Saturday, May 20, 2006

Aquamarine seas and Climbing the walls that rise from them

As I described, we spent a couple of days on Ko Phi Phi. Especially with the Passport debacle, we would have enjoyed a couple more, but I wanted to make another stop before our flight to Vietnam. That place: Railay. Legendary among rock climbers for incredibly overhanging routes with the sea just beneath, like this:

And as you can see from the aerial photo at the top, the beach doesn't suck either. Well, the one on the left doesn't, though the one on the right kind of does. The beach in the foreground of the photo is only reachable by~> read more

 boat from the others, or serious bush-whacking. In fact, though Railay is connected to mainland Thailand, it feels more like an island than even Ko Phi-Phi, because it is less developed and there are still no roads running there, everything must come in by boat (including you!)

I set aside a full day to go climbing. It would have been fun to hang around for a week or two climbing most days, but that's not really part of our larger plan. I still had great fun with the time I had. It's critical to have a partner for climbing who is similar to your ability level, and of course be able to find where to climb! I think Tiffany would be good at it, but she just tried the first time in New Zealand, and an organized trip for a day was the same price as the route guidebook, and I also needed to rent all the equipment, so going with the group was a no-brainer. In the end, I found a couple of partners through the group with similar ability, and climbed with them.

Honestly, I think the really amazing climbs require a top condition climber, which I'm unfortunately not right now. It's not just a matter of being in shape; it's being in climbing shape. However, the climbs that I did were a lot of fun, and comparable to some of the better sport climbing I've done back in the states.

It's important for your hands to stick to the rock when climbing, so you don't fall off! If your hands get sweaty, they get slippery. However, there is a handy solution: gymnast's chalk. Considering the temperature was probably in the 90s with nearly 100% humidity, I really had my doubts about the ability of any chalk to keep my grippers dry. As I watched our small Thai guide scurry up the route first like a gecko, sweat poured down my chest and back, despite having no shirt on at all. I wasn't hopeful. When the guide zipped back down, he was ... BONE dry. I still have no idea how it is possible. The thai guides are better climbers than me, to be sure. But they just don't have a problem with physical exertion in this heat. I think they could run a mile and still might not break a sweat.

As I continued to drip on the dirt, the thai guide gave a norwegian guy who was totally new to climbing a 1-minute crash course in belaying, which could also be known as holding the climber's life in your hands. The climber was to be me, so fearing I would put the crash in "crash course" I slowly taught him how to belay again, and explained the words I would use to indicate my needs to him. Then, I hopped on the wall and gave it a shot. Even my first climb was a great one, with interesting challenges, and the wily norwegian got me back to the ground safe as can be (it's a great heritage ;).

Miraculously, even as sweat poured off of my body, the chalk still worked, and I was able to climb just as well as I could in any temperature. This experience was a wonderful reminder of some of the pursuits I enjoy at home, from within the adventure of travel. I look forward to getting back into climbing a little bit at home, though if my equipment ever gets as rusty as what I used in Railay, I'm selling it for scrap metal!


Blogger jskalet said...

i'm glad you got hooked up with another norwegian, not always friendly but always accountable. love dad

11:22 AM  

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