Rock climbing in Tonsai and Railay, Thailand: Being a good “climber’s girlfriend”

 

For a short glossary of climbing terminology and definitions, please skip to the end of this post.

________________________________________________________________________________

Route from Koh Lanta to Tonsai in Krabi Province in Thailand

Route from Koh Lanta to Tonsai in Krabi Province in Thailand (see route in pink)

 

Railay - Tonsai near Krabi Province in Thailand

Railay - Tonsai near Krabi Province in Thailand

 

I’ve mentioned I would be rock climbing when travelling with Nico to a fair few people in the last few months, and one of the first questions I’m frequently asked is: So, you’re a climber, then?

It’s a question I find both easy and difficult to answer… Yes, I climb… I have climbed… I’m generally familiar with the safety equipment I need… I can tie my own magic 8 knot safely and confidently… I can belay Nico (or Isla – my original climbing buddy… or Katherine – my latest female climbing buddy) when they’re top-rope climbing using a traditional belay device… I’m generally familiar with different grades (or levels of difficulty) of climbing… I’m generally familiar with some of the climbing jargon (i.e. what it means when your climbing buddy shouts ‘safe’ or ‘take’ at the top of the wall… or, what it means when someone says you’ll be climbing a ‘chimney’ or an ‘overhang’ or ‘traverse’)…

If a friend asked me to take them indoor rock-climbing for the first time, I’d feel confident supervising them … teaching them the basics of ‘top-rope’ climbing (despite knowing that Nico, of course, could do a much better job than me!).

Despite this, I would still hesitate to call myself a ‘climber’.

I noticed, in Tonsai, that this reality baffled Nico a bit… I regularly referred to myself as a ‘climber’s girlfriend’ rather than as a ‘climber’… I think this made him feel as though I didn’t really enjoy climbing, or rather, that I was climbing for him rather than for me.

I, personally, feel quite proud of my self-imposed title, and feel it’s perfectly suitable to my relationship with climbing… at least, for the moment.

Firstly, climbing is Nico’s thing. It’s his passion. He’s been climbing for years, and since completing my 5 hour top-rope climbing course with Isla in Manor House in London… Nico’s taught me the majority of what I know…

Bikram Yoga – on the other hand – is my thing… or Volleyball…or writing in my diary, for example… If Nico were to suddenly obsess about writing in his own diary day upon day… claiming that writing his deepest secrets was his newfound passion… I’d certainly find it weird.

Again, this reiterates why I don’t prefer to call myself a climber.

Likewise, Nico made a comment at some stage referring to me as a ‘beginner’.

Though I don’t make any claims to being a climber, I would also refuse to accept being a ‘beginner’. No, I haven’t climbed extensively outdoors… and, no, I can’t climb 6b’s, 6c’s and 7a’s…Yes, I’m only starting to belay whilst Nico lead-climbs (rather than top-rope, as I’m used to)… and yes, there is still plenty of opportunity to learn more…

For example, I could learn how to use the gri-gri belaying device… or to use slings… or to lead-climb… or to climb at a higher grade… or to learn more about technical climbing technique… or to abseil independently (without Nico’s supervision and guidance, that is)… or to climb multi-pitches… or to go caving… but all of the above takes time… and I feel – as a ‘climber’s girlfriend’ – I will learn these things naturally over time… and I need not go on some climbing frenzy, booking myself onto course upon course, to learn the aspects of climbing that I could naturally evolve into learning over time and with greater experience when travelling with Nico.

As Nico is an advanced and experienced climber – having done all of the above for years on crags in the Alps, the Dolomites, Thailand and various places in the UK – I suppose it is only natural for him to forget the learning cycle… and therefore, for his own view of what constitutes a ‘beginner’ to become slightly distorted.

Therefore, I am neither a climber or a beginner. Instead, I’ll stick with just being a climber’s girlfriend

Nonetheless, during my two weeks in Tonsai, we climbed all the time – with much-needed ‘rest days’ and many Thai massages in between. I can also lay claim to having improved and having learned and having experienced much much more since our time there. I may also secretly admit that I enjoyed myself very much… and that I successfully (most of the time, at least) managed my fear of heights to climb up to 30 meters. On top of this, I broke into a new grade (which is always satisfying!), and I climbed a few 6a’s! Naturally, I found this quite motivating and I’m keen to become more consistent at this.

I hope to share my log of climbs in Tonsai with you in this post… and also to add a few photos. Our time in Tonsai turned out to be very very special… and I am certain, Nico and I will be returning to climb some more someday (particularly if I can climb better… I’d be most excited to learn how to climb multi-pitches and to go caving… but, unfortunately, I’m not quite ready for either yet. ;)).

(For non-climbers reading this post, I will add a little mini-glossary to help you understand what I’m referring to in the post).

Nico getting ready to climb in Tonsai in Thailand

Nico getting ready to climb in Tonsai in Thailand

Climb: 1
Date: 11 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Diamond Cave
Route name: Kai Kad
Grade: 5
Height: 10m
Comments: Incomplete. Overhang. Didn’t like it, wanted to stop.
Nico and Lina posing between climbs in Tonsai, Thailand

Nico and Lina posing between climbs in Tonsai, Thailand

 

Climb: 2
Date: 11 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Diamond Cave
Route name: No name
Grade: 5
Height: 10m
Comments: Complete.
Lina - ready to belay - in Tonsai, Thailand

Lina - after a climb - in Tonsai, Thailand

 

Climb: 3
Date: 11 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Muay Thai
Route name: Take it easy
Grade: 5
Height: 10m
Comments: Complete.
Nico at the beginning of a climb in Tonsai, Thailand

Nico at the beginning of a climb in Tonsai, Thailand

Climb: 4
Date: 11 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Muay Thai
Route name: Hello, Christine
Grade: 6a
Height: 17m
Comments: Incomplete. Got frustrated half-way through – difficult move, then experienced mental block and wanted to come down.
Nico's slow descent after a climb in Tonsai - Railay, Thailand

Nico's slow descent after a climb in Tonsai - Railay, Thailand

 

Climb: 5
Date: 12 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Shadow Wall
Route name: Pico-Pico
Grade: 5
Height: 25m
Comments: Incomplete – but would have completed it as was almost finished, but it started raining so we I needed to descend from the wall. Very sharp and dirty rock!
Lina getting ready to climb in Tonsai - Railay, Thailand

Lina getting ready to climb in Tonsai - Railay, Thailand

 

Climb: 6
Date: 13 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: One-two-three
Route name: Giggering for climbing
Grade: 5
Height: 12m
Comments: Complete.
Nico analysing the crag and giving advice to Lina before her climb in Tonsai - Railay in Thailand

Nico analysing the crag and giving advice to Lina before her climb in Tonsai - Railay in Thailand

Climb: 7
Date: 15 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Muay Thai
Route name: Shadow Show
Grade: 5
Height: 12m
Comments: Complete.
Making jokes with my belayer before climbing in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Making jokes with my belayer before climbing in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Climb: 8
Date: 15 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Muay Thai
Route name: 2nd attempt of Hello, Christine
Grade: 6a
Height: 17m
Comments: Complete!!! My first 6a!
Hugging a stalagmite when climbing in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Hugging a stalagmite when climbing in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Climb: 9
Date: 16 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Duncan’s Boot
Route name: Karaoke
Grade: 6a
Height: 12m
Comments: Incomplete – severe overhang, above my level. Witnessed a German girl start crying whilst stuck on the top of the wall… Nico mentioned it would be hard for me, but my confidence boost from smashing Hello Christine made me want to try anyway. Yes. It was too hard for me. 🙂
Climbing in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Climbing in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Climb: 10
Date: 17 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall:  Fire Wall
Route name: Up in smoke
Grade: 6a+
Height: 17m
Comments: Incomplete. Above my level and overhang. First and only attempt of completing a 6a+ graded climb.
Lina descending from climb in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Lina descending from climb in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

 

Climb: 11 & 12
Date: 18 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Fire Wall
Route name: The Groove Tube
Grade: 6a
Height: 25m
Comments: Complete! A five-star rated climb in a chimney! My second successful 6a climb! It was so wonderful (and scary – as it was my tallest climb!) that I climbed it twice!
Nico at the anchor of the 5* 'Groove Tube' route in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Nico at the anchor of the 5* 'Groove Tube' route in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Climb: 13
Date: 21 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Eagle Wall
Route name: Dead Spanish
Grade: 5
Height: 23m
Comments: Complete.  We needed a Kayak to get to this wall – which was fun!
Somewhere at the top of the 'Groove Tube' is a bright blue speck - that's me! in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Somewhere at the top of the 'Groove Tube' is a bright blue speck - that's me! in Tonsai-Railay, Thailand

Climb: 14
Date: 21 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Eagle Wall
Route name: Spiderman
Grade: 6a
Height: 32m
Comments: Incomplete. Interesting climb. When Nico lead-climbed this first, we ran out of rope (which is quite scary – but luckily, he knows what he’s doing). When I top-rope climbed it, I fell 3/4s of the way to the top and swung a bit. I got a bit frustrated and came down.
Climb: 15
Date: 22 Jan 2012
Location: Tonsai-Railay, Thailand
Wall: Cobra Wall
Route name: Cobra Head
Grade: 6a
Height: 25m
Comments: Complete. My third successful 6a! J (Admittedly, Nico belayed very tightly during this climb and therefore helped me A LOT. I’m not sure I would have been able to climb the overhang without him helping me to cheat a bit). It was fun nonetheless.

Glossary of climbing terms:

Top-rope climbing: A type of climbing where the rope is above the climber and has already been safely knotted to an anchor
Lead-climbing: A type of climbing where the climber is attached to the rope whilst periodically adding safety protection to bolts or slings and clipping themselves to safety as they ascend
Belay device: A piece of climbing safety equipment used for the rope. The ‘belayer’ uses this to give the rope slack or to take rope as the climber ascends a wall
Anchor: This is where the climber, the rope and the wall / crag are linked to safety
Gri-gri: A type of belay device that is self-locking – arguably safer to use than an ordinary belay device. If something were to happen to a belayer whilst the climber ascends, the gri-gri would lock automatically preventing the climber from harm
What it means when a climber yells ‘safe’: It’s a short way of the climber communicating to the belayer that they are attached securely to the top anchor with their own sling (i.e. the climber no longer needs the rope to be safe)
What it means when a climber yells ‘slack’ or ‘take’: ‘Slack’ is a short way for the climber to request that the belayer reduce tension in the rope with the belay device.
(This allows the climber to move more freely on the wall).

‘Take’ is a short way for the climber to request that the belayer increase tension of the rope with the belay device.

What it means when a climber yells ‘rope’: This is a universal climbing warning used by climbers when finishing a route. It means the rope is falling, and therefore, all surrounding climbers must stand away to prevent from getting whipped by the rope.

 

International Conversion Chart for Climbing Grades

http://www.absolutemotions.com/rock_climbing/climbing_grades.htm

France
UIAA
USA
Great Britain
Australia
5a
V+
5.7
4c
5b
VI-
5.8
5a
5c
VI
5.9
5a
6a
VI+
5.10a
5b
19
6a+
VII-
5.10b
5b
6b
VII-
5.10c
5c
20
6b+
VII
5.11a
5c
21
6c
VII+
5.11b
5c
22
6c+
VIII-
5.11c
6a
23
7a
VIII
5.11d
6a
24
7a+
VIII
5.12a
6b
25
7b
VIII+
5.12b
6b
26
7b+
IX-
5.12c
6b
27
7c
IX
5.12d
6c
28
7c+
IX+
5.13a
6c
29
8a
IX+
5.13b
7a
30
8a+
X-
5.13c
7a
31
8b
X
5.13d
7a
32
8b+
X+
5.14a
7b
33
8c
XI-
5.14b
7b
34
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9 thoughts on “Rock climbing in Tonsai and Railay, Thailand: Being a good “climber’s girlfriend”

  1. Pingback: Notes on Rock Climbing at Green Climbers Home in Thakhek, Laos « Time Out – New Beginnings

  2. Pingback: Newfound Climbing Glory: Green Climbers’ Home in Thakhek, Laos « Time Out – New Beginnings

  3. Lina and Nico, very impressive. Nice for his general expertise and Lina for giving it her all. Don’t know much about it personally, but I enjoy looking at the photos. I have no doubt I would struggle to actually try climbing anything but the simpliest ‘wall’. Did some rappelling in the Army and climbed with a friend once in California. Very simple, but I got a taste. Great sport, but definitely takes, skill, strength and courage. Also liked your kayaking video. Great stuff.

    • Rappelling? I’m not even sure what that is! I’m going to ask Nico. I’ll pass on your words to Nico… he adores climbing… and I really had a wonderful time out there in Tonsai. It’s a shame I hurt my neck, otherwise I’d be climbing with Nico today (I’m having a ‘me-day’ whilst Nico’s climbing). Poop. Kayaking was good fun also. I’m pleased to hear you enjoyed the video.

    • I just googled ‘rapelling’. Is that the same thing as abseiling? I’ll ask Nico either way. Interesting stuff. If it is, we ‘rapelled’ off a cascading waterfall in Corsica a year or two back… (which was scary!)… but I’m not sure whether it’s the same thing!

  4. Looks like you have an awesome time. Its very scenic down in Krabi. This post really made me to do my indoorclimbing licence in march. Enjoy your time.

    Cheers

    • Christian! I’m so so so happy to hear from you on my blog. I hope you are doing well! I’m even more delighted to hear that you will be doing a climbing course in Germany. It really is loads of fun. You know what? When you return to Thailand some day to go to Tonsai for climbing, you’ll enjoy it far more having completed your course. Tonsai’s wonderful, but there are fewer beginner/intermediate walls there than in Koh Phi Phi. You’ll enjoy it more with more experience. I hope you are super and best of luck with your climbing training. 🙂

  5. Lina and Nico!!!! Looks like you’re having a wonderful time! Thank you so much for sending us so many lovely postcards. What’s the best address to email you on? x x x

    • Awww, Katiemeister of mine. 🙂 Wonderful to hear from you. Indeed, we are having a wonderful time, and I’m pleased we can share our travels with you through my blog and our postcards. They just serve as a reminder to you that we are constantly thinking about you guys. The best address is the linabobina address… you still have it, no? Otherwise, facebook. But… it turns out, I seem to be better at updating my blog than checking my emails… so beware if it takes me some time to reply! Much love.

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