My last post left off with me leaving Colorado on my way to Hong Kong and eventually Thailand. In Colorado I got a great tour of all that Southern Colorado has to offer. It definitely gets less attention than the areas to the north and west, but there really is some amazing climbing down there (including one of the best ~V14 projects I’ve ever seen). After 2 months in chilly Colorado, (the included video of me on Walk Softly makes Colorado look much warmer than it actually was, its just that I climb in shorts in almost all conditions), arriving on the beaches of Thailand felt surreal. Normally beaches, and oftentimes the types of people you find at beaches bore me to death. However, when you put large limestone cliffs on tropical beaches with delicious Thai food right next to them, it makes a beach vacation much more appealing.
The climbing in Thailand was quite good, but I wouldn’t call it world class. It’s incredibly fun climbing, and the rock (limestone) is great (lots of tufas, stalactites, fairly comfy pockets). However, the routes are on the shorter side, and the hard climbing there is somewhat limited. Nonetheless, I had a blast climbing there. I definitely didn’t climb my best after spending the previous 5 months only bouldering, but climbing with a shirt off in the middle of winter was really my main goal on the trip.
My second to last day in Thailand I went out deep water soloing. Deep water soloing was far and away what I was most excited to try on the trip. We took a boat out about 30 minutes off the coast of Tonsai, to a series of islands and limestone stacks. The first climb I got on was a traversing 5.10 that started on a massive stalactite that reached down to the water. Despite knowing I had no chance of falling, I was still quite tense. This is likely because my only soloing experiences were slabby yet nerve wracking 5.4’s done to approach sport climbs, as I have explained to everyone who’s ever asked me if I do “that 60 minutes free climbing stuff”.
After a few roughly 35 feet tall 5.11’s, all on immaculate if a bit slippery, limestone I began to feel more comfortable with deep water soloing. Yet, at no point did I feel like I was going to fall. As fun as climbing up easier routes then jumping off was, I felt like I was cheating myself of the real deep water soloing experience. I needed to do something I might actually fall on. This thought process lead me to get on a 13d on the left side of the wall (which was, I believe, established by David Lama a few years ago). The previous, easier climbs had given me a bit of false confidence, and I quickly found myself 45 feet up. It was at this point that I heard everyone in our boat screaming “Right! Right!”. Thinking they were giving me beta, I began looking for holds to the right, and not seeing any I paused. That’s when I looked down to see that they were actually shouting at a boat full of tourists that were passing almost directly beneath me. This definitely threw me off, and after a few nerve wracking seconds the boat passed.
At this point I thought of jumping down, but decided to continue up, as I had only about 20 feet to go. Yet a few moves later, I misread a sequence, and found myself peeling away from the wall. Immediately there was a sinking feeling in my chest, as I knew I was slowly rotating sideways. I slammed into the water on my side, one leg pointing straight up into the air. In the seconds after I landed, all the deep water soloing horror stories I had heard of collapsed lungs, broken backs, and ruptured spleens flooded into my head. I didn’t even know where the nearest hospital was, but it definitely involved at least 2 boat rides, and I have what I would consider a fairly rational fear of foreign hospitals. I felt like I couldn’t breath, and my side definitely hurt. In retrospect, the not being able to breath was likely because all this was happening under water. As soon as I surfaced, and found I could still swim and breath. By the time I climbed back into the boat, I realized the only damage I had from my roughly 50 foot fall was a large, multicolored bruise.
After Thailand, I returned to Squamish for the remaining winter and spring, which I’ll cover in my next blog post. Currently I’m putting the final touches on a 1 and a half month trip Israel, Spain, and France, a smorgasbord of sport climbing, eating, and sun.