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Give me more rope…

THAILAND | Tuesday, 30 October 2007 | Views [821]

The ultimate climbing experience It was my first rock climbing introduction class. The chosen hotspot for rock climbing was Laem Phranang, 15 minutes drive from Krabi Town, a jagged peninsula surrounded by sheer limestone cliffs (karsts), south-east of Ao Nang. Early in a warm hazy morning I boarded the long-tail boat for the journey to the meeting point, West Railay beach. As the boat approached the beach I could only marvel at the beauty of the place. I met Saralisa, the owner of the Hot Rock Climbing School, who introduced me to the rest of the novice group and Jay and Nat, the Thai climbing instructors. The gearing-up ceremony began: we were fitted with harnesses -tight enough not to slip down the hips, snug climbing shoes and Chalk bag. When the instructors pointed out the high cliffs that we were going to climb I felt my heartbeat accelerating. But, after the instructors explanations on the moderate difficulty of the climb my heartbeat returned to normal. As I looked down my hips I wasn’t sure anymore if I was a novice rock climber or a novice parachute jumper. As we reached the climbing spot, in Phranang Beach, Jay checked the whole length of the long ropes with fingers - a very important safeguard routine that minimizes the risk of accidents and the remnant of the equipments. While Nat introduced us to the technicality and jargons of rock climbing: the ‘belayer’ is the person in charge of tightening the rope when someone is climbing – to belay; the ‘belay plate’, a device used to feed the rope - to slack; ‘more slack’ is used by climbers when they needed more rope; a ‘double eight knot’ secure the rope onto the harness; ‘quick draw’ a short piece of webbing and two carabineers, usually sewn in. One of the secrets of rock climbing, according to Nat, is to use the legs to push up and rest the body weight as legs are much stronger then arms. Jay laid the root using the locking carabineers - aluminium, steel or titanium snap-link used for holding the rope and connecting it to gear the rope to the top. And up they went one by one, the novice climbers for the day. I coolly watched the climbing novices through the viewfinder of my camera, zooming in onto their stretching bodies and grinning facial expressions. Eventually the feared moment arrived. I inserted the rope into the harness and secured it with the double eight knot guided by efficient Nat. I signalled ‘climbing’; my belayer answered back, ‘climb on’; I at a snail's pace started my ascent. The first few meters were just fine but eventually I started to struggle in finding my way up. I could not see cracks or hook of any sort. On few occasion I made use of chalk. I had to turn down in order to grasp Nat’s instructions making the climbing more gymnastic. But thanks to Nat’s guidance I could find pockets or gaps to grip and push myself up. Half way to the top the muscles of my lower arms became tense and sore. Exhausted I had to ask Nat for the “inglorious” rest. He pulled the rope tense so that I could swing away from the rock face. Suspended in mid-air, I had a chance to regain strength and recollect my thoughts: I wasn’t going to give up. As I was ready to continue I yelled the signal and as soon as Nat yelled back ‘climb on’ I inched my way to the top -sweating profusely. Once there I could only sit on this throne overlooking the kingdom of spectacular clear bays - lush limestone cliffs cutting through the blue waters. When it was time to go down I just had to let go from the rock and allow enough time for Nat to collect the quick draws. But the half day escapade wasn’t over yet we had to abseil/rappel, which meant that we needed to climb down from a cave window/exit perched at 15 meters from the foot of the cliff, by personally controlling the rope, The main feature of this technique is to hold the rope and slowly slide it in a controlled way, keeping the legs stretched and well apart at all time while dropping back to the void, with body weight serving as a puller. I was proud to have challenged myself with this unique invigorating experience. Now I know that rock climbing is for anyone reasonably fit who dares to try it. Just make sure that you start out with the right instructors.

Tags: Adrenaline

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