"Climb the mountain not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world." - David McCullough Jr
- by Viengdalat Somphet
To the left, to the left,’ shouted Adam, one of the local instructors, as I struggled up the limestone wall. I looked up and saw the strangely shaped rock he was directing me to.
‘It’s too far. I can’t reach it,’ I shouted back without looking down.
‘Jump up, put your hand there,’ he yelled again. My heart was in my mouth and there was no way I was going to listen to his insane instructions.
Fear or fatigue began to overwhelm me and my hands and legs started to tremble as I fought to hold on against the pull of gravity, a single rope attached to my harness.
‘Jump,’ he urged, ‘go for that rock.’ I took a deep breath, eyes fixed on the rock. I can’t give up, I thought. I leaped, stretching my hand out as far as I could. Disbelief as I felt my palm slap against the cold limestone surface. But relief was short-lived as my right foot was unable to find a toehold. I lost balance and slipped from the wall.
‘Falling,’ I screamed in panic as I went into a freefall. The next thing I knew I was dangling like a doll on a rearview mirror.
‘Good try Bee!’ Adam looked up with a smile as he lowered me down. Fear had been replaced by an adrenaline rush and I was ready to give it another go.
It was my first time climbing limestone walls at Tham None Cave (Sleeping Cave) in Vang Vieng. It was a terrifying, yet exciting experience. I explored nearby Pha Tang wall the next day and the climb was breath-taking. The wall is higher and more challenging, but the reward was priceless.
I was first introduced to rock climbing as an undergraduate at NUS, Singapore. A friend, an outdoors junkie, invited me to join a mountaineering club called Make It Real, which organizes adventure trips called Technical Mountaineering Courses to places in India, Nepal, China and some European countries. Unlike other outdoor clubs, classes, knowledge of rock climbing, proper training, and physical checkups are compulsory.
Rock climbing is a demanding sport, physically and mentally, requiring total coordination between mind and all parts of the body. It is also a considerably dangerous sport. Though there are different levels of challenges and difficulties, it is not limited by age or gender. ‘It’s all about the technique,’ said Virender, my instructor in India. ‘It’s a mechanism of your whole body movement.’ The joy of climbing is, of course, to overcome one’s inner fear and limitations. The feeling of conquest is intangible yet overpowering and that is the best part about climbing.
Reaching the top gives you a new perspective of the world and yourself. All the pain and hard work is worth it. And the bonus is the stunning view. Yes, there are risks and challenges to every climb, but I can’t wait for my next adventure.
Rock Climbing in Laos
Rock climbing is done in Thakhek and Vang Vieng. Before starting it’s important to do a climbing course. Experienced climbers can hire equipment at these places.
Green Climbers Home (GCH) is a joint venture between Green Discovery and Germans Tanja and Uli Weidner. Established in 2011, it brings a new dimension to outdoor adventure in Laos.
Located at the base of the climbing area Pha Tam Kham, GCH has 10 bungalows, a 12-bed dormitory and a camping site. Hot showers and comfortable beds are included!
GCH offers 272 routes with tufas, sintering and face climbing, at various levels of challenge appealing to both, the beginner and the advanced climber.
Green Climbers Home, Ban Kuanpavang, Thakhek
Tel: (+856)-20-5966-7539; 5966-7532; 5610 5622; (020) 5542-3952
Green Discovery Laos Tel: (+856)23 511 230
Adam’s Climbing School Ban Viengkeo, Vangvieng Tel: (+856)20 5501-0832; 020 5899 1946