Tuesday, 15 April 2014


We may be back in the UK, it may be several weeks since we were in Laos... But, since we had a great time in Laos and since it is also a major area in South East Asian climbing I thought I had better write a little something about it. We got a very long, non-air-conditioned, but very inexpensive local bus from Pakse to Thakhek after our fabulous jaunt around the Bolaven Plateau. From the medium sized town of Thakhek we managed, with a bit of bartering, to get a tuk-tuk – or they might call them remourks in Laos – to the Green Climbers Home for about 100 (x 1,000) Kip. We arrived quite late and after our long journey we were very happy to be there. We were also a couple of days ahead of schedule, which meant we were in a tent for the first night. All we could manage that night was to get some tasty food, to drink a beer and hit the hay.

Green Climbers Home
Me and Cat taking a trip to town
The Green Climbers Home is a small village of bungalows built around a bar/restaurant which has been set up and is run by a German couple. I’m not sure exactly when it was set up, but I think it must have been around for at least a few years. It has definitely made it onto the South East Asian climbing circuit as many, maybe even most, of the climbers we had met previously had either been there or were going there. It’s about 12km from Thakhek and is set back away from the road and so feels very isolated, and in fact, we found getting into town could be a bit tricky. There are no cooking facilities, and everyone who visits buys their meals from the restaurant and is cooked by the Laos staff. On the whole the food was really good, and is reasonably priced at around 20 – 30 (x 1,000) Kip. The bungalows are excellent, being very clean and spacious with a big attached toilet/shower room and great balconies.

Climbing on our second day
The roof, me climbing Small World
Climbing at Thakhek, a 7a
Climbing... There’s quite a bit to go at. On our first day we went to the sector called World Trip, one of the less than horizontal sectors, where we did an amazing 7a, Mr Keo, and I almost flashed a technical 7c+ but blew it on the final hard move, even after wildly launching sideways in a desperate bid to latch some distant jugs that are probably on another route. The showpiece of the area, however, is the MASSIVE roof, which is almost totally horizontal for what must be getting on for 15 metres. Cat was on an awesome 7a called Nid Toi Nid Moi on the left hand end of these roofs. This had one tricky section low down pulling through a bunch of roofs and then another higher up pulling through a load more. Cat took a little time working out the lower crux and had brief gander at the upper section before... succumbing to Thakhek tummy.

Sadly our time at the GCH was marred by the worst sickness we encountered in all of our time in South East Asia, worse even than Tonsai. From what I gather, shortly before we arrived everyone started getting sick and would be knocked out of action for a few days at least. We were both to suffer from this sickness, Cat especially, and it seemed to still be striking people down for the whole time we were there. I hope that they soon got the situation under control, because it was a big problem. It reminded me of a trip to Lundy a few years ago where the norovirus made an appearance, and once it had it was impossible to get rid of it, with the arrival of fresh people every week preventing it from running its course. In the end they had to shut down the island for a week.

Sticky Dog
Sam fighting his way up a 7a
Cat's last day climb
To Cat’s frustration she wasn’t able to get back on Nid Toi Nid Moi again, since she was only just beginning to recover towards the end of our stay at Thakhek. In the meantime I climbed with Karl and Rene, doing a few routes through the mega-roof, and checking out a few other good sectors like Hangover. I did have a dabble on an 8a+ at the World Trip sector. This had some great and tough climbing along the lip of a small roof involving a complex sequence of knee bars. I was shut down in the next section by an impossible clip, well impossible for me. Frustrated, I eventually give up on this project not having the guts to take the run-out.

Amazing lake through a cave
Me and Rene about to hit the road

Overall, I think we would both agree that Thakhek has got some great climbing and that the GCH has got a fairly good setup. We were sad though, having missed out on so much there due to illness. Cat was just starting to recover on our last day there and we went for a climb at the Hilton sector, where Cat made a casual flash of a good 6c, which was at least a nice way to finish our stay. I can’t write this without mentioning Sticky Dog, the local dog that has attached herself to the GCH. She’s named this because she’ll follow you around everywhere. She is one nice dog, Cat was exploring possible ways of taking Sticky Dog with us.

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