Cut off from the Thai Mainland by soaring limestone headlands, Railay is a highly sought beach and climbing destination. Featuring a plethora of lightly graded sport routes bolted on deliciously three-dimensional terrain, the tropical peninsula is an idyllic destination to combine an active sport climbing vacation with lazy beach afternoons. Over the last few years, hundreds of climbers have flocked to the region to enjoy world-class climbing in this Asia region, a relaxed atmosphere, and unbeatable natural surroundings.
Between Krabi and Ao Nang, Railay is a small peninsula that juts out into the Andaman Sea in the South of Thailand. The area is isolated from the mainland by the scenic limestone cliffs that attract an array of varied climbers from across the globe. It is also a popular destination for those who are looking for a quiet beach vacation due to the picturesque white sand beaches, the warm weather, the modestly priced resorts, and the chilled atmosphere.
Railay has attracted the attention of many travelers and bloggers over the last couple of decades. When it was first discovered by the tourism industry, it was a quiet and modest community, however, if you visit during peak season these days, you will struggle to take a beach photo without crowds filling the foreground. Many climbers and backpackers will flock to Ton Sai which is a little more remote, but can still get quite busy. Railay is still a beautiful and serene place to visit, but do just be aware that you will not be alone.
Aside from sun-tanned beach-bathers, Railay attracts a huge number of climbers every year. Thailand, in recent years, has tried to expand its tourism beyond the Full Moon Parties and stereotypes that being Southeast Asian imposes.
Climbing has become ever more popular worldwide, and Thailand has successfully boarded the train. Climbers in Railay can enjoy gentle tropical jungle hikes, warm sand beaches at the foot of the limestone crags, cold local beers to cool off their burning fingers, and turquoise waters to relax in after a hard day of sending.
The primary discipline is sports climbing, and there are more than 1000 routes to keep climbers of all abilities occupied for a lifetime. The limestone cliffs are unique due to the geology of the coastal regions in Southern Thailand. A number of natural factors, including the combination of saltwater and freshwater, the warm tropical weather, and the vitamin-rich soil all work together to dissolve the rock face in a way that makes the rock appear to be melting. This opens up the possibility for many overhanging climbs with prominent and three-dimensional features.
There are over 1000 sports routes bolted throughout the small peninsula. Most of these fall into the 5a to 8c range, which is easy enough for beginners to try outdoor climbing (recommended with a guide) and hard enough for moderate and experienced climbers to challenge themselves and develop their skills further.
The corrosive nature of the environment factors heavily into the rapid corrosion of the titanium bolts that are used to protect the routes. The saltwater-rich air and the heavy strain of overuse mean a lot of the bolts are questionable to rely on. While there is a big rebolting effort, it is a slow process, so it is worth enquiring with local guides in climbing schools and climbing stores about the conditions before beginning your climbs. It is also worth knowing how to spot dangers in bolts and maybe taking some trad gear with you should you have to protect yourself without relying on a bolt that you don’t trust.
Railay is primarily a sports climbing destination, however, scaling the side of the dramatic limestone cliffs, eager trad climbers can enjoy many multi-pitch routes. Many of the multi-pitch routes are bolted, much like the sport routes, which allows you to focus on the technical moves and less on the equipment, also reducing the size of your climbing rack.
While there is huge potential for bouldering in Railay, the scene is yet to become developed. You will find any low-hanging and pumpy roof routes that are a great way to train on wet days, alongside numerous long traverses that sit close to the ground. However, being primarily a sport climbing destination, these are mostly used for warming up and training for the more popular discipline. Boulder problems tend not to top out, and so dismounting requires either jumping or downclimbing.
Deep water soloing is another popular climbing style in Railay, and several schools have established deep water soloing sites which they regularly check for underwater obstacles and dangers. The discipline has been somewhat controversial in the region, being technically banned in the national parks, which drives the DWS scene underground. It is worth mentioning that if you intend to DWS, do try and seek out expert advice for your safety, or at least take snorkeling gear with you to thoroughly examine the area before committing to a climb.
As you can see, there is such a huge range of different types of climbing to keep you busy day in and out. Should you decide to throw in a rest day in between, you can do some recovery workouts by the beach and just enjoy a nice mocktail or beer watching the sunset, before hitting the rocks the next day again!
There are several Krabi rock climbing schools in the area, such as the Hot Rock Climbing School and Krabi Rock Climbing. One thing that they all try to make apparent is that it is completely accessible to climb in Railay as a beginner, however, they all recommend hiring a guide if this is the case. While it is not essential to have a guide, you will find that you feel somewhat pressured to hire one, regardless of your climbing abilities.
Beginners with a guide can enjoy the secure feeling of a professionally set up top rope and a certified belayer to ensure their safety. Many of the routes are very three-dimensional, and dependable and intuitive holds are abundant throughout the region.
Most of the routes are graded using the French system and fall within the 5a to 8c range. It is not the ideal destination for professionals to train for competitions, however, for the moderately experienced and for those who are just starting, there is plenty to keep you occupied.
This popular classic features an awesome dyno to a stalactite, either possible with a huge stretch and swing, or a dramatic jump. The rest of the route is fun and easy climbing with interesting moves across some beautiful and unique shapes.
This classic multi-pitch route is considered one of the best multi-pitch routes in the world. The 121m five-pitch route offers unbeatable views across the peninsula.
A continuously pumpy sport route across 21m of overhanging limestone with stellar views of the landscape. If you want a nice refreshed type of route, you got to try this Orange Juice route.
A fun, easy, and exposed 27m sport route on a gentle overhang. This is a great warm-up route on the Thaiwand Wall but can be quite busy.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished – 6b+
This moderate 24m sports route includes an overhanging roof, a traverse, and a steep upward climb. It shares the beginning moves with a popular multi-pitch route called The Marlin.
All in all, Railay island is definitely a must visit for rock climbers all around the world to escape to for a great getaway of climbing, great food, beach life and relaxing. Looking forward to head over there again after the pandemic ends!Last updated on Jul 7, 2021
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