Krabi, May 2004

My third trip to Krabi was about as eventful as the first. During the first trip, SARS came up, but the entire gang still pressed on. On this third trip, there were some twenty-four of us lined up to go. We had rented two entire buses for our group to travel up to Hatyai. Just as D-day approached, the news on the skirmish in Southern Thailand started to heat up and there were concerns about whether we should be going.

In the end, I was the only one who ended up going. I took an Air Asia flight up to Phuket which was delayed by an hour (how typical of Air Asia). It cost me 2000 baht to get a taxi to Ao Nang since there were no direct boats to Railay during the low season. The cab driver was terrific – he made sure I got straight to a long boat. I never realised how close Railay West was to Ao Nang – I was barely in the boat for five minutes before I started to recognise the familiar rock formations of Tonsai.

Excerpts from my journal:

Contrary to all the media reports, I encountered no incidences along the way. The peninsula was as serene as I remembered, the cool breeze gently teasing the pages of my diary with a hint of the heat beating down upon the golden sands of the Sunset Beach.

I sent a couple of messages to Ken and gang but received no reply. I guess they must be climbing. I’m waiting for my banana pancake to be served but I think I’ll take a stroll around after I’m done.

I found out later that they had spent the previous day climbing Humanality (which I have some photos from Ken in the slide show below).

My little stroll to East Railay cost me 1500 baht because I couldn’t resist buying myself a couple of t-shirts, a pair of slippers, a mat and a new chalk bag. Before I managed to do any further damage, I received Ken’s message to join them out at Muai Tai Wall.

I caught up with them just as Ken was beginning to lead a 6A+ route called Nuat Hin (or Massage the Rock). I seconded the route since it was my first outdoor trip in four weeks and I wasn’t sure I still had it in me. My feet felt a lot less steady than I remembered and the smooth, polished rock offered little grip to my La Sportiva rubber making me panic a little at the crux.

Ken lead another route called “Kratoy” (or Lady Boy). It was graded a 6C and started inside a cave. The route was fairly easy with some interesting stemming required at the crux. Coming out of the cave was also pretty cool but not as difficult as I had imagined it would be. I took a leaf out of Thin Man’s book and managed to rest on the crux with a drop knee to the right.

I was keen to climb some more but the guys wanted to break for dinner so we called it a day. At least I got a couple of climbs in, which I didn’t even think I would on my first day at Railay.

After a nice shower and dinner, I took a stroll along the beach and took some happy snaps of the sunset. Dinner was a much anticipated Pad Thai noodles. While wandering around in the evening, we bumped into Supermei, Lil’ Mei and Kerk. The evenings during low season are quite subdued so there’s really not much to do except watch the movies they played or sit around the table and chat.

After Day 1, I had a few resolutions for myself:

1. Start training again to:

  • improve my foot work
  • improve my “overhang” climbing
  • gain strength
  • overcome the fear of leading (which was progressing well until I had to lay off climbing due to work commitments)
  • build my stamina
  • regain my endurance

2. Consider picking up yoga

3. Work on my cardiovascular endurance

4. Read my climbing books (Mind Gym)

Day 2

We headed out to Firewall and climbed the “Groove Tube”. Ken was determined to tick off as many recommended “must climb” routes as possible. I seconded the first pitch and lead the second pitch. Although it wasn’t that difficult, it felt as though my familiarity and confidence in climbing has dropped a lot. I think I’m too comfortable on top ropes and seem to have developed a reluctance to lead. After nearly bailing, I made it to the anchor. It was a nice climb over all.

With the sun heating up the wall, we quickly retreated to Tonsai for lunch and waited for the tide to retreat. While having lunch, we watched a pair of climbers working their way up Humanality. Before we could make it onto Cowabungalow, another group had beaten us to it, so we waded out to Dum’s Kitchen instead.

Ken lead Schlinger Moritz – which I still had trouble with the starting since my upper body strength is lacking and I somewhat vertically challenged on this route to use height to my advantage. The hand holds felt better than the last time I was on this route, though. Ken also commented that my technique is there, but my power is seriously lacking.

Later Ken lead “The Lion King”, a 6C+. I attempted to climb it after him. OMG! What a pumpy climb! I did some serious hang-dogging that would have made Fearless Leader’s climbing on “Stupid with Manners” seem like a normal part of climbing. Ken had to “help” me complete the crux at the end with some rope assistance – thankfully he didn’t have to haul my behind up!

There are some routes that you know are way out of your league and some routes you know you could eventually complete if you trained a little harder. I think “The Lion King” is one of the latter. It had some pretty funky moves and a beautiful flake for knee bars and laybacks. I definitely felt that with a bit more strength and endurance, I could complete this route.

After a quick top rope on Schlinger Max, the rain came in, forcing us to take shelter at the Last Bar in Tonsai. I think I must have been quite tired because I fell asleep while lounging at the bar.

Classic lines for the day:

David: Hey look! Mist! (pointing into the distance)
Ken: (following David’s gaze) That’s not mist! That’s rain!

More resolutions at the end of Day 2:

  • Take up Power Yoga for strength training
  • Push ups to balance muscle development and avoid overuse injuries
  • Crunches for upper abs, leg lifts for lower abs – which will assist in overhang climbing
  • Chin-ups for upper body power
  • Work on climbing more dynamically (my climbing is currently too static)

Day 3

Ao Nang Tower and The Defile Exit

The morning was a slow one. I crawled out of bed by 8:45 despite an early night. Ken had an “Ao Nang Tower” breakfast to ensure his stomach would last until we got back to dry land. David was even later out of bed, to Ken’s annoyance.

We caught a boat to Ao Nang Tower and paid the boatman to return two hours later to pick us up again. Ao Nang Tower was a magnificent peak standing alone again a mass of blue sky and sea. Upon landing, we had to traverse to the belay station of “Orange Chandeliers” – a three pitch route.

David started on the first pitch which was graded 6B. He took a fall from the second bolt and after subsequent tries, decided to call it quits. I was praying real hard that he would make it because I wasn’t looking forward to leading it. Despite the nervousness building up inside me as I watched him struggle, I put on a brave face and ascending up to the second bolt. After several attempts of “up climb”, “down climb” and loads of hanging in between, I finally made it to the third bolt.

It’s interesting how fear can make everything else in the world seem inconsequential and unimportant. My new equipment bought with such pride and so lovingly cared for was quickly forgotten, despite the sound of metal grating on rock as I pressed my hip into a crack between the stalactite and the wall. All thoughts of precise foot placement were ignored as my foot desperately scraped around hoping to latch on to a positive foothold.

Even though this route was graded a 6B, I think it was probably about the equivalent of a 6A at Nyamuk. Aside from the fact that I was gripped with fear, it was a relatively easy route to climb. Poor Ken was forced to baby-sit David and myself who were either not physically or mentally up for the challenge of leading the next two pitches, one of which was a 6C. I made it to the top with Ken, but David bailed on the last pitch.

There is a book at the top of Ao Nang Tower that you can write in if you remember to bring a pen or pencil. We unfortunately did not, so all we have are just photo memories that we’d actually made it up the tower. The way down was an abseil on two 60m ropes all the way into the boat. We were lucky that there was another group of climbers after us because they helped us drop our rope into the boat. If it weren’t for that, I’m pretty sure the ropes would have landed in the water.

We finished off the day with a couple of routes at The Defile Exit. The first route I climbed was called “Monkey Goes to Heaven”. Even though I felt quite comfortable on this route, I didn’t have the courage to go for the on sight. I know it could have been an on sight and I’m a little disappointed I allowed my mind to give way. I attempted to lead another route called “Baboon’s Ass” but I couldn’t make it past the start. The rest of the route was well within my ability, though. The third route I climbed, led by Ken was called “Baboon’s Lagoon”. All three routes were graded 6B or 6B+.

We lazed around at Prahnang beach before heading back for dinner at a little stall near Diamond Cave. The night was wiled away with Lord of the Rings. The plan was to hang out at the bars until late but the music wasn’t too inspiring so we ended up at the bar next to Railay Village where I ordered a “Real Coffee” which tasted like any other coffee I’ve ordered before.

Day 4

The Keep

First route – Monkey’s Bum, 6B. This was supposed to be a warm up lead climb. I chickened out at the last bolt just before the anchor and came back to clean it on top rope. I don’t know what was wrong with me – it wasn’t difficult at all.

Second route – Gengis Bond, 6B. It was a long route but a 60m rope managed to cover it. Ken led and I cleaned up.

Third route – Babo Does Thailand, 6C. I attempted to lead it but I bailed at the third bolt and cleaned up after Ken’s flash.

Fourth route – Medusa’s Lover, 6C. Free pointed after Ken’s onsight.

Fifth route – Nut Cracker, 6C. Free pointed after Ken’s onsight.

All 6C routes were nice slab climbs – my style of climbing. The biggest disappointment of this day was the fact that I didn’t complete any lead climbs.

Resolutions from Day 4:

  • Work on my mental for lead climbing

Day 5

We decided to take it easy and spent the day at Ao Nang just chilling. So much for ending our trip to Krabi with a big bang on the four pitch Circus Oz…

Day 6

I took the boat back to Ao Nang with the two Mei’s and Kerk. We spent the night at Phuket and caught our Air Asia plane back to KL the next morning.

Here are a few photos from the trip:

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