Thailand

20-23 Dec 1999
Following advice from a guidebook I booked a room through the Thai Hotels Association office at the airport. As expected I got a reasonably upscale place to lay my head. What I didn't expect was to be smack dab in the middle of the sex district and having to run a gauntlet of pimps every night to get back to my hotel. At least it's in a convenient location for the myriad of errands I need to run, even if do have to share the internet cafe with prostitutes e-mailing their overseas sweeties.

Bangkok is a big modern city, the first I've been in for a long time, and a lot of chores have stacked up. Film to develop, slides to scan, gear to retrieve from customs, tax advice to seek, gifts to purchase, countries to research, etc... I only just barely have time to indulge in the fabulous Thai food. Yummy Yummy!

It's fun thinking back to this time three years ago when I visited Bangkok on what was then my first real trip out of the United States. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to communicate, that I'd get lost and mugged, left for dead in some dark ally, all on my way out of the airport. This time it feels like home. It's a relief to be in a country with ATMs, Slurpies, and stores with price tags. It almost feels like I've come home.

24 Dec 1999
Christmas Eve-- I finish the last of my errands and catch a 7PM flight to meet Maggie on the island of Phuket in Southern Thailand.

Maggie is a friend-of-a-friend that I've e-mailed but never met. This Christmas Eve she has achieved full elf status by agreeing to carry my laptop from it's banishment in Fremont, CA. Who knows what other goodies may arrive as the paths of sleigh and jet cross.

25 Dec 1999
We catch a ferry to the island of Kho Phi Phi, with the intent of continuing on to Railay beach. But at lunch, Maggie can't find her wallet. Through an interpreter we call last night's hotel, but they haven't seen it. We kick the sand and let out a big, "Ahh shucks," but we aren't really too concerned, there wasn't that much money in it. That is, we aren't too concerned until Maggie remembers that her passport is in the wallet. Now, that's a real problem.

We catch the next boat back to Phuket and ransack the room ourselves. Still no sign of the wallet. We're contemplating several different plans of attack when Maggie, going through her bags "one more time," calls out, "Ahh ha!" The missing wallet had been tucked in a previously overlooked bag. Rotten jet-lag....

26 Dec 1999
We're back on Kho Phi Phi, this time in a more relaxed mood. After lunch we catch the ferry to Railay beach, a rock climbers paradise.

27 Dec 1999
Let the climbing begin... Maybe.

Over the past month I've alternated between dreading and craving this moment. Getting back on rock and seeing if I can still climb after a nine month break. We started off were everyone else does, Railay's 123 crag.

We both made quick work of the warm up route, SameBoy, and I was thinking things might not be too bad. Then, Maggie led We Sad and I decided to pull the rope and try it myself. I managed to crank through the strenuous opening moves, pulling up onto the dangling stalactite that stops five feet short of the ground, but soon after I was in trouble. The problems were more mental than physical, the moves were a bit awkward and I just didn't have any confidence in my ability to do them. I managed to struggle upward to the 2nd to last bolt at which point my head completely gave in and I had to come down and let Maggie go back up to finish it and retrieve our gear.

With the rope set to the top of the climb I thought I would go back up and try again the place I got stuck, but now my forearms betrayed me and I wasn't even able to do the starting moves onto the stalactite. I kept falling off, and eventually crashed into the water as the tide rose behind me.

The rest of the day was spent showing Maggie some of the more popular crags.

The day's routes
123 Wall:
SameBoy(6A+) Maggie/Evan
We Sad(6A+) Maggie
The day's injuries

Bruised ego
Shoulder abrasions

Rough grade conversions
(Thai grades are notoriously soft)
FrenchYDS FrenchYDS
55.7-5.86B+5.10d
6A5.96C5.11a
6A+5.10a/b(-)6C+5.11b
6B5.10b/c(-)7a5.11b/c

28 Dec 1999
After that start, where could we go but up?

We returned to 123 Wall to give King Cobra another try (I'd given it a go late the night before, but was forced to bail in darkness). In the daylight I managed to get to the top, but it certainly wasn't the confidence builder I was looking for. Maggie thought I should lead it again to help sort my head out, and persisted in this opinion until she returned to the ground and announced, "I see, it's not very pleasant, is it?"

We moved on to Muai Thai Wall and I had a fun time on Take It Easy, where I almost started to feel like I remembered how to climb. I then led a "not in the book" piece of junk to the left before Maggie took over, onsighting Valentine and giving Alone a good effort.

The day's routes
123 Wall:
King Cobra(5) Evan
Muai Thai Wall:
Take it easy(5) Evan
Valentine(6A+) Maggie
Alone(6B+) Maggie
The day's injuries

Bashed knuckle
Burst blister leaving a deep wound on the back of my heal

29 Dec 1999
In the morning took a 45 minute long-tail boat ride to Krabi for some errands and souvenir shopping.

Back in Railay, but wanting a rest from climbing, we rented a kayak to scout one of the "sea tower" crags. After an epic time clearing the bay (our kayak would only turn left), we made it to the rock, a 300ft tall spire jutting out of the sea. The routes looked fun, but it wasn't obvious how to climb them from a kayak.

30 Dec 1999
After warming up on the 3 pitch classic Massage Secrets we both led Selee before heading back over to Muai Thai Wall so Maggie could try Alone again. Another good effort, but she was still foiled at that last hard clip. The day finished on Muai Thai, another stalactite wrestling route.

The day's routes
123 Wall:
Massage Secrets(5 Evan, 6A+ Maggie, 6A+ Maggie)
Selee(6A) Evan, Maggie)
Muai Thai Wall:
Alone(6B+ Maggie)
Muai Thai(6B+) Maggie
The day's injuries

Abrasions from stalactite wrestling all over my inner thighs
Belayer's neck

31 Dec 1999
We headed down the back trail to the secret beach and a new crag, Escher Wall. I led a few warm-up routes and then Humming Song on an assortment of gear, fixed slings, and in situ tied knots. A very fun route in need of some tender loving care.

Then it was over to the 6C, Best Route in Minnesota, a two bolt hand traverse then a gorgeous line up a slender arete in a cave. I'd picked this one out as a project on my last trip to Thailand, but it hasn't gotten an easier. Pooped out on the traverse I turned the sharp end over to Maggie. She tried the belly-crawl variation but eventually flopped over, rested, and made the moves to the third bolt. She made good progress up ever more difficult and scary moves until pumping out at the 2nd to last bolt and wanting down.

I was way too tired to put in a good showing on the initial hand traverse so instead it was an hour of hand over hand up the rope until I got to rock I could climb. Finally reaching Maggie's high point I didn't have the energy to finish it either, so I arranged a gentle bail off the rusty bolt.

The day's routes
Escher World:
Short&Easy(5) Evan
Humming Song(6B gear) Evan
Best Route in Minnesota(6C) Maggie(to 2nd to last bolt)
The day's injuries

Gashed toe (from the stumble home)

But of course, this day wasn't just about climbing. After washing off the mud from sweaty wallowing on dirty routes I donned the dangerous combination of my "I'm on vacation" shirt and my "I'm on vacation" shorts and we hit the beach to take in the festivities.

At first we were puzzled by the line of torches forming a makeshift fence down length of the beach, but soon it became apparent that this was the "line of sanity." Periodically people would wander across the line, plant cardboard tubes in the sand, light fuses and beat a hasty retreat back across the line before who-knows-what happened. I've never seen such an incredible display of amateur fireworks. A fabulous game of "mine's bigger than yours" played from both sides of the beach alone with an incredible array of the more usual stuff in the middle.

Adding to the incendiary mayhem was the graduation performance of the flaming stick&chain twirling class. From kids to soccer moms they each took turns lighting their prop and spinning it around their bodies just beyond the flickering glow of the bonfire.

The moment itself came and went without a countdown, and exchanging nervous glances we all popped the tops on our bottles of champagne and declared ourselves in the year 2000.

1 Jan 2000
Visit Wat Tham Seua, the Tiger Cave Temple, near Krabi.

After another long tail boat ride to Krabi, I got to demonstrate my finely honed traveling skills by walking around in circles and quizzically saying, "What Tham Seua?" to every Thai who looked like they might know which bus we should take. After lots of contradictory advice we finally found ourselves in the back of a songthaew (covered pickup truck with two bench seats in the back) that some friendly fisherwoman seemed to think might be heading the right way. It got us most of the way there, before we had to hop out and walk the least few kilometers.

The highlight of Wat Tham Seua is a hike up 1272 steps to a Buddha footprint shrine on top of a small hill. Lots of Thais were out to start the new year right, and we laughed, sweat, and panted together as we all struggled up the ever steeper steps. On top we found a friendly monk who showed us the rocky indentation said to have been left by the Buddha as he strode over the land.

After descending the steps we paid a quick visit to the main temple. In addition to the usual assortment of Buddha images, this temple has a collection of photos showing breasts with the skin removed. A check of the guidebook revealed that they are used in meditation to combat lustful thoughts.

For the ride back to Krabi we hired a vehicle that was new to me, a motorcycle with a sidecar like attachment having two seats that faced each other. We hopped in for the perilous ride back to town. Much more dangerous than climbing!

Maggie took a boat back to the beach while I did a quick e-mail check. Unfortunately I missed the long tail rush hour and by the time I was ready to go the boatmen were reluctant to make the trip in the gathering darkness. Three other tourists and I finally struck a deal for about double the normal fare (US$1), but then the boat died halfway across. Amid speculation that this must have been some sort of scam another boat arrived and gave us a free lift the rest of the way. My last sight of boatman number one, was of him tossing his anchor into the gloom and preparing to spend the night afloat.

A day of interesting transport.

2 Jan 2000
On our way to crag of mostly stiff routes we stopped at 123 Wall to warmed up on Selee. The resulting pump led us to reconsider our plan and we decided look for less ambitious fare over on the Thaiwand Wall.

An interesting but less than productive scramble through the jungle left us following voices until we eventually found ourselves at Wee's Present Wall where Maggie led Hello Christine before we had to retreat for the bungalow in the rain.

Rain? This is supposed to be paradise, but it rained intermittently all afternoon. Bored with the view from our patio we eventually hiked over the jungle trail Ton Sai Beach where we found that Pahn Taalod and Stalagasurus overhang enough to be dry in the rain. Maggie led both routes in fading light before we had to do the pitch dark jungle stumble back to our side of the beach.

The day's routes
123 Wall:
Selee(6A) Maggie
Wee's Present Wall:
Hello Christine (6A+) Maggie
Ton Sai Beach:
Pahn Taalod (6A) Maggie
Stalagasurus (6A+) Maggie
The day's injuries

None, although the agony of donning my climbing shoes over the multitude of open wounds on my feet may leave a deep seated psychosis.

3 Jan 2000
Maggie and I part company. It was, as they say, just not working out. 'Nuff said.

The day was spent relocating and relaxing.

4 Jan 2000
I did absolutely nothing.

5 Jan 2000
I did absolutely nothing (again). I guess that seems out of character enough that I should explain just how much nothing I did:

How to do nothing

06:30: Ignore the crowing roosters.
Wonder why the local feline population hasn't taken care of this problem.
08:00: Open eyes.

My current home looks a lot like a club-house cobbled together by a couple of bored teenagers over a summer vacation. I'm on the 2nd floor of 3-story plywood and 2x4 construction leaned up against a huge banyan tree that is by far the sturdiest thing on the island. My one room is 80% bed and it's a constant struggle to keep the sand confined to the 20% that is floor. A mildewed plastic sheet screens off the bathroom. I have running water, or more precisely, water that runs. My shower is a sprayer of the sort typically found next to kitchen sinks, and the toilet (oh luxury) is operated by bucket, not lever. Not much to look at, but it's all mine for 450 Baht a day (US$12).

09:00: Get out of bed.

One of the best features of my new abode is that it comes with a cat. It's not much of a cat, but I miss mine. This cat and I are locked in a battle of wills. Every morning I get up and pet it, and every morning it pretends not to care. We are at the point where I spend an hour each day doting over it, knowing that eventually it will cave in an acknowledge my existence.

10:00: In need of my daily banana pancake fix, I stumble across the beach, carefully stepping over the half naked euro-tourists scattered about as if there's been an explosion on the set of a cheap soft-core porno.

I haven't quite worked out the whole topless protocol and I'm always nervous I'll accidentally do something unseemly. There seems to be some bizarre set of rules. For example, lying about, walking across the beach, and playing Frisbee are all ok. But, swimming and sipping a beer at the bar all seem to require clothes. A topic ripe for further research.

10:30: Arrive at banana pancakeville and score a beach-side table in the sand with a view.

Since I was last at Railay Beach, there have been two major quality of life improvements: E-Mail and real coffee. Both are pricey and both are slow, but at least they exist. I put in my order for a big pot of black coffee and settle in for some serious people watching.

The best thing about my favored table is that I have a view of the landing where the new arrivals come ashore. That combined with the general cross beach travel of climbers, travelers, Thais, and half naked euro-tourists makes for a fabulous cultural melange. I could spend all day just listening to the accents.

11:00: Receive coffee and order banana pancakes.

The search for the correct banana pancakes occupied my first few days here. In addition to a view I need a well flavored, light, fluffy pancake. Half the banana should be baked inside and half sliced on top. If this isn't the default configuration the staff should speak enough English that I can convince them that any other method is a sin against nature and Epicureans everywhere.

Read, watch people and sip coffee while awaiting pancakes.

11:30: Pancakes arrive.
Eat pancakes. Yum, Yum...
12:00 Ask for bill.
12:30 Bill arrives.
Pay bill.

On to my other vice, E-Mail. I haven't quite figured out how the internet cafes here are connected. The claim (and seem) to have some sort of a direct satellite connection. If so, I need to get one of those! I've been reunited with my laptop, but the closest Ipass access number is far off in Bangkok and that wont do for downloading the 600 messages I have awaiting me. So, in the meantime I am tied to terminals here at 5 Baht a minute (US$8 an hour).

14:00: Done with E-Mail, time for lunch!

Pick a restaurant at random and practice new and different ways of saying, "Please cook it Thai style spicy hot, not pasty white tourist style bland." Depending on the success of my phrase-of-the-day, lunch can be an incredibly culinary affair or a bowl full of tasteless mush.

Either way, obtaining the bill and paying it is an hour long process.

16:00: Realize that yet another day has slipped unaware through my fingers and panically (yes it's a word) run around trying to do something worth writing about. Usually this involves going over to the beach and cranking one or two boulder problems in hopes that I might meet a climbing partner.

It seems like the entire European climbing population has come here to escape their own arctic climate, so finding a partner really shouldn't be to difficult if I put any effort into it. I've had bad luck with the note-board (blind date) approach in the past though, so now I prefer to just mingle and chat. I get to watch perspective partners climb and get a sense of their personalities before committing to climbing together.

Unfortunately, as you would expect, most of the good partners are already taken. But, I'm really in no hurry, and my hour of bouldering a day is slowly strengthening my hands while allowing the wounds on my feet to heal.

18:00: Back to the front beach to gather with the crowd and watch the sun set.
19:00: Return to my bungalow in the trees to nap and recover from all the day's stress.
Ignore the ungrateful cat.
20:00: Dinner is much like lunch, but with a wider variety of dress and the possibility live music.
22:00: Bed.
Another day survived in paradise.

6 Jan 2000
I'm thinking about staying here for a while. I spent the day researching the logistics of being here for a month and checking out the possibilities for getting certified as a divemaster by one of the scuba diving schools here.

7 Jan 2000
Another day in the big city (Krabi) for more errands, research, and 1 Baht a minute E-Mail.

8 Jan 2000
Resolving to get back in the game, I raced through my morning rituals and was at the rock by the crack of noon.

I resumed my passive-aggressive partner search by wandering through the popular crags and posing with my gear, waiting for someone to ask me if I needed a partner. My new found energy must have been apparent because after two hours of this, I had not one, but two partners, Josie and Cavil. Josie from Australia climbing about my level, and Cavil from the UK climbing a fair bit harder than me, but newly arrived and looking to do easy routes for a few days.

We sauntered over to Stalagasurus and although I was slow, I managed to get up this, my favorite Thai route, without too much trouble. We then pulled the rope and Cavil led it smoothly and quickly, as it should be done. Josie was in between, much smoother than I, but not as comfortable as Cavil.

While Josie retired for a swim Cavil led and I followed One for you and me. It's an awkward, grovelly route, that has little to recommend it other than the fact that it's the only route on the grossly overhanging Tidal Wave Wall that I'm ever likely to be strong enough to manage.

The day's routes
Stalagasurus (6A+) Cavil, Evan, Josie
One for you and me (6A+) Cavil
The day's injuries

Minor. I skinned a knuckle jamming a pocket on Stalagasurus. But, if you're not bleeding (at least a little), you're not trying hard enough.

9 Jan 2000
I met my new partner, Cavil, at 9 a.m. and we headed over to 123 Wall for his introduction to the Thai classics. We warmed up with him leading the supposed three pitch Massage Secrets as a single 30m pitch. Cavil then had a strong lead on Make a way a climb I had problems with three years ago when I was climbing a lot better than I am now. On top rope I managed to make it to the last bolt cleanly, but then was too tired to finish.

From their we moved on to Muai Thai. I attempted the lead, but still couldn't get to the second bolt, so Cavil finished it and I seconded.

We took a lunch break to wait out the afternoon soon before heading over to Escher Wall. Following a time honored strategy of getting stronger partners to do routes I'd like to climb myself but am too weak to lead I pointed Cavil at The Best Route in Minnesota. He climbed strongly, but then, in the unaccustomed heat and humidity, collapsed at the third to last bolt. Just one bolt short of where my carabiner was waiting from the last time I bailed off this route.

With my rope gun out of commission I went over to try and redpoint Humming Song, a gear route where I'd conveniently fixed the crux nut on my last attempt. Unfortunately it was in the sun and I had to take a hang. On the up side I was able to retrieve my nut, on the down side I'll have to re-place it on my next attempt.

The day's routes
123 Wall:
Massage Secrets(6A+) Cavil
Make a Way(6B) Cavil
Muai Thai Wall:
Muai Thai(6B+) Cavil
Escher World:
Best Route in Minnesota(6C) Cavil(to 3rd to last bolt)
Humming Song(6B gear) Evan
The day's injuries

A big gash on the outside of my left thumb from trying to hand jam in sharp limestone pockets (again). I've got to stop doing that while I've still got a bit of unmarked flesh.

10 Jan 2000

Operation Photo Op

Despite my new digital camera I've been slacking on photography. And, truth be told, feeling a bit guilty about it. You see, climbing photography is just plain hard and often takes all the fun out of a route.

The "right" prospective for many shots is 20 feet above the climber, and 20 feet out from the wall. Often it's more difficult to get into this position (hint: it's usually in mid air) than it is to do the climb. Realtm climbing photographers go ahead of the climbers carrying a set of stilts to push them out from the wall to get just this angle.

Sorry, but you'll have to make do with my weak imitation. Think of it as Nescafe climbing photography. I gathered two cooperative partners, Cavil and Sophie, and headed out for the spectacularly photogenic Ao-Nang Tower.


Our route has an approach pitch and three named pitches Orange Chandeliers(6B), On the Rocks(6B+) and Ao-Nang Ao-Nang(6C). The second and third pitches were first ascended by Paul Brunner, a climber of some net fame. I've E-Mailed Paul a bit and was actually kayaking under the tower in 1996 while he worked on the second pitch. It's a strange sort of "almost" intimacy to be doing a route put up by someone I "almost" know.

Step 0: Since the tower is a 100 meter tall spire that juts out of the sea, we will need a boat to reach it. This shot is of the long-tail lineup on the main West Railay beach. Walking down the beach this beach the boatmen call out their destinations, "Ao-Nang, Ao-Nang, Ao-Nang... Krabi, Krabi, Krabi..." They use a distinctive voice and their cries are an aural feature of the Railay landscape.

I need to find a boatmen who is not only willing to take us out to the tower, but also willing to come back and get us!

And of course, this all has to be arranged and bargained for in pigeon Thai and English. Only somewhat convinced we've made ourselves understood, we hop in the boat and set off for the tower.


Sophie and I climbing from the boat onto the tower, a good example of why climbing pictures should be taken from above... In the boat, Cavil studies the guidebook (probably a good thing given that he will lead all the hard pitches).

After pulling the novel but easy moves from the boat onto the rock we unload the gear and watch our boat cruise off.

We clambered off the boat at a low point, and the first step is to traverse over to proper start of the route, about 20 meters to our left and 10 meters above the water. Sophie easily led this bit and Cavil and I joined her at the new perch.

The plan was for me to lead the first pitch, but after giving it a few tries, I found it too much for me and turned this lead (and all the rest) over to Cavil.


 
Sophie at the end of the traverse. Cavil leading the first pitch.

Just as well that I turned the lead over to Cavil, because the initial moves where I got stuck turned out not to be the hardest on the pitch. There seemed to be lots of variations here and Cavil struck out on a fairly direct and strenuous line. Sophie and I managed to follow and then Cavil set out on the second pitch.

The second pitch has a tricky roof where even Cavil paused for thought before escaping out to the right. It would be quite a challenge here for a short person to clip (or unclip) the protection bolt.

Above the roof is one last difficult section that we all solved differently. Cavil presumably by some use of reach and power, myself with a heal hook and desperate lunge, and Sophie with a bit of thought and delicate technique.

On the ledge atop the second pitch we noticed with relief and consternation that our boatman had returned and was circling below. Oh well, we didn't have our hearts set on the more difficult (6C) third pitch anyway, so we began preparations to descend.

Welcome to the top!

And, for our next big trick...
How to get back into that little boat, way down there?

We did a little math and figured our ropes would probably reach the water. After doubling them through the fixed anchor, Cavil set off to find out.

Everything went fine except the ends of the ropes got a bit wet as he dangled and waited for the boat to get into position. Sophie and I quickly followed and as we pulled our ropes they dropped cleanly into the boat. Operation Photo Op successfully concluded!


Cavil awaits me in the boat.
Sophie arrives safely as our boatman looks on.
Crazy Farang!

I had wanted to do this route for its fabulous setting, but I ended up quite pleasantly surprised by how good the climbing was. The rock is a bit loose in places, but both of pitches we did were fun and challenging. Well worth doing for the climbing alone, the views and novelty are just extra bonuses!

11 Jan 2000
A rest, writing and errand day in Krabi.

12 Jan 2000
Today Cavil and I headed out to do Railay's long classic, Humanality.

Multi-Pitch climbing

This route is five pitches long, a pitch being roughly the length of the rope, or, more commonly in Thailand, the distance to the next comfortable stance. When doing multi-pitch routes one climber, the leader, goes first. The leader trails a rope and periodically clips it through aluminum snap-links called carabiners that are attached to bolts in the rock. If the leader is 10 feet above the last bolt they've clipped and falls, he or she will fall 20 feet. Ten feet to the bolt and then another 10 feet below it until the rope catches them. The potential to take significant falls makes leading more dangerous and difficult than following.

When the leader runs out of rope or just reaches a comfortable spot, her or she attaches themselves to an anchor and brings up their partner. The leader takes up slack as the partner climbs, so in following there is very little chance of taking a fall of more than a couple of feet. The second's job is to collect all the gear (carabiners and such) that the leader left behind to protect the pitch.

If all goes well, the second joins the leader at the top of the pitch with all the gear they started out with. They then decide who will lead the next pitch and the process begins again. With climbers of equal strengths it's traditional to alternate leads but often the stronger climber leads the more difficult pitches.

At the top of the climb, the team threads the rope through an anchor point and then lowers both ends until the middle of the rope is at the anchor. One at a time they then slide down the rope using braking devices attached to their harnesses. In this way they can descend half a rope length to where (hopefully) they will find another anchor to attach themselves to. They then pull one end of the rope through the previous anchor and repeat the process until they are back on the ground.

The process of getting down, called rappelling or abseiling, is actually responsible for more deaths than the climbing. There are more "single points of failure," and it's fairly easy to make a fatal mistake (like sliding off the ends of the rope high above the ground). Generally climbers are fonder of going up than coming down!

Back on Humanality I lead the first pitch. It's novel not for its difficult but rather because it's a tree and not rock. Difficult for tree, it's a banyan with wide flutes requiring strenuous pinch grips. This is a very popular route and on the first ledge we contemplate the gaggle of climbers above us and wonder if we are in for a long afternoon.

At this time of year in Southern Thailand (winter) it gets up to at least 35C (95F) almost every day. The extreme heat along with the high humidity makes it virtually impossible to climb in direct sunlight. The route is in shaded in morning and we desperately want to get up and back down it before the sun hits and, in the briny broth of their own sweat, fries any tardy climbers.

Full of that cheery thought I lead the easy and fun second pitch. There is a reason this route is so popular, each pitch is enjoyable and interesting at its grade.

For the third pitch, the "sharp" (i.e.: leader's) end of the rope got passed to Cavil. I'd had a hard time on this pitch three years ago when I was climbing better and want no part of it with my current level of fitness. Unlike many of the other 6Bs here this one gives Cavil pause for thought. He leads it cleanly though, while I struggle on the follow, falling several times. I do eventually discover a better sequence of moves, and file it away for future reference.

The infamous fourth pitch is also Cavil's to lead. This pitch ascends several meters on convenient pockets before they end and leave him staring up at a blank wall. Knowing the route gets done by several parties each day is little solace as he contemplate the holdless, vertical rock and wonder what feat of mysticism they used to cross it. It's one of those rare moments though, where appealing to the heavens for advice provides instant and pragmatic results.

Behind him, dangling from above like a gift from a benevolent deity, is a stalactite. For most, it's a bit of a "swan dive" move, but it's possible to bridge across to it and even enter a little cave inside of it. inevitably though, it comes time to leave the hospitality of this amiable stalactite and return to the main wall which appears just foreboding and impassable as before, for this move too, there is a trick.

I manage all right on the follow but the sun below seems to be moving faster than the crowd above so we give up on the fifth pitch and make two rappels to the ground before calling it a day.

There is trouble in paradise though. Some incredibly inconsiderate Australian kids have shown up and are staying just above me. I'm always amazed at the number of people I meet whose idea of the perfect holiday is to get as drunk as possible all over the world. Why not just stay home? Surely that would leave more money for booze and you'd only make an ass of yourself in front of your countrymates. I finally had to get out of bed at 3 a.m. to try and quiet them down. That, as well as you might expect, didn't get so well and there was a bit of a row. Sigh. Worst of all, in the morning, there was no sign of my cat. I guess she's smart enough to keep a low profile when drunken idiots are about.

The day's routes
Andaman Beach
Humanality P1 (6A) Evan
Humanality P2 (6A+) Evan
Humanality P3 (6B) Cavil
Humanality P4 (6B+) Cavil
Humanality P5 (6A+) Too hot, too crowded...
The day's injuries

None, surprisingly enough.

13 Jan 2000
Over coffee and banana pancakes Cavil and I decide to try a new area, Duncan's Boot.

It's the never ending quest for shade that's brought us to this crag, tucked away in the jungle off the beach. It turns out to be a mistake. The trees provide shade, but they also block the wind. As the day warms, the base of the cliff becomes an oven and the poorness of our choice is emphasized by each drop of sweat that spills onto the dusty dirt.

Dripping, we both lead the awkward but easy Karaoke and then undaunted by the heat (foolishly undaunted I might add), Cavil has a go at the very difficult, Lost Kek. Hey makes it only to the third bolt before the heat has sapped both his energy and spirit.

Pressing on despite the conditions I try Top Knot, but make it only to the second bolt before being lowered off. I'm not sure if the route was actually hard if it was just the heat, but even Cavil struggled to finish it.

Bathed in sweat and slick with mud from the silty ground we're such a mess that climbers hiking through are stopping to poke fun at us. In this state we retire for lunch and a rehydration break.

In the late afternoon, somewhat recuperated, we head for a crag where Maggie and I had climbed, Muai Thai Wall. Cavil onsighted the fairly difficult Alone, and I managed to cleanly lead the easier Valentine, a route that had previously given me trouble on top rope. An upbeat end to a difficult day.

More fun and games with my miscreant neighbors though, this time at 4 in the morning. Sigh-sigh. It's not obvious what they are actually doing till that time. Most people are here to either climb or dive, and both are morning activities so most of the bars and restaurants close early. But, wherever it is that they go, I wish they would stay there until I get up with the damn roosters.

The day's routes
Duncan's Boot
Karaoke (6A) Evan, Cavil
Lost Kek (7A) Cavil (to 3rd bolt)
Top Knot(6B) Evan (to 2nd bolt), Cavil
Muai Thai Wall:
Alone(6B+) Cavil
Valentine(6A+) Evan
The day's injuries

More scrapes on my shoulders and several inexplicable bruises on my thighs.

14 Jan 2000
Anxious to climb on the beach after yesterday's debacle in the jungle we went to Ton Sai to do the ocean front routes Always Pass and Passing Difficult. It took a few tries for me to lead the easy one, Cavil a few tries on the hard one, and would take about four more inches for me ever to succeed on the very reachy Passing Difficult.

Thinking I had one route left in me, we moved over to Tyrolean Wall for me to try Longes Feschtl. I made it to only the fourth bolt before succumbing to fatigue and letting Cavil lead it. Following, I was utterly exhausted and could do only a move or two before resting on the rope. Yuck!

In the evening I met the (English) woman who thinks she owns the cat that lives on my deck and we had a pleasant chat. There was an issue that had been troubling me. Most of the cats here have horribly mangled tails, half-gone with a big knot on the end as if they've been violently broken. It's most of the cats though-- all different kinds. I struggled unsuccessfully to concoct some sort of explanation that didn't involve sadism. This woman shed some gentle light. It seems there is such a thing as a "Thai short tailed cat" and when they interbreed with the normal cats the result is the crazy tails I have seen. I'm not sure I actually believe this explanation, but it is so much more palatable than any I came up with that I've decided to just pretend I believe it.

The day's routes
Ton Sai Beach
Pahn Taalod (Always pass) (6A) Cavil, Evan
Rod Yaak (Difficult to pass) (6B) Cavil
Tyrolean Wall
Longes Feschtl (6B+) Cavil
The day's injuries

More open blisters on the tops of my toes and new gashes on the backs of my hand from jamming limestone cracks (again).

15 Jan 2000
This morning I had a break through with "my" cat. We hadn't been having our morning sessions for a few days (courtesy of the drunkards), but today, when I came down stairs, she ran over, plopped herself down on my feet and asked me to scratch her belly. Ahh, the need to be needed...

I was really in need of a rest day, but thinking to sneak in one more day of climbing we hiked over to another seaside crag, the Defile on the north end of Phra-Nang beach. Still a bit down from yesterday's poor showing I managed to struggle my way through the easy Mai Pen Rai, before we turned our attentions to the much more difficult, Krabi Krabi (6C/11a). The crux is the first 7 meters so I got to take a good look at it before deciding to try and lead it. It took me a few tries, but I was quite pleased to be able to lead through the crux before turning the rope over to Cavil to go up and do it properly. I was so drained by my effort though that I wasn't even close to being able to do the route on top rope. A fitting end.

I'd been hoping to take a seven day scuba diving trip to the Burma Banks, but today I was finally able to confirm that none have itineraries matching my schedule. And due to the camera in bought in Bangkok, I have Thai tax complications that mean I'll save a bunch of money if I leave Thailand by air. But, my visa expires on Monday, so I need to make a quick jaunt out of the country to get a new one. (There is something just downright fun about *having* to leave a country, no matter what the reason).

As I was contemplating all this bureaucracy, I walked along the beach and let the waves splash my feet and the liquid sand run through my toes. The wind suddenly picked up as a squall hit. Palm fronds flapped liked frantic wings and bolts of lightening furtively exposed sea and clouds. For a few moments it was like being in the eye of a hurricane, turbulence all around, but peace in the center. Then, the rain started splashing down. Warm, wonderful, tropical rain, warmer by far than my shower. And as I strolled back to my bungalow in the trees I could think only of the Thai phrase that the days first route had been named for: Mai Pen Rai = No Problem.

The day's routes
The Defile
Mai Pen Rai (6A+) Evan, Cavil
Krabi Krabi (6C) Cavil
The day's injuries
My elbows are sore, my back muscles feel like they've been worked over with hammers, my hands and feet are masses of scabs and I'm mentally spent. Time for some rest.

16 Jan 2000
My visa expires tomorrow, so I guess it's time to show some motivation, but I can't say I'm really in the mood to leave this place. Plan A was to get up at like 5 a.m., catch an early boat to Krabi and get the 7 a.m. bus to Malaysia. This plan died so close to conception that not even Jerry Falwell noticed. Plan B was to get up at 8 a.m., pack, and be on a boat to Krabi by 10 a.m. leaving hope that I might make the 11 a.m. bus to Malaysia. But, 10 a.m. finds me in the midst of Plan C, drinking coffee, eating banana pancakes, and wondering where that fickle cat is.

In Krabi by 1 p.m., I board a random southbound bus that in six hours gets me to Hat Yai, the largest town in Southern Thailand.

Hat Yai is generic, medium sized Asian city, pleasant enough, but far enough south that the culture is more Chinese and Malay than Thai. So much for all the food vocabulary I've memorized, it's frustrating to have to order dinner in English.


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