Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Rock Climbing in Railay: Not for me. And that’s okay.


“You’re a quittahhhh.”  The shirtless Australian climbing guru slash London investment banker draws out his insult slowly.

I take off my sunglasses and glare at him, my bloody eye still raging from the Muay Thai fight over a week ago*.

“That’s not the eye of a quittah,” he sheepishly replies.

I wanted to like rock climbing.  I really did. And I was in the best place in the world for it — Railay, home to the giant limestone cliffs you see on every advertisement for southern Thailand.  Rock climbing experts and beginners alike come to Railay to scale these gorgeous rocks.

Cody had introduced me and his friend Malin to two of his rock climbing friends, James and Pete. The two of them are hardcore climbers, spending much of their time in Railay.  Sadly, I had said goodbye to Matt the day before, who left for Iowa via longtail boat.

As soon as the rain cleared up, we rented equipment and staked out a cliff.  And I was up first.  Bottoms up!

I got up. And…I wasn’t enjoying it. Not one bit. Not one aspect.

I hated feeling the strain in my arms.  I didn’t like being flustered when I couldn’t find a new place to step.  And most of all, I was being tortured by my climbing shoes, which bind your feet tightly, keeping them slightly pointed.

Those SHOES! Climbing shoes are supposed to be extremely tight, and I understand that, but these were like a new form of cruel and unusual punishment!  I couldn’t even think because the shoes hurt so much!

Ironically enough, the heights factor didn’t bother me, which is most people’s problem.  Time passed. I climbed.  I rested.  I got frustrated — for one of the first times in my life, I was not enjoying one aspect of this experience.  When was it going to get better?

It didn’t get better. I remained halfway up the rock, completely miserable.

“You know, I’m done,” I said eventually.  “Bring me down.”  And I didn’t go back up, despite much encouragement and cajoling from my friends.

Let it be known that Adventurous Kate absolutely sucks at rock climbing.

This was the first real adrenaline-pumping adventure that I opted out of halfway through.  I’m not proud of it. In most circumstances, I’d go back and try again — here, I didn’t even want to get close to the cliffs again.

But I’m okay with it.  I tried and profoundly failed, but at least I tried.  It’s not like I haven’t done adventure activities before — I’ve jumped off a few cliffs in Switzerland, zip-lined through New Hampshire’s mountains, gone skinny-dipping in a few places that shall remain nameless.

Plus, I got punched in the face in the Muay Thai fight — and went on to fight two more rounds, even though I could barely see through my left eye.

You can’t say I’m a total embarrassment.

My friends climbed awesomely.  I hung out, cheered them on, played on my iPhone, took a stroll to the beach and back.

“Reach high!”  a nearby guide yelled.  “Put both hands in the crack and pull!”

That’s when I learned that rock climbing is the perfect sport for “That’s what he said”-isms.  I couldn’t hold back the giggles.

“You think that’s good?”  James asked, a wicked grin on his face.  “A lot of first-time climbers don’t realize how much the shoes protect them.  That’s why I say, ‘Just spread your legs and trust the rubber.’”

Ohhhhhh, there it is!” I crowed.

Rock climbing.  Maybe I could get to like this.

*The Muay Thai fight post is on its way.  It will be posted as soon as I’m able to upload the video.


31 Responses to “Rock Climbing in Railay: Not for me. And that’s okay.”
  1. You’re still a champion, dude. It takes balls to pull back and say, “You know what? Not this adventure. Not today.” Plus, way more important to dedicate your mind to glorious TWHS-isms.

  2. Those shoes are what I envision little Chinese girls are made to wear to keep their feet from growing!

    And everyone’s not meant to like everything. I, for once, cannot stand baseball (watching not playing it), though I was a college soccer and tennis player and love basketball and football to no end. But when my town’s team, the Giants, won the World Series this fall, I celebrated—not because they won, but because finally the four-month stretch each year where everyone shuts up about the sport had arrived!

  3. Lol, love the attitude of ready to try anything new… even if you ended up not liking it. ‘Just spread your legs and trust the rubber’ — gotta yell that in the gym one of these days.

  4. Annie says:

    I would venture to say that this is one of the first things in a long time that you haven’t enjoyed and that says a lot! You definitely earned your title and have continued to live up to it!

    Love ‘that’s what he said’ and miss those days when it fit into every conversation! Way to go and way to let yourself make an exception and not be afraid to admit that you weren’t enjoying it.

    PS. Can’t wait for the Muay Thai video! I have been wondering about it!

    • Hahaha, thanks, girl! And it’s been so hard to find decent, strong WiFi here. Even with strong WiFi, I need it to upload at least overnight. I hope I can find some soon — might not be until I go back to Ao Nang in mid-January.

  5. Amanda says:

    Well, not every adventure activity is for everyone! At least you tried it. Those shoes do sound like torture! But it sounds like you were able to enjoy your time at the cliffs anyway, even if you weren’t climbing them!

  6. Jack says:

    I too plan to try rock climbing when I visit Thailand and I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be mostly pain and little gain but I always thought it was a badass sport to tell people you’re into. Oh yeah, I’m a rock climber. Here’s hoping I enjoy it.

    You’re right though, some things just aren’t for everyone. I tried surfing in Hawaii and all I could ever manage was to turn my arms into noodles from paddling forever. Seriously, people like this? Heh. But now I’m a surfer, at least in the sense that I’ve done it, however poorly.

    • Thanks, Jack. Surfing is on my agenda for when I hit Bali. But that’s one sport I REALLY want to be good at…and I’m a bit nervous about because my right foot has these problems…any chance I can find a barefoot arch support in Indonesia?

  7. Erica says:

    While I hope to try rock climbing I can say without a doubt that I hate binding shoes. I wear flipflops 10 months out of the year so you can imagine that my feet are quite free.

    But all good Kate, every adventure is not for everyone. I can’t cliff dive due to crazy vertigo when I get near the edge of cliffs (and an insane fear of heights) so GO YOU!

  8. Dan Thompson says:

    Hey, at least you tried it!

    BTW, if you ever try it again… the super super tight shoes aren’t mandatory for beginners. Slightly snug is nice, but you won’t be able to realize the advantage of super tight over slightly snug until you’ve been climbing for a while. Might make your day a little more enjoyable next time. 😉


  9. Gillian says:

    It’s about trying everything you want to…you don’t have to love it in the end! Good job for giving it a shot!

  10. Rease says:

    I feel like traveling involves so much pressure to LOVE everything. I find it refreshing that you tried and were able to admit you were not a fan. You didn’t fail. You strapped on uncomfortable shoes and tried and it you simply didn’t like it. No shame in that. In Argentina they have these ridiculous dance clubs called Boliches that get hopping around 1am and stay open til about 6am. It’s a free for all grab ass dance fest. I’ve tried them and you know what? They suck. I don’t care if it’s a part of being Argentine, I’m not into it.

  11. Anthony says:

    Well at least you gave it a go, it’s not the end of the world. And OH GOD my morbid curiosity is getting the better of me and is dying to see the Muay Thai fight.

  12. Amy says:

    It’s cool, you don’t have to fall madly in love with every activity. I know I definitely don’t. I have to say, though, I did quite enjoy the indoor rock climbing I did earlier this year and I was skeptical at best beforehand. I couldn’t get all the way up the wall due to my knee limitations, but it was a really great feeling for me personally. Probably because after coming back from an injury where you are confined/limited for over a year, doing SOMETHING feels awesome! Actual climbing on real rocks might intimidate me, not to mention that my instructor was my good friend Erin and she was very sensitive to my fears and a very good cheerleader. Just from all the stuff Erin told me about climbing and the shoes, it sounds like yours were not the right size for you. They are supposed to be snug but not torture!

    Can’t wait to see the fight! 🙂

  13. Andi says:

    I don’t like skiing, don’t get it AT ALL. So, there ya go! To each their own. 🙂

  14. At least you tried it! And you know what, at least you know your limit. Both are valuable attributes :)…and I love this: “Just spread your legs and trust the rubber.”

  15. Better to try and fail…. and go get a beer and watch everyone else work their ass off. Isn’t that how that saying goes?

  16. Marsha says:

    Another honest post! Love that you’re self-aware enough to say that rock climbing isn’t for you. But at least you got to try it once and you’ve earned the right to say that you’ve been rock climbing in Railay.

  17. Jeremy B says:

    I give you credit for trying Kate. You probably weren’t that keen on the idea to start with but at least you overcame your hesitation and gave it a shot anyways. You can’t look back and wonder if you could have liked it if you tried. But at least you have a story to tell with your eye and your adventure! 🙂

  18. Gareth Sear says:

    Climbing in Railay. Love it. But, it’s not for everyone. As someone more worldly than me once said, better to regret trying something that to regret not trying something. That applied to me and bungy jumping. Never, ever, ever will I hurl myself off something high up with a bungey rope around my ankles. The MOST scary two seconds of my life. (apart from the 15 minutes standing in the platform building up to the jump). Never to be repeated. did not enjoy one iota of it. But climbing. Kate, try an indoor climbing wall one day if you want to get into it. Ralilay was a baptism of fire. You don’t need the supertight shoes that feel like they are choking your toes off your feet. Just snug, but why are climbers so into the masochism of these shoes? Mad. The best climbing I do is with a sug comfy pair of shoes.

    Well done to you for trying it out. What else is planned that you think you may not like?!

  19. Mandi says:

    Hahaha…love the honesty! Well, I suck at just about every sport imaginable but I’m like you—I’ll try anything once. I”ve never tried rock climbing because I prefer plane old hiking (you know, when you can sit and rest every once in a while and rarely find yourself dangling off the side of great big cliffs). Better luck on your next adventure! 🙂

  20. Kelsi says:

    I love this beach! Sorry to hear you didn’t like rock climbing. I still don’t know if I do since it started pouring down rain as soon as it was my turn to climb the rocks. 🙁 Another day.

  21. Josh says:

    found your site searching for railay rock climbing photos, im heading there in a week and im filling the time at my last week at work by searching google images for rock climbing in railay…*sigh* i cannot wait.
    thanks again you helped cheer up my day 🙂

  22. Elisa says:

    I disagree that you suck at climbing. The reason you didn’t enjoy your first experience climbing is because the people who took you there, your teachers, THEY SUCKED. They put you on routes that were too strenuous for you, a beginner, and got you frustrated. Additionally, NO, it is NOT TRUE that climbing shoes are meant to be punishingly tight. They’re meant to be a close fit, but comfortable. Like a glove. Your feet shouldn’t swim in them, but they should also not be hurting you, much less curling your toes in agony. Leave that for the hard core climbers doing weird gymnastics stuff. I’m sorry your climbing partners were more interested in showing off how “cool” they were as climbers than in making sure a new climber enjoyed the discovery of an awesome sport. May I suggest that next time you try climbing you go with a group of women? We tend to be more supportive, and far less competitive: we don’t need to “prove” we’re stronger, and thus can focus on making sure you’re welcomed into a wonderful activity.

    • You know, Elisa, I didn’t make it really clear in this post, but James and Pete were wonderful. They were very patient, very encouraging, and spent the day helping US climb instead of climbing themselves. I appreciated their kindness, and volunteering as teachers saved us a lot of money. Malin was a complete beginner as well, and Cody was an amateur, and they both did great.

      It just wasn’t for me. BUT — back in May I tried ice climbing in Iceland for the first time, and I did really well! I preferred it greatly to rock climbing.


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