Ben Grasser (mentioned in my last postcard) had recently escaped from Bangkok to open a climbing/adventure camp in the nearby jungle. Located at Kaeng Koi, the Nam Pha Pa Yai camp is a haven for travellers, climbers, and adventurers, and would soon play host to a New-Year/1 year birthday party for a local climbing group. The nearby climbing looked great, especially in the easier grades, and so, with a few days spare before flying to the south, and not being ones to turn down a good party, we decided to pay Ben a visit.
The "nerve center" of the opperation...
Arriving late in the evening, we followed a rough dirt track to a dark and deserted camp. Whilst wondering if we were in the wrong place, a head-torch appears through the black, and introduces himself as Ben. He gives us the quick tour and explains a few necessary precautions, including what to do for a snakebite, and how to check for scorpions in the toilet block. After showing us to our tent, Ben disappears back into the darkness and I start to wonder where it is exactly that we have come. Whilst falling to sleep, my mind is busy... not with thoughts of whether will we enjoy the next few days, but whether we will survive!
The next morning we join Ben for a visit to the Cliff. Along the way he explains a little about his ideas for the place and the work he has already done – it is clear how passionate he is, and the amount of hard work and energy he is putting in to make it a success
After a few minutes’ walk, we arrive at a wide river, with the cliff on the other side and no bridge for miles around. Bens solution is as crazy and exciting as the rest of his project – two giant zip-lines allowing visitors to quickly and easily fly back and forth. We race across, giddy from the excitement, only to be stopped dead in our tracks by the sight of several huge, very hard looking, unclimbed overhangs.
After climbing the best existing lines on the cliff during the morning, the place begins to fill up with guests of the party, including a national Thai TV crew! Seeking a little tranquillity among the madness, I hike to the top of the cliff in search of potential new lines to bolt through one of the main overhangs. Moving around on this big cliff is hard work, but by the end of the day a few new bolts are in place – everything must have a beginning.
Its a tough job, but somebody has to do it!
The next day would prove to be long... especially after the late night shenanigans of the party before. Caroline had a crash course in bolting, and she helped me to finish our new line and project for the day. On first impressions, the route looked easy, then after a little cleaning and a closer look, really really hard. I was not overly confident of my chance of success, but fortunately managed to find several good kneebars, allowing me to shuffle my way through the overhanging madness, flashing the first ascent with a big fight.
Caroline in the beginnings of the upside down madness... Photo - Richard Eden
Caroline followed with the second in a much more relaxed manner – I am always amazed about how comfortable she looks on overhanging collo’s. I called the route Monty Pythons Flying Circus, and at 8b, is one of the hardest rotes in Thailand, outside of Krabi. The name is not only a reference to the upside down acrobatics, but also the giant python who watched me whilst I drilled, cosily curled up in a hole just a few meters away. You don’t see that every day!