Deep Water Free Solo – Ton Sai

Posted on July 31, 2013

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Afternoon Climb

Author’s Note: This post is part of a long trip I took in December, 2012, which involved South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. You can get more acquainted with the trip by clicking on this link.

One thing I have always wanted to do is deep-water free-solo climbing. This is the act of rock climbing without ropes on a crag that is above deep water, so if you fall, you hit the water. I climb to descend, and because cliff jumping is one of my favorite activities, climbing to jump off what you climbed is pretty awesome. John and I spent a day on rock and in water with Ton Sai Basecamp, making for one of the best days of the year of 2012.

Crag 1

Crag 1

The other wall at the first zone

The other wall at the first zone

John was unsure he would have much fun since he had never climbed outside of a gym before, but with a little coaxing, he got right up a route I would struggle on for a while. He was an animal!

John getting ready to jump in

John getting ready to jump in

Getting onto the rock

John mid-jump

All smiles after the plunge

All smiles after the plunge

I got pretty pumped after struggling on the ladders out of the water and then climbing as hard as possible despite not being on rock for more than one route in 3 months, but luckily the trip included a lunch break at a hidden beach on the tiny island we were climbing on. We quickly made friends with a group of Austrians we were climbing with; the sole male of the group was really happy to hang out with a couple of dudes for the first time during his whole trip.

Lunchtime view

Lunchtime view

Pretty awesome spot

Pretty awesome spot

The second zone we climbed at separated the climbers from the watchers. One of the guides scurried up both of the moderate routes, and then jumped about 12 meters into the water. Everyone in the boat was a little intimidated, but I jumped in the kayak and headed towards the ladder, refreshed from the delicious Thai lunch.

Higher and higher

Higher and higher at the second zone

Up the wall at zone 2

Topped out

Closer to the top

Taking the big plunge

I was pretty happy with taking the initiative to be the first out of the boat, and to get higher than everyone else in the boat except for the guide. I wasn’t stoked when I hit the water a little off and pulled my groin, however, which ended my climbing for the day. Everyone else eventually got a turn on the rock too, including John. The route was totally do-able, but everyone was a little too nervous on the jump to make it further than John in the second photo below.

Topping out

John looking sharp

En route to the water

Blurry John jumping in

We called it a day and headed back to Ao Nang for more Thai Pancakes and to drink some Chang Beer with our new Austrian friends. We ended the day meeting some street vendors, quickly enticed by our enthusiasm to “eat something so spicy we cry.” We were damn close to crying, and would return to that food stand every night for the following 2 nights at Ao Nang. This part of the trip was definitely a dream come true, and I would recommend it to anyone who is remotely interested in rock climbing and likes to have fun with great people and great guides.

Headed back after a great day on rock

Headed back after a great day on rock

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