No advice can really prepare you for rock climbing in a tropical country when you’re used to the mild European climate, but I wish I’d done a little more research about what it’s like to climb in Thailand.
We’ve been climbing at Crazy Horse for six days now (with a two-day break when we went back to Chiang Mai for the weekend).
To be honest, it’s been a whole lot better than I expected. The rock is beautiful and not too polished, the routes are interesting and incredibly well-bolted. The grades are maybe a little soft, but the heat and humidity makes everything seem so much harder.
There is a good variety of relatively burly, short routes, and long sweat-fests with technical cruxes interspersed with easier face climbing. And we haven’t even been to the Heart Wall yet, which is meant to be spectacular!
But it certainty takes a bit of research to have the best time here and to be comfortable at the crag. Here are a few things I wish I’d known before we came here.
1. It’s really easy to get to the crag on public transport. We only found this out when we spoke to other climbers at the homestay where we are living, and I only found one blog about this after a bit of searching. Most of the information online is produced by Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures (CMRCA), which can organise return transfers to and from the crag, but these cost 525 baht per person (around £12, which I know doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is by Thai standards). Public transport costs 40 baht one way!
2. It is absolutely essential to bring a lighter and anti-mosquito coils to burn at the crag. It gets pretty mosquito-heavy among all the vegetation, and the coils seem to be the only thing they are afraid of. I had actually thought of bringing the coils, but stupidly we didn’t have a lighter for the first few days, and you kind of need both! We finally got one back in Chiang Mai.
3. Bring more quickdraws with you than you think you could ever use. Many routes are up to 30 metres long and extremely well-bolted. We had 18 with us, and we’ve used almost all of them on some routes, and there are apparently some longer ones that may even require more.
4. Chiang Mai is not worth spending a weekend in. It has become far too Westernised and touristy, and one day would have been plenty. It was worth going back to do some laundry and to get some Thai massages (which are amazing!!), and for the weekend food markets. But it isn’t a great rest day. It’s quite busy and more expensive, and it’s hard to find a nice room at short notice as there is so much demand.
5. The heat and humidity take a LOT of getting used to, so choose your crag wisely. Some of them get much hotter than others, and climbing in 30 degree heat and mad humidity is not for the faint of heart. Expect to sweat as much as you would in a hot yoga class, but all day long.
6. Bring a towel to the crag. Or two. For reasons see my point above…
7. Bring a lot of extra chalk. See point 5.
8. It’s worth buying some fruit back in Chiang Mai or at the market down the road from the homestay, because the place itself, though it does great food, doesn’t sell any fruit. And if you’re like me, you will want nothing but fruit and cold drinks in this heat!
9. It’s worth bringing head torches with you when going out to the crags. There are a lot of caves around, some of which have bolted routes inside them, but it’s quite dark in there.
10. November is a very busy time here, as it’s high season, but the longer you stay at the homestay the more likely you are to get a nice room, as one of the longer-term customers. We stayed in a tent for the first 4 nights, and then had to sleep in a dorm for a night when we returned from Chiang Mai. But the next day, someone left, so we got a huge double room, with a toilet, a (cold) shower and a fridge, for not much more money than we were paying for a tent!