Not a climber? Don’t worry, Krabi is great for more than that! Click here for a general Krabi guide.
If you are both a climber and a traveller, chances are you’ve heard of Krabi, Thailand. Krabi is a Mecca for sport climbing and one of the best places in the world to deep water solo (Click here to read about our deep water solo adventure).
Something you might not have known is that if you are more of just a casual climber, that might not cut it here. On the American grade, the majority of routes in Krabi are 10s and above. In fact, we looked through the guidebook very thoroughly in the hopes of finding something a bit easier to warm up on, and there are probably only two or three crags in all of Tonsai (the main climbing area in Krabi) that have even one route below a 5.10a (6a on the French system). The top-anchor/cleaning protocol is also very different from what we’ve seen in the U.S. This is definitely not a good destination for inexperienced climbers, unless you plan to drop some cash on a local guide. If that doesn’t turn you away, then read on!
The great climbing is actually about an hour away from Krabi Town via longtail boat from dock (if you aren’t sure which one, ask any local). Take the longtail to Tonsai if you can, but you’ll likely get dropped at Railay East, from which you have a long, hot walk to Tonsai, or a quick taxi boat ride. There are places to stay in Railay East and West, with some midrange budget places in East and ultra-expensive resorts in West, but as a climber, you’re likely a budget traveller, so Tonsai is the place to stay! Most of the best climbing is located there anyways.
If you are just here for climbing, you likely brought your own gear and for that reason you’ll just need to pick up a guide-book at any of the many small gear shops in Tonsai or Railay. You can use the mountain project app and download the area guide, but it omits a lot of routes and has a lot of outdated information. Make sure you talk to somebody about the top-anchor/cleaning protocol of the area. Although it was not difficult to learn, the top anchors we climbed on in Tonsai were far different from any we’d ever seen in the U.S., so it’s important to know what you are getting into before you reach the top!!!
If you, like us are a long-term traveller, you probably did not bring climbing gear. Head on over to Jungle Huts for the best deal on gear rental that we found in all of Krabi (800 baht for half-day or 1300 for a full day). They’ll give you everything you need including a guidebook, just make sure to ask them about the top anchor/cleaning protocol!
Another important thing to know for any climber new to the area is that the guidebook is not perfect! Especially when telling you how many bolts the routes have! Make an effort to count the bolts yourself, and bein up a few extra quick draws! And for that matter, many of the routes do not have bolts, but rather tethers. If that sketches you out like it did me, I highly suggest not pushing yourself too hard. I really would not want to fall on one of those!
Lastly, there is a big re-bolting effort in action here, so before you decide to hit a route hard, make sure it has been re-bolted! Stories pop up all the time about climbers falling straight into a hospital bed or worse due to outdated or bad bolts, Thailand is not the place that you want to become one of those stories!! Ask about an area if you do not know! Climbing safety is serious shit, don’t screw around!
Ok enough of me being your mother!
Allie and I planned for 3 sport climbing days in Krabi and one deep water solo day. Well, thanks to some bad Pad Thai (before you eat Pad Thai, make sure it wasn’t prepared early in the day and has been sitting out all day waiting to be reheated) we instead got violently sick for two days, literally unable to even hold water down. Our hot, rustic bungalow that only had electricity in the evening was the last place on earth where I would’ve wanted that to happen!
When we finally got over the living nightmare of food poisoning, we rented gear and headed over to Cobra Wall to climb some 5.10s (after reading all about the many safety flaws of the area, I was not looking to get anywhere near my lead limit). We climbed three really nice routes on beautiful rock here. The routes were mainly jug fests, but there are plenty of options to skip the jugs and use crimps and pinches instead. There was a really nice chimney on one of the routes and another one had an overhanging stalagmite that you could roof-climb to up the grade to maybe an 11a (do it!). If you only have one day of sport climbing likely we were doomed with, Cobra Wall is the place to go. It nicely overlooks the ocean and is a nice place to see a pretty spectacular sunset too!
There are also some really beautiful crags on the beach in Tonsai, although there are very few even moderate grades. Railay West has some nice crags too, and if you make it all the way to the cave of the dicks (literally a cave filled with carved phalluses), there are some pretty beautiful routes there too, where you will likely be eye candy for all of the oldies staying at the nearby resort.
We deep-water soloed with Basecamp Tonsai for a good price that included lunch and snorkeling gear if you burnt out on climbing. It was probably my favorite of all of our adventures (maybe besides diving), read about it here!
Have an awesome time climbing at Krabi, and remember, safety first!!