Having spent the last 5 months traveling around the world, light travel has been a key part of our adventures. We’ve put a lot of attention to every item that makes it into our backpacks because we have to carry each of them through land, air, and sea as we move between continents.
One of the few items we’ve made a big exception for, due to the little to no use they have gotten over the last 5 months, are our climbing shoes. I’m happy to report that finally and according to plan as we got to Thailand we put our climbing skills and equipment back on the walls.
Sitting on the coast of Krabi province, but enclosed by massive cliffs of limestone that come right from the ocean, Railay (or Rai Leh as it’s also called) is quiet and clean. Reachable only by boat, you can get there in 30 minutes in a long-tail boat from Krabi for about 100 THB per person. Railay is a common day trip for many people visiting Krabi, but its beautiful beach views, fresh fruit smoothie shops, small restaurants and bars; and of course its climbing routes are definitely worth spending a few nights for.
Once we got there and found ourselves a place to stay, we went right out to do research on climbing options. Most walls are accessible by foot, are well marked and have a ton of climbers on them from dawn to dusk. After walking around, reading online blogs and gauging prices, we decided to go with a private guide for half a day. The cheaper alternative (2000 THB vs 4000 THB for 2 people) was joining a group, but as we have a decent amount of climbing experience, most shops agreed that we wouldn’t want to deal with the long waits and basic lessons that most big groups go through due to their members having never climbed before.
The options are plenty when it comes to choosing a climbing shop in Railay and after talking to 3 or 4 of them, we head to a bar to grab a drink, celebrate my 32nd birthday and book something over email for the following morning. Then we stumbled onto Neu, aka Monkey Man, sitting peacefully in his small shop still open at 9 pm. After a casual chat with him, we knew he was our guy. Even though the shop is way smaller than others and has basically no online identity, his English and style were better than anyone we had talked to that day. Doing some digging online we found an awesome video of him climbing free-solo and barefoot in Pranang Beach. Enough said. We had our guy.
To avoid the more congested times for routes, we decided to get started at 9 am, an hour after most groups start, that way we’d get there once they were done with a few walls and we would finish our day after everyone else was gone. This was a good idea as we soon found out. It took about 40 minutes more before the first groups finished cycling through their first walls and we were able to get to work on one. Monkey Man tested us on an easy wall but trusted me when I told him I was ready for lead climbing from the get go.
Lead climbing differs from its younger brother, top-roping, in that instead of relying on a rope that is already set for you at the top of the route, you bring the rope with you, hooking it up on the wall as you go along, opening the door for bigger drops in case of falling and a few dangerous situations in case of mistakes. After certifying for lead climbing a few years ago and doing many climbs indoors I felt it was time to hit the real wall. This was my first outdoors climb and I am proud that all the knowledge was still available and ready to use when I got on real rock. The experience was amazing! Especially because it happened on the first day after my birthday. Not a bad way to welcome my 32s!
I led-climbed all our routes, including Muay Thai wall (a 6c that ends in a painful stalactite) and 123 Wall (a 6b that ends in an awesome cave, 30 meters off the ground and overlooking the ocean). Ashley was incredible, reaching the top of 123 Wall without stopping or even hesitating which reaching the whooping 30-meter height of 123 Wall (100 feet, or a 9 story building!). Overall, climbing in Railay it was an unforgettable experience that we look forward to repeating.