had a chance to ask Jane
a few questions to find out more about her climbing career:
Krabi Magazine: How did you become involved in the climbing scene?
Jane: I first came to Railay for a holiday; I remember watching the
climbers here and thought - that looks really cool, I want to try it
- so I gave it a go. I really enjoyed it and it came kind of naturally
to me so I continued to climb and it went from there.
KM: So, you hadn’t always planned on being a climber?
Jane: Ha-ha, no. I studied accounting at Songkhla University although
I’ve never used it! I worked in Bangkok too before I settled here but
I missed the ocean too much so I came back to the south and started
working in Railay.
KM: Why did you choose Railay?
Jane: Well, it’s one of the best climbing destinations in the World.
I’m originally from Nakhon Si Thamarrat (a province in southern Thailand)
which isn’t far from here and when I came I discovered that most of
the instructors are from there too, so they helped me to get settled.
KM: You’re on the Thai National Team; how have you done in competitions?
Jane: I’ve won at national level, and earned an overall 10th place at
the Asian Games in the sport climbing discipline. I’ve competed abroad
too; one of the best things is being able to travel.
KM: What’s your favourite destination?
Jane: Apart from Railay, I like the French Alps very much: good climbing
and very beautiful. I climbed in Yosemite National Park too; it’s different
to Railay in that it’s granite which is very tough climbing. Here it’s
KM: Have you got a favourite route here in Railay?
Jane: Yes, I like a route called Tidal Wave. It’s on Tonsai Wall and
Roof, in Tonsai bay. The routes are generally more technical over there.
KM: So, it’s tough?
Jane: Ha-ha, yes. It’s a 7b+. I trained for weeks to climb it!
KM: What do you do to train – are there any special training techniques?
Jane: We just climb; climbing and more climbing. Sometimes we use marathon
climbing (marathon climbing is climbing many routes one after the other
- up to 12 - in one day) to condition our bodies for a tough climb.
KM: There’s a competition coming up, will you be competing? – info required!!!!
Jane: No, not in this one, I haven’t had chance to train enough but
I’m helping to organise it and I’m assisting in training too.
KM: Can anyone climb in Railay?
Jane: Sure, there are routes at all difficulty levels. Everyone comes
here to climb, from pros, beginners and families and even young children.
A climber like Jane is at once encouraging, strong, agile, confident
and very professional; it was very reassuring to have Jane as a climbing
partner, but it does tend to instil a false sense of confidence as she
makes it look very easy. It’s hard to describe the ease with which she
ascends, but as soon as you take the first tentative steps and make
your first grabs on the cliff, you realise what makes the difference
between a novice and a pro; she certainly made small work of ‘Live and