getting to know our crags
Here is a sport’s climbers paradise, there are over 1000 bolted routes, ranging from easy 5’s to 8b+’s. While most climbs are overhanging, you also find balancy and slab climbing, and stalactites. Also there are some great bouldering spots here, even right on the beach. If you have never climbed before here is also a wonderful place to learn.
Routes can be short and intense or longer, with some 35 meter single pitches, and multi-pitch climbs which reach 200 meters! Some of the most famous multi-pitch climbs are The Ninth Life, Hart of Darkness, Candlestick, Ao Nang Tower, and Huminality. The latter you start very early in the morning since it is the most popular in the area.
Imagine belaying from the bar patio, or taking a tropical ocean swim between climbs – floating on your back, gazing up at climbers working overhanging limestone on the beach. Often you will see the local monkeys monkeying around the crags, adding to the exotic feel. It’s a truly magical place!
Getting to the crags
Most crags are accessible by short jungle and beach strolls. Some are but a stone’s throw away from your bungalow. In the area around Tonsai there are over 45 crags. However there are some crags that are only accessible when the tide is low, by kayak, or by boat.
Some of these crags are Eagle Wall, Happy Island, and all the crags behind Hidden World. So before you go out to them check the tides on tide-forecast or check with a local climbing shop. If you are using a kayak be sure to secure it properly or bring it far up on the beach so the tide wont take it away.
20 years of experimentation with every bolt available has proven that stainless steel and aluminum are worthless, and even dangerous here. The corrosive nature of the sea and a combination of natural gasses tossed together and incubated with tropical heat, dissolves steel and aluminum quicker than ice cubes melt in your Mojito.
So we have found that Titanium glue-in bolts and slings are the best protection here. A good titanium glue-in looks like a U or ring shaped piece of gray metal protruding from the wall surrounded with red/orange glue.
The strength and safety of a bolt depends on three things: the kind of bolt, the kind of glue, and bolt placement. Even with the right bolt and the right glue, if it is placed in the wrong spot (on a stalactite, for example) the bolt can fail. Visually bolts can look like they are in good condition; however, corrosion occurs from the inside out. Shiny new looking steel bolts have failed plenty of times here.
Routes that have not been re-bolted with titanium glue-ins or have been neglected for years are labeled “dangerous” in the guide books for a reason!
Re-bolting and route setting is only done with permission from the national park service. If you feel like a route requires re-bolting, please talk with the local climbing shops. These guys know what’s going on and what needs to happen. They can help you to take appropriate action or point you in the right direction at the very least. It is very important to make sure the climbing community is aware of any route changes or unsafe conditions.
Our tropical environment requires more maintenance than most other climbing areas in the world. Due to the sheer number of routes and and rapid corrosion, it is very expensive to keep up with re-bolting.
We appreciate it when climbers are able to donate any hardware, glue, or other equipment. If you are an experienced route-setter and you are willing to work with the local climbing community, donating your time is also much appreciated.
Creatures on the rock’s
The cracks and crevices that make our rock so suitable for climbing have provided shelter for numerous critters long before we started using their homes as handholds. Special care should be taken when setting new routes or exploring less popular climbing areas!
Animals to be on the lookout for are Monkeys, Centipedes, Scorpions, Snakes, Wasps/Bee nests, Monitor Lizards, birds nesting, and many other bugs. Anticipation is key!!. Sneak a peak in any crack or crevice before stuffing your uninvited fist into it.
Your biggest enemy though are the mosquito’s, especially in the crags far back in the jungle. Always bring mosquito coils and spray. When on the rock its actually no problem, the problem is for the belayer.
Candelstick VR, turn with finger or mouse
Things to bring
- Reusable water bottle- great if you are planning to take advantage of our beautiful and plentiful multi-pitch routes
- A small backpack to shove all your extras into, especially if you plan to multi-pitch
- Finger Tape/Chalk- Much less expensive if you bring these essential items from home
- Extra Safety Slings- Nice to have though you’ll also be able to find these for rent
- First Aid Kit- If you want to bandage bumps and bruises with familiar products
- Knife- in case you need to cut the rope (or threaten your partner)
- Headlamp/Torch- for those inevitable long walks through the jungle or around the rocks from Railay to Tonsai after a long day on the rock
- Helmet- Some routes have loose rocks so you can’t go wrong with a helmet, if you forget yours, there are a few available for rent at The Rock Shop
- Brush- Useful to keep your shoes semi-clean
- Quick Links- a less expensive option to leave on a bolt to lower off if you can’t finish your project
There are plenty of experienced climbers around Tonsai and Railay beach who are always looking for climbing partners. Most people meet partners at Freedom Bar on the beach or Peace and Love (a coffee shop/bar) up the road.
We just recommend that you watch your new partner belay/climb first to make sure they actually know what they are doing!. Also be sure to discuss climbing terms before getting on the rock. We’ve got people from all around the world here at the moment and everyone uses slightly different lingo.
If you’d like, you can hire a private guide for a half day or whole day to get familiar with the area. If you’d like to save money, just come by The Rock Shop and pick up a guide book. We can recommend crags that might be good for your level and also provide you with rental gear if you don’t have your own gear already.
Climbing guide book
We have outlined some of the basic information on this webage. However it is best that you have guidebook of the area when at the crags. A good and reliable guide is our own published “The Pocket Guide”. It is available for 900 THB (about 28 USD) at most shops on Tonsai and Railay Beach.
Find The Pocket Guide on Tonsai Beach at: The Rock Shop, Viking Climbers, On The Rocks, Tonsai Rock Climbing School, Peace and Love, Andaman Nature Resort, Pasook Resort, Mambo Resort and Tui’s Minimart.
Find the Pocket Guide on Railay Beach at: Hot Rocks Climbing Shop, On-Site Climbing Shop, Tied Up Climbing Shop, Tex Rock Climbing Shop and Sea Cliff Climbing Shop.
Order by Mail: Purchase your copy of The Pocket Guide from home! If you want to get your book before arriving in Thailand, send an email to [email protected] making a request. You’ll receive a pay pal bill shortly later. After funds have been deposited, we’ll mail the book straight to your door.
Note: expect 2-3 weeks for shipping (after funds are received & creating a Pay Pal account is required).