The Ultimate Thrill: Rock climbing in and around South-East Asia
Answering from the Algerian Saharan desert, where the Wi-Fi is slow and the temperatures high, South African rock climber Gary Lowther shares his experiences seeking the rock climbing thrills of South East Asia and beyond. Gary spent three years living in Hong Kong and has travelled in Asia extensively. Here are his top rock climbing tips and favourite destinations:
How did you discover rock climbing as a passion?
I was very fortunate to be introduced to climbing through my late brother when I was
14 years old. My first day climbing was at Strubens Valley, in the west rand. After climbing on rock for the first time, I was sold for life. The energetic thrill of getting high on adrenaline and adventure has never left me.
Where are your best places to enjoy rock climbing around the world?
There are many places I still dream of going... The list is honestly endless but it depends on which continent you look at.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and generally it’s one of the more accessible places to find unique climbing abroad. I’ll list a few below:
China & Hong Kong
Liming, Yunnan, China - Best multi-pitch traditional destination with sandstone splitter cracks for days!
Yangshou, China - Sport climb. Limestone casts further than the eye can see. An awesome place!
Hong Kong: Some cool climbing but it's expensive. Lion Rock is the best spot!
Nam Pha Pa Yai Climbers Camp - It's a fairytale spot filled with butterflies. Enjoy deep water solo climbing above the river – there’s only zip line access to the crag. Own equipment required. There’s also spectacular kayaking.
Koh Yai Noi island - An awesome place with wild routes in a jungle setting, far off the beaten track.
Tonsai - Sport and deep water soloing. Be warned though - it’s overrun, dirty and dengue fever is rampant. Routes are mostly polished. There’s a cool beach setting and bars.
Badami, India - This place is the most touching experience ever! There's a guide with gear to hire but it's a mission. Not ideal for the faint hearted or school groups but the most legit experience!
Hampi, India - It’s cool for travellers keen on chilling in a beautiful setting. However, the rock is sharp and it's bouldering.
Locally, I love Waterval Boven in Mpumalanga and the Rocklands, 3 hours north of Cape Town.
Your favourite rock climbing destination?
I’d have to say Green Climbers home, Laos. It’s the ultimate mix of chilling and climbing to your heart’s content, where you're really away from it all. You can find the perfect break from reality and there’s no cellphone signal.
* Green Climbers Home is in Thakek, Laos - Lead Sport climbing, own equipment required.
Best tips for rock climbing travels?
Be prepared! Take your own gear including extra chalk. Consider doing courses to help you with rope work and techniques for improvement.
What’s on your rock climbing bucket list?
- El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, USA
- Red River Gorge, Kentucky, USA
- Siurana, Spain
- Chulilla, Spain
- Ceuse, France
- Verdon gorge, France
- Grampians, Australia
- Mt Roraima, Venezuela
What would you consider to be the best place for a rock climbing adventure in Asia?
If I go back, I would definitely go to Green Climbers home in Laos. Nam Pha Pai Yai in Thailand and Liming in China. Liming is more of a hardcore ‘wild west’ mission for traditional climbers – more advanced fitness is required.
If rock climbing is a little too extreme for your liking, then why not join us for our upcoming
Flight Centre Foundation Kilimanjaro Climb in March? At an altitude of 5, 895 meters it is still no walk in the park.
Kilimanjaro is more than just climbing the highest mountain in Africa. It’s about an adventure with a group of people putting aside their differences to achieve a common goal and dream. It’s about pushing your mind and body to new limits in a strange and exciting place. It’s about the thrill and satisfaction of finally living your dreams. But remember that although Kilimanjaro is an easily accessible mountain, it is still at altitude. The way to make Kilimanjaro a truly special trip is to be physically and mentally prepared. It can be one of the most rewarding or most difficult things that you ever do so please don’t underestimate this beautiful mountain.
Join us in giving the gift of reading and climb #Kili4Kids. Through their #Kiki4Kids climb, Flight Centre Foundation hopes to raise R800,000 to build a library for Qhobosheane Primary School in Soweto.