An idea turning into a stroke of Luck
She told me about Thakhek and Green Climbers Home, a scenic rock climbing area 15 km away from town. To give you an idea, the landscape looks like a lot the islands in Southern Thailand…although there is no ocean.
Susanna was looking for a partner to climb with from the 25th of November. Fortunately she already had her own climbing equipment. Therefore if I join her I would only have to rent a climbing harness. I was really interested about this new opportunity to develop my outdoor sport skills, but I couldn’t say “Yes” straight away. We were only November 8th and I didn’t have any clue about where I want to go next.
However Universe helped me a lot to work it out. After Susanna and I separated, I went to Muang Ngoy for a couple of days. It was wonderful but I felt I had to go back to Nong Khiaw, so I did. In the slow boat on the way back a fellow traveller told me about a nice and cheap backpackers in town. There I found a new group of people: Lisa, Patrick, Sam, Tahmee and Melanie.
I start telling them about my travels as well as my intention to go rock climbing with Susanna in the area of Thakhek. Lisa and Patrick started opening wide their eyes: these two are also planning to go rock climbing in Thakhek around November 23rd. Nonetheless I don’t confirm anything for the same reason. I like to travel alone or for a short time with one or a few people and I don’t want to follow other people plans. 2O days all together are too much for me so I prefer not saying a word.
I have a good feeling with Sam, an English backpacker passionate about history, civilizations and other important intellectual topics in order to understand better our past and present world as well as misunderstood topics and theories. Since we have common interests and matching point of views, we will travel together.
Splitting and getting back together more than once!
All six together go first to Luang Prabang for a couple of days. Then, Sam and I separate from the group to go to Phonsavan. Both of us want to explore the plain of Jars: a poorly understood archaeological site. We choose to skip Vang Vieng and Ventiane unlike the rest of the group because these two cities are not what we are looking for.
Keo, our host in Phonsavan, tells us about an upcoming event: Hmong New Year. That was a real stroke of luck because we didn’t know anything about this celebration. After five days here we got a bus to go straight to Thakhek (the road wasn’t as bas as Luang Prabang-Phonsavan but the quality of air inside the bus was terrible with a lot of dust).
The following day we meet Lisa and Patrick in town. They were already staying at Green Climbers Home for a couple of days and we would have joined them if another event wasn’t occur. Surprisingly Tahmee and Melanie are on their way to Thakhek in order to do The Loop with us the next morning! Change of plan, we will first do the Loop and then we will go rock climbing at Green Climbers Home with Patrick, Lisa, Sam and I. The loop was a great four days adventure by motorbike. If you want to read more about you should have a closer look at my concerning this saga. After The Loop, Melanie and Tahmee leave us to go to Pakse. We will see each other again in Don Det as well as in Cambodia by pure hazard in Siem Reap.
Green Climbers Home: Shortest stories are the best!
We are November 29th. The Tuk-Tuk driver asks us to pay 40 000 kip each to drive us from the town centre to Green Climbers Home. It’s not worth getting one at this price. Instead we prefer going back to the rental shop to get 2 motorbikes for two days. Driving by night is a little bit scary in Asia but the outside of town is only 10 minutes away.
Once at Green Climbers Home, we join Susanna and Sarah (one of the two Susanna’s climbing partners) to discuss about our climbing intentions for the next day. We haven’t rented our equipment yet but we can do it tomorrow from 6am. Rock Climbers Home is divided in 23 sectors with a growing number of routes (150 when I was there) between 4 to 8b grade and up to 9a for “The Roof” sector. “Elephant” is one of those sectors and offers many nice climbs as well as a wide range of difficulty from 4A to 7C+ grade if my memory doesn’t trick me.
Patrick, Lisa and Sam are beginners. They had only climbed indoor or bouldering in a gym and this is their first time on a rock. Therefore I mostly lead the routes when the grade becomes harder than 5B-5C otherwise Patrick leads them. After Tonsai in Thailand where I only climbed routes between 6A to 6C grade, I don’t struggle too much. Nonetheless I’m very focused on my moves to avoid a deadly or if not dangerous mistake.
One characteristic of the rock sometimes makes those climbing routes harder: the rock can be really sharp. “ Yes! I found a big jug!” can become a painful experience for your hands if you have too much enthusiasm in your moves. The good point is your feet can use every surfaces, you will always find enough grip somewhere. Therefore Green Climbers Home is a good place to start developing or using your technical climbing skills such as balance, body and feet placement instead of your hands. Since I only have an intermediate level and because Sam has never belayed before (making me nervous quite often) I didn’t try something harder than a 6a+.
Green Climbers Home is also well known for one of its sectors named “The Roof”. This is a 10 m overhanging roof 20m above ground level. Watching experienced climbers making a 7C+ route in one go was really impressive. I’m not sure I will get such a level…Perhaps some days, when I will have developed a burning passion for climbing and concede more time to this outdoor activity.
Fortunately there is another roof more accessible for people like me. “The roof for beginner” is a 6A grade route but some moves are a bit tricky. The first time I couldn’t finish it (I was exhausted after leading 5 routes in the morning) but after lunch, I made it twice: I lead it and then I cleaned the route. It was good fun.
I finish my day with an eighth route: “Mr Methan’s warm up”, a 6A+ climb with good grip for your feet but small hold for your fingers. Sam was belaying me and he turned this 6A+ climb into a 6B+: I was really scared when I had to pull hard the slack that wasn’t coming fast enough to clip the rope in the quick draw. “Hopefully I won’t fall, hopefully I won’t fall”. My fear was even more justified when I could see he wasn’t holding the end of the rope for a fraction of second by moment!!! I made the climb to the top but after this terrifying experience I didn’t try anything harder than this 6A+ route with Sam.
The next morning Sam and I borrow Sarah and Susanna’s equipment since they take a day off. It’s really kind of them. After breakfast we go with Lisa and Patrick to a different spot behind the “White Wall” sector. This one offers long climbing routes on a really sharp rock between 4c to 5b grade. After a good briefing about safety, Sam belays me but this time his gesture follows way better my moves. I’m proud of him…after yelling at him yesterday! However we find the routes harder than what the grade heralds. Our hands are really sour not from holding but only touching the rock. Later early in the afternoon when somebody asks me if I want to climb a 6B top rope I prefer to decline. I’m not sure I could finish it (and I have to leave soon too). My whole body is sour from my intense climbing session yesterday and my hands need a rest. Instead, I teach Sam how to lead climb on a 4A: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friends”. He liked it a lot and understood better why it’s important to maintain a visual contact with the climber instead of his hands. It’s already two in the afternoon when we leave Green Climbers Home to go back to Thakhek.
I must go back in town to extend my Visa for a couple of days. If I can’t, I may overstay one day and pay a $10 fee… As you might know if you were following my tweets, I couldn’t extend my visa! Luckily I could negotiate with the immigration office since this one did a mistake when I entered the country with a Visa stamped until December 2nd 2015!
About Green Climbers Home
Green Climbers Home is a German owned and managed rock-climbing school in partnership with Green Discovery opened since 2011. 95% of the climbers coming here speak German and drink sparkling water. Eating at Green Climbers Home is delicious after 3 weeks of terrible and small Lao food portion! The bathrooms are well equiped with hot water showers, sinks, mirrors and proper toilets.
You can either stay in a private bungalow, a dorm or a tent. With Sam we chose the last and cheapest option. We had a tent Solewa Denali II. This tent has a good design and a proper air vent design to avoid condensation but I wouldn’t go trekking with. Indeed this tent needs many pegs to stand properly. Moreover the Denali II doesn’t offer enough room to cook underneath the tent if it’s raining and windy.