I have always loved climbing, whether it be climbing up vines of trees in my backyard when I was younger or climbing up a mountain in Alaska. As I got older, and specifically in college, I lost my passion for hobbies like rock climbing, horseback riding, swimming.
Part of coming on this adventure, across two oceans and into an unknown country, is about exploring myself and pushing myself to new limits. When I discovered that Thailand, and specifically, Railay Beach is the best spot for climbing in Southeast Asia, I decided to jump head first into climbing again.
I signed up for a 3-day climbing course with Real Rocks Climbing, to earn a level 1 & 2 SEACF/SCAT sport climbing certification. During this course, my skills transitioned from basic level top rope climbing to lead climbing.
Here are some rock climbing basics for those of y’all who don’t know:
Top Rope Climbing: the climber is securely attached to a rope which then passes up, through an anchor system at the top of the climb, and down to a belayer at the foot of the climb. Aka, when you fall you are caught by the rope so you maybe fall 6 inches.
Lead Rope Climbing: Lead climbing is a technique to set up the route climbers wish to top rope climb. Aka there is no rope above you to catch you when you fall.
Day 1: On the first day, the instructor assessed my skills. First stop was Phra Nang Beach.
There were a lot of people climbing on the wall that day so naturally, I got competitive. When I saw someone unable to complete a climb I asked my instructor to climb that route. By lunch, I had completed six climbs (yes, I completed all the routes others couldn’t. Woo!) but thought my arms would fall off. After lunch, we climbed a 123 wall and I practiced the routes I would lead climb on day 2.
Day 2: I woke up sore (as hell), but ready to climb!
This was the view on the boat ride to & from Railay Beach.
We started The Pinnacle, which is a wall for beginners, or a good warm up wall. Here, I learned how to attach the quick draws to the pre-set bolts in the rocks. As you climb, there are bolts in the wall about 10 feet apart from each other. This acts as a safety precaution. As you climb, you attach the quick draws to the bolts so the length of a fall is at least twice that of the distance to the most recently placed protection. For example, if I was ten feet above the last quick draw, the fall would be a minimum of twenty feet. Once to the top of the rock, I learned how to set up a top-rope anchor, which allows people to climb up that route with top rope.
After a morning full of tieing knots, learning technique and trying to ease my nerves, it was time to complete my first lead rope climb. I was a little nervous, but I knew the wall was easy so I was confident I could complete it. After that, it was time to try my skills at a harder wall. It’s safe to say, I was kinda freaking out. Knowing that I could free fall 10-20 feet if I slipped was just sitting in the back of my mind. So up I went, half way up, three bolts in place, I was stuck. I saw what I needed to do, I was so close to the next bolt, I could almost reach it. But that only meant my fall would be even farther. With that knowledge sitting in the back of my head, I slowly reached my hand to the next rock, moved one foot up left and slipped. I fell back 20 ish feet, swinging & slamming into the rocks, then after finally steadying myself (& after many people below let out gasps, chuckles, and a couple claps) I asked to be lowered to catch my breath. To say I was shaken up is an understatement. I sat down to relax, watch others climb & attempt to quiet my nerves.
In the end, I ended up completing the lead rope climb on the 123 course (woo!!!). It was exhausting, terrifying, exhilarating and all around awesome. Once I got to the top, I pulled out my GoPro, which was strapped to a carabiner on my belt. My hands were shaking so bad that it took 15 minutes for me to catch my breath long enough to take this picture!
Check out my gnarly bruises that kept an appearance on my legs for over ten days 🙂
Day 3: I practiced more top rope climbs in the morning and then learned how to belay myself down after climbing up. Which means I learned how to tie even more knots and continued to learn how to keep myself safe while climbing. I belayed down from Diamond Cave, which was breathtaking. See the rope coming out to the left? Thats what I used to belay myself down. I was holding that rope tight & holding onto my GoPro selfie stick to take this picture.
All in all, rock climbing is seriously awesome. I challenge everyone to reach outside their comfort zones, conquer some fears, go outside & climb.