Thursday, 15 November 2012

Climbing at Crazy Horse, Chiang Mai

After a day of doing nothing, following Jackie's Tiger experience (other than me getting my hair cut at the local barbers - very nice guy, gave Jackie some water while she waited and gave me a great haircut - all for 30Baht (about 60p). I gave him 40Baht and he seemed thrilled!), we decided to go climbing on Wednesday.

Jackie had looked on the internet before we left the UK and had identified an apparently excellent climbing area near Chiang Mai called Crazy Horse. It's natural limestone and has been fully bolted by the CMRCA, which is the local Chiang Mai climbing club, with over 100 routes from French grade 4 to at least 8a+ (if not higher - we just didn't look, its so far above our grade of 6a/6b). CMRCA started with a group of climbers in 2002 and has since grown to quite a big concern offering its own bouldering wall and climbing courses, as well as transport to and from the Crazy Horse crag.

We dropped by their shop (about 20minutes walk from our hotel) on Tuesday afternoon and arranged to go out with them on Wednesday. For 250Baht each (£5) we get transport right to and from the crag with lunch and water. We hired a guide book for an additional 250Baht, which seemed a bit steep as we could have bought one for 500 (but then we'd have to carry it with us in NZ), but it made finding the climbs easy.

The drive in the back of a van, with bench seats either side, took about 40 minutes and we were with a really nice American couple who live in Utah, a couple of girls from California (one who turned out to be a great climber!), plus a French couple and two other youngish guys. In another truck were some guides taking other people on a climbing course.

When we arrived at the crag we found out why its called Crazy Horse:
Crazy Horse crag. Well, it certainly looks like a Crazy Horse to me!
There were 8 or 10 climbing areas, all within 10 minutes walk of the car park, we chose the main Crazy Horse buttress for our mornings climbing and seemed to bond with the Utah couple, climbing alongside one another, swapping climbs during the day and offering advice on climbs we had done. The limestone is just fantastic and has been sculptured by nature into magnificent shapes, making the climbing an absolute joy, with the security of the bolts taking away any danger (we know this would be sneered at by our British purists!). Here's a picture that really shows the area off:
The amazing natural shapes at Crazy Horse
We did two easy (but very interesting) climbs to start around the 5b grade and then decided to up our grade to a 6a, which turned out to be a BIG step! It was very much harder, made more difficult by polish on the fairly well used route. It was a classic route, recommended to us, called Ayah! and has 2 stars and 11 bolts on a 21m high route. The first 2 bolts are intense, quite slippery holds on vertical rock with small finger holds, but after that it got better and the remainder of the route was great, with a final crux near the top. Great route. Jackie led it first and her finger gripping on the tiny holds of the first two bolts, caused her some pain. From the bottom I heard quite a loud 'crack' and Jackie had quite a bit of pain from the third finger on her right hand. Today it's swollen and we think she has damaged a tendon (maybe have to strap it and/or try not to use that finger for a few weeks/months. I did something similar a year or so ago and it took a long time to heal - but didn't stop me from climbing, just strapped it with tape).

Alongside were the 2 girls from California, climbing a 6b called Magic drop - wow, what a route! Neither of us would want to do that, but it looked fantastic and really hard. We decided 6a, maybe 6a+ would be our limit here! We did another 5b climb on the run up to lunchtime and then headed back to the carpark for an excellent lunch!
Getting ready for lunch (note my haircut!)
Jackie (left) at the top of The Muppet Show (5b) with our Utah friends alongside

 In the afternoon we headed round to two other crags, Tamarind Village and Little Monkey Cove and did 5 more climbs, one of them a 6a+ called Monkey Monkey that had Jackie seemingly at the top of her level. It was an 11m high pitch with 7 bolts, the crux being at at the 3rd and 4th bolt. Jackie couldn't reach the third bolt without making a difficult move, only protected by the second bolt about 2m below her (4m fall potential!). It took her a while, but she did it, only to be faced with another difficult move before she could clip number 4, there was a final crux right at the top, just as you thought all problems were over (the sting was in the tail)!

I pondered whether to use Jackie's top rope, but decided to pull the rope through and lead it myself properly. I heard Jackie's protests when I discovered I could reach and clip the third and 4th clips, so protecting myself before I had to make the move. She thought I should do it again without first clipping, but I decided 'no!'. However I found the climbing between the 3rd and 4th clip really hard and was very grateful I had clipped. Well done Jackie I say!

The other routes we did were equally as interesting, a 6a chimney climb that Jackie loved (chimney climbs are not usually liked in the UK as they are damp, dark, cold and moss covered, but in this climate it was a joy! Was still hot though even in there and I was running with sweat as I 'bridged' up it) and a really nice arette climb called Samurai (5b) that had quite a lot of exposure.

We loved the place, as did all the others. They were going back today and we may go again later in the week if Jackie's finger is OK. It certainly is a great place and so much to do at any standard!

We were back 'home' by 6:00pm, then out for a great meal and a few beers. We found a place that actually serves up spicy hot, proper Thai curry's. Jackie asked the owner if she would cook me a proper Thai 'Jungle Curry' if we went back again. She agreed and then bought me a fish sauce with chilli's for the meal we had ordered. It was dynamite! I only had a couple of small pieces of chilli and sauce and it was an explosion in my mouth - wow! I told her I still want her curry, but I'll probably cry! She said 'no problem', she will supply tissues. That's tonight then - I'm getting nervous already, I think I might prefer the 6b climb those girls were climbing!

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