Where the cliffs meet the sea……Tonsai’s the place to be.

I had heard the rumours and the stories for years and never thought much of what I had heard. I had also heard that you had to stand in line and you had to get ill to be initiated into the fold. All of these things had put me off really jumping in the deep end and heading for one of Southeast Asia’s prime locations. However, I am here and it is now. I am standing on Tonsai Beach in Thailand preparing to do my first route in this tiny but very popular climbing spot.

Tonsai Beach…………beautiful!

I have tied in and Jean-Christophe (JC) is on belay and I am heading up “Lal Bab” 7a+ (24). The route looked like fun and I like having fun. While I step up onto the limestone I realise that all the stories are true. The rock is incredibly polished, the heat is oppressive and the humidity and spooginess increases the grades ever so slightly, but I didn’t have to wait in line to get on the route. What a great way to start my time here.

The author clipping some Titanium on “Lal Bab” 7a+ (24).
Gordon Fraser post crux on “Lal Bab” 7a+ (24).

The day started with a great coffee at the Time To Chill Coffee House run by Kun and his mum and dad. Mama and Papa are ageless. No one knows how old they are, they just know they are ancient and truly “good humans”. Every morning I would walk in and be welcomed with a happy demeanour and the phrase “two coffee, no sugar, no milk…..same same! It always brought a smile to my face and made the day perfect.

Kun smiling happily as he whips up a hot cocoa at Time To Chill Coffee House.

Nights consisted of a 7:30pm meet at Mama Chicken for a group meal and talk about our days and laugh incessantly about all our cultural differences. This was a treat for all of us as we tested each others limits with jibes and stabs at each others countries, cultures and beliefs. On average there were seven nations represented and although english was the spoken language, most of the group were bilingual, so it was always a delight to hear Spanish and French thrown about freely.

About 6pm every night the Reggae music started in all bars. Given all of the wonderful music available on this wondrous planet, I just happened to be in a place where every single bar played the same style of music. Probably because a lot of people were too stoned to realise they had heard it all the night before. I suppose short term memory loss from smoking pot helps venue owners with playlists. They just hit shuffle and everyone is none the wiser……I just simply don’t like Reggae.

“On The Cans” with an Aussie climbing mate at Freedom Bar……….yep! Its right on the beach.

The climbing here is great, with a range of seriously good routes on offer. Unfortunately if you are not climbing 6a (18) the options are very limited for you. You can watch all the “rock stars” climbing on the beach, dangling their way up some of the classics of the area. “Tonsai Playboy” and “Lal Bab” both 7a+ (24) are always crowd favourites and “Tidal Wave” 7b+ (26) always has draws on it, so jump in line for a shot at the prize.

Lucho pulling out of the crux on Cara Congreso 8b (31).

Tyrollean Wall offered some ok routes on average rock, however “Sit Spins” and “Missing Snow” at 6b+ (20) are fabulous routes and engaging from the start. Wild Kingdom has a heap of pretty fair climbing. I have to say “Freedom Safari” 7a (23) and “Overstay” 6b+ (20) are fantastic pumpy fun with super good movement. Karine also videoed an awesome send of “Cara Congreso” 8b (31) by our newfound friend and Chilean climbing powerhouse Lucho Birkner.

What a great team! You will not have more fun with anyone else in Tonsai. (L to R) Pedro (On Belay) Borderas, Tony (I am with You) Beyer, Lucia (Up your Feet’s) Biro and Karine sitting.
Sonja Schenkel after a successful send on the beach.

Unfortunately, due to a neck twinge and my darling’s back problem that took us out of the game (I am happy to say at the writing of this story she has recovered well). So climbing was limited to a few days and a lot of hanging out on the beach. I think we would both like to return to Tonsai and explore more, but we would definitely go earlier rather than later in the season.

JC on “Second Home Tonsai” 7a+ (24)

Before leaving this wonderful place we donated our rope to the Base Camp Climbing Shop It will be used to make replacement slings for anchors and some of the routes require them as they are not all bolted. We also bought Thaitanium Project T-shirt each and the proceeds go to the purchase and replacement of bolts in the area. Its important that we contribute to the maintenance of the places we love. For more information check out The Thaitanium Project on Youtube.

Our last day was only made better as the owners requested a photo with us.

However, what pleased us most about coming to Tonsai was the people. We were catching up with a group of friends who we had met and accumulated over the course of our time in Southeast Asia this time around. This wasn’t organised at all, people were simply on the Thai climbing season trail and we all just happened to be heading in the same direction. We were super excited about catching up again. The team was definitely back together and some new members were also added. You all know who you are………”Good Human’s”.


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