Thakhek in the beautiful country of Laos is an absolute must for any sports climbing trips to South East Asia. We’ve created this Thakhek climbing guide to help climbers heading there:
- Why Come to Thakhek
- When to Go
- How to Get There
- How Good is the Climbing?
- Are the Bolts Safe?
- Chalk, Gear & Guides
- Power & Wifi
- Food & Water
- Things You Need to Know
- Our Favourite Climbs
- What to Do on Rest Days
We don’t guarantee the accuracy or reliability of anything written in this guide. Anyone who acts upon or takes any step in any way connected with its content or the fact that it exists does so entirely at his or her own risk.
Why Come to Thakhek
Thakhek hosts a multitude of limestone crags with predominantly juggy and powerful routes. The crags are varied including a 30+ meter roof (with perma draws), a canyon, a cave and your standard Asian limestone tufa & stalactite crag.
The crags are still sharp with most of the 320+ routes being less than four years old and can only be climbed nine months a year.
Apart from the other tourist caves in the area there isn’t much to do apart from climbing, so none of the distractions like in Tonsai.
There are only climbers in the crag area and there is a climbers camp on site so it’s very easy to find partners to climb with.
October, November, April, May can be quite hot but less busy.
December, January, February, March are the best conditions for most climbers, as it’s a cooler, sometimes verging on the cold side.
June to August, the camp is closed as its rainy season and the whole area floods.
We found the best resource for information on how to get to Thakhek and Green Climbers by public transport is here. They cover the best way from China, Thailand, Vientiene etc.
The only thing they don’t mention is that it’s also very easy to hire motorbikes in Thakhek, if you’re staying in town it’s the most convenient method of transport. Its about a 20 minute drive from Thakhek to the crag.
Also if you are on a tight budget, there is a public truck/bus you can take from the main road. To get there exit the bus station nearest the ATM and turn left. Walk for about 15 minutes until you get to the cross roads and turn right. There may be a truck 100 meters from the cross roads on the right side of the road waiting for passengers or you can wait to flag one down. You want to be heading North East, away from town. The trucks are very similar to the Songthaew or red trucks in Thailand, but not red or as fancy. It should cost you 10,000 Kip and the driver should know where Green Climbers is or just mime a climbing action and someone will understand.
We advise taking a TukTuk if you can for the first journey to get your orientation. The cheapest we got was 70,000 Kip during the day but this can go up to 150,000 Kip after dark.
Hitch hiking is also possible but keep a look out for the Green Climbers Home sign (a big metal road sign) after about 12k from the cross roads. You may be asked to give some money so make sure the price is set before you enter.
The climbing is, in our opinion the best in South East Asia, better than Crazy Horse, Tonsai, Batu Caves or Penang. This is due to the number of routes, virtually no polish, the maintenance of the crags and the variety of climbing.
We’ve spent over a month here, never getting bored and finding lots of projects to work on, which is testement to the quality of rock and routes.
Green Climbers have been involved with the bolting from almost the very start and they put a tremendous amount of effort in cleaning routes after they have been bolted. This includes clearing the obligatory vegetation but also filing down any sharp edges which may cut your rope. Also the bolts are almost always less than 2 meters apart.
The majority of bolts are 10mm expansion bolts made of A4 quality stainless steel. They don’t need to be titanium as there is no exposure to sea air. The two anchor bolts are backed up with slings made of climbing rope.
The roof has permadraws throughout which is great because you can try anything and not have to worry about cleaning!
The only place to stay which is next to the crags is Green Climbers Home. They cater for different accommodation budgets including bungalows with ensuite and shared toilets, dorms and tents. Do book ahead, as it can get full. You can book here: http://www.greenclimbershome.com
Tania, Uli and Fia have created two camps and run them with friendly German efficiency. The camps are environmentally and socially responsible. The water is ground water and food sourced locally. They provide Tupperware for lunch and keep the use of plastic and polystyrene to a minimum.
If Green Climbers is full there is plenty of accommodation in Thakhek itself ranging from hotels to hostels. But try and book in advance as staying at Green Climbers ensures the best experience.
Although Green Climbers have a monopoly on accommodation at the crag, both times we’ve stayed there have been amazing. Always a really friendly, family atmosphere with all the facilities you need to climb.
You can buy chalk, guidebooks and tape at Green Climbers Home.
There is only one guide book that we know about and that’s Rock Climbing Laos Thakhek, sold at Green Climbers Home. They also have a ‘house’ book at the restaurant to view.
Climbing gear can be rented and Green Climbers provide beginner and advanced climbing courses. They also let you borrow a helmet for free if you stay there.
There are many 30 + meter routes and ideally you would have a 70m rope. We brought along 16 quickdraws and found that ideal.
In Thakhek there is 24 hr electricity, aircon and WIFI available at almost all establishments.
At Green Climbers Home there is 24h electricity except for the tents (you can charge your electronics in the main hall). There is no WIFI or phone signal in Camp 1. You can buy a Lao Simcard from the restaurant but you will need to walk back towards the main road or stay in Camp 2 to get a signal. There is no aircon in the camps.
The water sold at Green Climbers Home is very, very cheap. It is filtered, ground water, meaning you get the minerals your body needs.
The food in Green Climbers Home 1 and 2 is on par with the rest of Laos. The quality of the food and ingredients is very high and generally good value for money. There are plenty of options for vegetarians and even a vegan menu.
There is a limited bar, with a small selection of local spirits and beer and only Pepsi, Sprite, Tonic and Soda.
Green Climbers Home has all the essential food you need. But for a snacks we recommend purchasing them in the bus station. The large rice crackers and soft sesame and peanut squares are our favourite.
- You most likely require a visa for Laos, but can get this directly at the border. Bring passport photos and passport copies otherwise you will be charged extra. They take payment at the border in $ USD.
- ATM’s are only in Thakhek itself there isn’t one near the crag. If you stay at Green Climbers then everything you buy (food, drink, accommodation) is written in a book and totalled at the end. So stock up on lots of cash, before you get to the camp (there is one at the bus station) as they don’t take card. They accept USD, Lao Kip, Thai Bat and Euro.
- Once you are at the crag or Green Climbers the snacks are quite limited, so if you see something you like in Thakhek do stock up.
- Keep your passport, health insurance card and credit card with you all the time when climbing. If you are seriously injured you will have to be taken to a Thai hospital and they won’t let you pass even if you’re bleeding out, without your passport. Apart from the risk of climbing injuries, there are also venomous snakes in the area.
- Expect to pay a nominal Government fee of less than $5 USD which covers the duration of your stay, this is collected by Green Climbers but given to the local area government to contribute to local schooling and projects.
- Bring lots of mosquito spray and coils as there are plenty at the crags.
- It can get cold. December to February can have very cold periods. We were wearing down jackets there during February.
5c – ‘Bonne Geburtstag Poffzi!’ on Hilton, nice long 3D climb.
6a – ‘Kim and Struppi’ on Canyon Left, amazing route in a unique – must go crack. Bring lunch (not for the route, but the crag, which is ideal to stay the whole day).
6b+ – ‘From Dusk till Dawn’ on Open all Hours, wonderful line testing your technique, route reading skills and stamina.
6c – ‘Mon General’ on Hilton, nice face crux, rewarding you with enjoyable 6b moves after work through the crux.
7a – ‘Schwitzerland’ on Hangover, very nice technical moves and loved by many climbers.
7a+ – Mr Keo on Worldtrip, super long route, which feels like it never ends. Technical pumpy crux after the start. Great view from the top.
7b – ‘Jungle King’ at the Roof Centre, 34m, juggy, pumpy, heel hooks, toe hooks and big holds when you need it. Rest for as long as you can at the first anchor so you can enjoy the second half.
It is nice to do one, just to get the top view. They are all nice, with Chinese New Year having a surprise on top. There is a high chance of getting your rope stuck on the way down so be aware.
Enjoy Green Climbers Home facilites – The Camp 1 has a bocce field and a volleyball net, chess and a lot of board games. Camp 2 has some long slack lines.
Swim in the river/Slackline across the river – Silvia’s recommended must-do. To get there, from Green Climbers Home turn left at the main road and follow it around the bend for about 1km. Look for the dirt road towards the right, follow that for anther kilometre. It is wonderful clean and refreshing water. Even more fun, is to install a slackline across. Be careful with the slackline bolts and be aware of underwater rocks when mounting the line. Mind your belongings.
Caves – There are many caves to discover and you can hire bicycles from Green Climbers. Tham Xien Liab cave is directly behind Green Climbers Home 1 tent camping area. If you manage the boulder problem at the start, you stay dry while going all the way through the cave. If you don’t like bouldering, you can just swim through.
Go to town – For strong WIFI or the small town feeling, go into Thakhek town. Besides getting a Tuktuk, you can take a bus/truck, stay alert where exactly they go and when to hop off as some of them turn at the cross roads to the bus station. Inthira Hotel has good wifi, or theres a ‘Bistro’ near the Mekong which has aircon, WIFI and Nutella!
Watermelon Walk – You might not find the Watermelon walk in any guidebook yet because we just came up with the name. If you enjoy a 20km hike into non touristy areas, we recommend it. Access the dirt road that you cross to get to Partymeile and the Canyon crags and keep following that main dirt road. After around 8km, take the right turn and orientate yourself through the hills and your gut feeling. You should pass some small rubber tree plantations and come to a village, head to the main street from there. You will finish at a roadside watermelon market, which you would most likely have seen on your way to the crag. Reward yourself with watermelon, before you take the bus back. Thakhek town is on your left.
Thakhek Motorbike loop – a 450km, 3 or 4 day loop through some stunning scenery and humongous caves. Highly recommended.
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