Krabi is generally considered to be one of the best places in the world for rock climbing. With its thousands of sheer limestone cliff faces, overhangs, and caves, there is something to challenge everyone, from the professional solo climber to the complete beginner. If you can take your concentration off the rock face, climbing in Krabi presents some of the best views a climber will ever see.
Rock climbing in Krabi is well established. Around 600 routes have been mapped, graded and bolted around the climbing mecca of Railay and Ton Sai Beach, where the soaring cliffs meet the sea, making for stunningly scenic climbs. Another 100 or so routes have been bolted in Ko Phi Phi, another amazing backdrop for your climbing activity.
Rock climbing in Krabi for beginners
Beginner rock climbing courses are offered in Krabi. They can be anything from a half day to three days long. Naturally, the longer the course, the more skills you learn – by the end of the three-day course, you should be able to lead climb a route yourself. In a nutshell, strong bolts in the rock face serve as anchors for a rope which a lead climber will use for securing a safety backup should they lose their grip.
Beginners have the benefit of a rope attached to their harness, which is secured to a bolt at the top of the climb (called top rope climbing) and controlled by an instructor below. This method, used everywhere in Krabi, is safe and suitable for all ages and abilities. Each of the climbs is graded (using the French system) for consistency. You can even give your arms and legs a break and hang motionless in the air while you catch your breath.
There are at least 10 rock climbing schools in Railay and Ton Sai, and several more in Ko Phi Phi. All have good, English-speaking instructors and provide guiding services for experienced climbers, equipment rental, as well as rock climbing courses. Fitness and strength is obviously a plus, but on the rock face, you will find the sheer will to climb counts for a lot, too.
Rock climbing in Krabi provides a challenge to both mind and body – that is the reason it’s used on so many motivational training courses. Here in Krabi, the sense of achievement you feel on reaching the summit of the course is further enhanced by the extraordinary views across the islands.
Advanced rock climbing in Krabi
Those with plenty of experience rock climbing should bring their shoes (and possibly harness) with them; the rest can be hired locally rather than lugging it on the plane. Many of the schools and climbing companies are internationally accredited in safety training and have reliable and well maintained equipment. As always you should conduct your own checks when using other people’s equipment.
Over the years, many Thai and foreign rock climbing enthusiast have blazed routes up the many rock faces both here and on Koh Phi Phi and there are now more than 600 routes; from 5a’s to classic multipitch 6a’s, and even extremes of 8c. If you are serious about rock climbing in Krabi and will be hanging around for a while, or returning, it’s worth picking up a copy of King Climbers route guide (1,050 baht, about US$30), which is published (now in 8th edition) by a well known local climber.
A local climber by the name of Shamick Byszewski undertook the thankless task of rebolting many of the routes in 2005 using titanium bolts and phasing out the expansion bolts with hangers. Although the rock faces are public property open to all, if you wish to bolt routes of your own its advisable to consult with the locals first to avoid stepping on any toes. These climbers make a living here and have put a lot of effort into opening and maintaining routes. Don’t expect to simply show up and use them without making use of some of their services.