Give me more rope…
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
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, www.railayadventure.com
or call Saralisa on 08 41891412.