With hundreds of bolted routes leading up vertical limestone cliffs to pinnacles affording marvellous views, Railay remains a dream destination for climbers.
Overseen by both Thai and foreign climbing experts, safety is taken seriously and the overall rock quality is excellent. We’ve been told that many routes are regularly re-bolted with titanium gear. Crags, crevices, caves and ledges riddle the cliffs, providing all sorts of holds. On the French grading scale, the easiest routes are scored at 5a while several challenging climbs reach up to 8c.
Some of the best-known cliffs, each with various climbing routes, include One Two Three Wall at the southern end of Railay East, the massive Thaiwand Wall at the southern side of Railay West and Ao Nang Tower, which can only be reached by boat and dares you to go for an extremely difficult third pitch. These are just a few of the options—in total Railay boasts some 700 known routes.
While the above are all on the difficult side, the peninsula also has several cliffs used on a daily basis for beginner to moderate level instruction. The mostly vertical cliffs do look daunting to beginners, but limestone is relatively easy to climb on and the routes have been extensively mapped and belayed by local climbers, including many who have lived on Railay for decades.
In 2016, a new national park chief banned rock climbing in parts of Hat Noppharat Thara – Mu Ko Phi Phi National Park, which partly includes Railay. On our last visit in mid 2018, local instructors told us that climbing has continued as normal on the peninsula itself, but deep water soloing (free climbing a seaside cliff and then freefalling into the water) has been banned. However we did see deep-water soloing excursions offered on the hush hush.
The popular three-day climbing courses typically cost around 6,000 baht and include a mix of lead climbing, multi-pitch climbing and self-rescue techniques. Half- and full-day group courses are also available in the 1,000 to 2,000 baht range, or you could shell out considerably more for a private instructor. Independent climbing is also possible for those who have the experience, and some of the shops rent and sell gear if you’ve not brought your own.
Nearly a dozen climbing schools operate on Railay. Three of the largest and most reputable are German-run Basecamp Tonsai, Thai/Swedish-run Hot Rock and Thai-run King Climbers, all of which have been open since the 1990s. Smaller outfits that may be worth a look include Highland Rock Climbing, Real Rocks, Tex and Thai Climber.
Advanced reservations are not generally necessary so feel free to visit several schools before deciding. They each have their own style, vibe and preferred climbing locales, and the experience often comes down to how you get on with the individual instructor.
Basecamp Tonsai: Office in Tonsai; T: (081) 149 9745; basecamptonsai.com
Highland Rock Climbing: Office and cafe located inland next to Phutawan Resort; T: (084) 443 9539; www.facebook.com/Highland-Rock-climbingcoffee-House-342516632567580/
Hot Rock Climbing School: Office on Railay East; T: (075) 662 245; www.railayadventure.com
King Climbers: Office near Railay Village Resort on Railay West; T: (075) 662 096; (081) 797 8923; www.railay.com
Real Rocks: Office on Highway 4203 on the way to Ao Nammao pier near Ao Nang; T: (080) 718 1351; www.realrocksclimbing.com
Tex Rock Climbing: Office on Railay East; T: (075) 631 509; (088) 228 1566; www.facebook.com/Tex-rock-climbing-417234381767105/
Thai Climber Climbing: Office on lane running inland from Railay East from Avatar Resort; T: (094) 861 2079; (099) 354 9656; www.facebook.com/thaiclimber.climbing/
Admission: From 600 baht
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.