After spending a few days sick in bed, it was time to get on to why we were in Thailand in the first place: rock climbing!
There are a few major crags at Railay. We spent most of our time at Phra Nang, Tonsai and Diamond Cave. Diamond Cave is at the end of the orange line N of 82 on this map.
Val and I were still staying in Ao Nang, the beach town nearby so we took a long tail boat out there to see what was up. Our first day, we went to Phra Nang beach and did some bouldering. I had spent a half hour or so here in 1996, trying to get off the ground on a stalactite problem. With a stool, it was doable, but still really hard
I got off the ground, but that was about it. On my second try, I fell off and almost impaled myself on the stool. No more stalactite climbing for me! We bouldered around and watched some people climb moderates and some hard stuff. Besides, after climbing for a while, I got super tired and sweaty. After hanging out in the water for a while, I almost cooled off. It's hard to get cool when the water temp is 30C. Yeah, I know, first world problems.
In Thailand, they use the French difficulty scale so we had to convert them to something we understood. In the US, most places use the Yosemite Decimal system. Luckily for me, the grades are a bit "soft" here, meaning that I can climb things harder than I normally would be able to climb at home. Ego boost win! I was leading 6a pretty regularly and could hang my way up 6b and was looking for a 6c. We watched some people work their projects and we got jealous. When one woman was psyched to get Andaman Cafe (7b), she was stoked and said she could drink beer again. Hm, I like to climb, but that seems a bit extreme, doesn't it?
We took a break and Val completed her Advanced Open Water diving course. Now she can do the deep dives with me when we return to Coron.
Back to climbing. Our next stop was Diamond Cave. We went there because we wanted to see how hard the rope climbing was. We were both really rusty. We hadn't climbed that hard when we were in Arcata and the "easy" routes here were at the limit of my leading ability. We were hoping to climb some 5's, but the local climbing schools take up all the easy routes all day. They got to be pretty irritating too, calling out super detailed beta to people who were in a 1 or 2 day class:
"Right foot up!" "Right hand!" "Right hand!"
Ugh, it was too much for me, but that was the way the local schools were running the show. It kept us off of the 1,2,3 crag entirely.
Another downer about the easy routes is that lots of people who don't have good footwork climb them, polishing the rock to a smooth finish. Thus, you have to be very careful where you place your feet or they will grease right off the rock.
I spent a lot of time hanging here. I was doing OK for most of this route and then I got tired and lost my nerve. Part of the problem was that I had to climb past 7 or so bee nests in the rock. They were apparent from the waxy tubes coming out from the rock. We didn't know how easily the local bees got angry, so I was very careful not to smash the tubes. Of course the nests were situated in perfect hand and foot placements.
After two routes, we were totally wasted. Val was being eaten alive by mosquitoes and the heat was affecting her ability to think. I think her attention wandered at times
Then the sky opened up and we were done climbing for the day. Luckily there was a coffee shop right next to the crag. And, even better, the guy knew how to make totally awesome coffee. Without electricity!! We were wondering what to get when he put these on the counter
Wow, he made the frothed milk using a french press. And they tasted as good as they looked.
But we were here to climb, so we headed back to Ao Nang, packed a couple of small bags and had our guesthouse store the others for a few days so we could go work our forearms to death.
We picked Tonsai as a place to stay. It was a wonderful choice. There are no vehicles on Railay because there is no road from Ao Nang out onto the peninsula. It's wonderfully quiet, except for the diesel generators that run at night. We found a guest house a little ways from the beach, grabbed our ropes and set off in search of something to climb.
Yikes! Stuff was really hard at the first place we went. After watching people project 7b, we wandered down the beach to find the only 6's. I got the first one just fine, but had trouble on the second until I found the secret holds. After that, it went pretty well.
Next day, we jumped onto a climb called Groove Tube (6a). I liked it quite a bit, but the sun was out and it was f'ing hot! Val nearly died trying to belay me. We found a 6a+ in the shade, but it was too overhanging and pumpy for her. She finally got it, but tweaked her forearms a bit. Too bad the only cure for tennis elbow is rest.
To combat the heat, we signed up to go deep water soloing. This is climbing at its purest form: no ropes or partner. You climb up the rock and when you finish, you jump into the ocean. If you fall, you get wet. Everyone gets wet. You want to get wet because it's Thailand and hot if you're not wet.
We jumped onto a long tail boat with 10 other folks. Everyone was way younger than me, but that was OK. This wasn't a competition. We went to two sites, both very close to each other. The first site had about 6 routes and I tried 3 of them. I got up the 5 and 6a and fell off of the 6b. Here's me jumping off of the top of the 6a.
Ha, it looked scary from the top of this one. I deal with the fear by turning off a switch in my head and not thinking about it. Just jump.
My main problem is remembering to bring my arms in before I hit the water. More than one time, I slapped the water with my forearms. That was better than one of the guys, who fell sideways and got a really good mark from his back flop.
Val got into it too and worked her way up. Here she is midway up the 5:
After climbing here, we had lunch on a nice little beach and did a little snorkeling. Val and I also played king of the kayak. I don't know how we kept our teeth.
The second location was just around the corner and the routes were harder and higher. I only did the 6a and didn't go all the way to the top. It was probably close to 20m. A guide for another group did a back flip off the high tufa. He over rotated a bit though. Here's some people who aren't me and Val climbing there.
Val's got a cold now so we're back in Ao Nang. We'll be back, but probably not before 2013 starts, hopefully with James.