Hot Rock Krabi Thailand

Give me more rope…

Article overview

The ultimate climbing experience in Krabi

It was my first rock climbing introduction class. The chosen hotspot for rock climbing was Laem Phranang, 15 minutes drive from Krabi Town, a jagged peninsula surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs (karsts), south-east of Ao Nang. Early in a warm hazy morning I boarded the longtail boat to the meeting point, West Railay beach. As the boat approached the beach I marvelled at the beauty of the place.

I met Saralisa, the owner of the Hot Rock Climbing School, who introduced me to the rest of the novice group and the Thai climbing instructors, Jay and Nat. The gearing-up ceremony began: we were fitted with harnesses - tight enough not to slip down the hips, snug climbing shoes and chalk bags. When the instructors pointed out the high cliffs we were going to climb I felt my heartbeat accelerating. Nevertheless, after the instructors’ explanations on the moderate difficulty of the day’s climb my heartbeat returned to normal. As I looked down my hips I wasn’t sure anymore if I was a novice rock climber or a novice parachute jumper.

As we reached the climbing spot in Phranang Beach, Jay checked the whole length of the long ropes with fingers - an important safeguard routine that minimizes the risk of accidents, and the remnant of the equipments. Nat introduced us to the technicality and jargons of rock climbing: the ‘belayer’ is the person in charge of tightening the rope when someone is climbing – to belay; the ‘belay plate’, a device used to feed the rope - to slack; ‘more slack’ is used by climbers when they need more rope; a ‘double eight knot’ secures the rope onto the harness; ‘quick draw’ a short piece of webbing and two carabineers, usually sewn in. One of the secrets of rock climbing, added Nat, is to use the legs to push up and rest the body weight as legs are much stronger than arms.

Jay laid the route using the locking carabineers - snap links used for holding the rope and connecting it to gear the rope to the top. And up they went one by one, the climbers for the day. I coolly watched them through the viewfinder of my camera, zooming in to their stretching bodies and grinning facial expressions.

Eventually my feared moment arrived. I inserted the rope into the harness and secured it with the double eight knot guided by efficient Nat. I signalled ‘climbing’; my belayer answered back, ‘climb on’; I started my ascent at a snail's pace. The first few meters were fine but eventually I started to struggle - I could not see any cracks or hook of any sort. I had to twist down in order to grasp Nat’s instructions making the climb more gymnastic. But thanks to Nat’s guidance I could find pockets and gaps to grip and push myself up. Half way to the top the muscles of my lower arms became tense and sore. Exhausted I asked for the “inglorious” rest. Nat tensed the rope so that I could swing away from the rock face. Suspended in mid-air, I had a chance to regain strength and recollect my thoughts: I wasn’t going to give up. As I was ready to continue I yelled “climbing” and awaited for Nat’s reply. Sweating profusely I inched my way to the top. Once there I could only sit on this throne overlooking the kingdom of spectacular clear bays - lush limestone cliffs cutting through the blue waters.

When it was time to go down I just had to let go from the rock and allow enough time for Nat to collect the quick draws.

However, the half day escapade wasn’t over yet. We had to abseil/rappel - to climb down - from a cave opening perched at 15 meters from the foot of the cliff, by personally controlling the rope. The main feature of this technique is to hold the rope and slowly slide it in a controlled way, keeping the legs stretched and well apart, while dropping back, with body weight serving as a puller.

I was proud to have challenged myself with this invigorating experience. Now I know that rock climbing is for anyone who dares to try it. Just make sure that you start out with the right instructors.

As a final note, some 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, and wear clothes that make you feel comfortable.

Hot Rock is one of the longest established climbing schools in Railay; they are TAT registered, have full insurance for their customers and can arrange accommodation in one of the few resorts of the area, with prices to suit all budgets. Check their website, or call Saralisa on 08 41891412.