I admit I had my doubts about rock climbing in Thailand. I didn’t know enough about lead climbing (let alone how to figure out if the bolts are still good) to safely climbing without a guide, and besides I didn’t have a climbing rope with me. In the end both the guides (at least the one we used) and equipment in Krabi struck me as competent and safe. Some of the guides in Krabi have been climbing and guiding for twenty years it’s hard to survive that long on shear luck, so it follows that they must be doing something right.
Not so in Laos, where climbing is a relatively new sport. Green Discovery is one of the first guiding services in Laos and runs trips in Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. I can’t speak to their climbing trips in Vang Vieng, which is supposed to be more of a climbing destination that Luang Prabang, but I can share a little about our climbing trip yesterday.
It’s fairly impressive how much our guide managed to learn with virtually no formal training, but the lack of formal training (and decent gear) was still rapidly apparent. It wasn’t just a matter of slightly dirtier gear that I am used to, or a different style for building anchors: many of the carabiners were rusted, and the rope probably should have been retired a year or so ago. I won’t bore you with the details of the anchor setups; suffice to say between the rusty carabiners and lack of backup I didn’t feel very comfortable trusting my life to them.
Laos may have some amazing climbing, but I think for now it’s probably best to bring all your own gear (and be ready to sacrifice a quickdraw- there weren’t any repel rings where we were) and feel comfortable enough leading to go on your own.