Last weekend was another public holiday long weekend in Hong Kong so we squeezed in a trip to Crazy Horse Buttress outside Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. We went in Easter this year and despite the intense heat absolutely loved the place. It’s cited as a model for climbing area development and it’s not hard to see why: it’s pristine, serene, uncrowded and beautifully maintained. It has a very special quality.
Last time round our flight from Hong Kong was delayed, we missed our connection in Bangkok and spent a fairly crappy night in an airport hotel courtesy of the airline. This time we opted not to chance the connection and chose to spend a night at an airport hotel. Up at 4:30am we were on the way to Chiang Mai and on landing went straight to Crazy Horse.
We went with Jume, our guide from the last trip with whom we got on well (my partner isn’t yet confident belaying me when leading as I weigh a lot more). Jume said that he’d been busy and accordingly we would have to do all the leading as he hasn’t climbed in a few months. This was ultimately a good thing as it meant we couldn’t wimp out of trying to lead the routes at the limit or just beyond our ability.
The weather was cooler than at Easter so there were more people around. Still, it was easy to find areas to ourselves. We spent the morning leading routes we had top-roped last time – satisfying evidence of progression over the last six months. From the top of the routes there are great views across the Mae On valley, very green and pierced with the spire of the occasional wat.
There was a friendly crag dog – apparently there were once two – Black and Diamond. Black died and Diamond now lives in a climbing shop in Chiang Mai (or something like that, maybe the other way round). Jume said some that Thais eat dog. Asked if it tastes like chicken he said it tastes like “more chicken”. I like chicken so theoretically that’s a good thing. I won’t be trying it.
I was getting ready to lead a route when Jume’s eagle eyes spotted the MOABH (Mother Of All Bee Hives) through the foliage ust below the top anchors. Wax bees are meant to be pretty harmless but it is recommended not to get too close to a hive less the bees get defensive. Crazy Horse is a very buggy place and could aptly be known as Bug Buttress. There were a ton of mosquitos that Jume said prefer to dine on the blood of foreigners as Thai blood is too “spicy” on account of their diet.
The highlight of the day was leading The Chimney Sweep (6a) at the Tamarind Village – a chimney that is as fun as any route I have climbed anywhere and my favourite at Crazy Horse. Day 2 brought some more great climbing. The objective was to lead longer routes at The Furnace, aptly named as the white limestone radiated heat once you climbed above the tree line. As with the last trip it was over all too quickly and we immediately began formulating plans to return.