The monumental limestone rocks in Krabi attract climbers from all over the world to scale their heights – and they come in particular to Railay and Ton Sai. Many beginners are also tempted to try their hand here, whether they are looking for an adventurous day out, or a more serious involvement in the sport.
In Krabi the reasonably safe technique of sport climbing is usually practised. Sport climbing is a form of roped climbing where metal bolts, placed close together permanently in the rock, are used for protection. You are attached, via these bolts, to your partner or “belayer” on the ground. If you slip, or simply need a break and need to “hang loose”, your harness and rope will arrest the fall after maximum 50cm. This allows climbers of all levels to concentrate on improving technique.
And it doesn’t take a long time to become a competent climber. A 3-day course will give most people the confidence to lead a beginners’ route and perhaps even attempt multi-pitch climbing if progress is fast. No special skills are required, other than the will to climb, so it’s an activity that is suitable for all ages, including young children. The rewards are many, but all climbers will attest to a great sense of achievement when they reach the top of their route, not to mention the unparalleled views.
All the climbing schools in Krabi offer broadly similar programmes (1/2 day taster, one day and three day courses), that include small group instruction (maximum 4 students per guide), insurance, all equipment and refreshments, at similar prices (1000-1800-6000 baht). You can book directly at the school in Railay or Ton Sai, or through any agent. Note: climbing is no longer allowed on Koh Phi Phi, due to restrictions from the National Park.
Seasoned climbers needn’t worry about beginners hogging the rocks. With more than 700 bolted routes graded from F4 (easy) to F8c (pros), there is plenty of space for everyone. There are even opportunities for the latest climbing craze, deep water soloing, where you head out to an island and free climb straight from the boat onto a bare rock overhang (no bolts or ropes) – the water breaks your eventual fall. Note again, as of 2017, DWS is currently banned on National Park islands in Krabi – if you are interested, seek advice locally from the climbing schools as they will know the latest situation.
All equipment, from shoes to chalk, can be bought or rented from the same climbing schools. It is also possible to buy guidebooks showing all the local routes, and hire private guides, either for beginners, or for experienced climbers who want to get to the best routes quickly. If you have come alone, the climbing schools can often put you in touch with a climbing partner, or check the message boards outside some shops in Railay – though usually a beer at one of the beachfront bars in Tonsai is all it takes to hook up with fellow enthusiasts.
Note: serious climbers should also consider staying in Railay or Tonsai itself. If you are just planning to try it out for the day, hotel pick up and transport from other destinations is available for all the guided courses.