Climbing in Crazy Horse, Chiang Mai was probably once overlooked by the much more scenic climbing in Tonsai but since the first bolting started in 1998 the crag has exploded with easily enough routes for a weeks worth of hardcore climbing and is now firmly on the climbers trail through South East Asia.
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Why Come to Crazy Horse Buttress
Crazy Horse is a multitude of beautiful limestone crags with over 200 routes spread around a small area, 35 km out of Chiang Mai. There are two awesome caves with unique entrances and routes up to the skylights. The crags are clean with well-maintained paths connecting all the crags. It only really gets very busy at the weekend so often you have the whole area to yourself.
There are many multipitches with some into the ‘horses head’ iconic structure with great views across the surrounding farmland and others within the caves itself. Some friendly crag dogs live on the crag and are always happy to see anybody.
When to Go to Crazy Horse
The weather is best between November to February, it’s cool and often has light breezes. From February, it will start to get hotter and by April you’ll be chasing the shade, expect anything up to 40C until May. June to October is considered the monsoon season so heavy rain for a few hours at a time.
During the dry season there has been an increasing amount of haze created by the local burning of farmlands to clear the fields. This can be smelly and unpleasant but won’t stop you climbing. It usually lasts for a few weeks.
How to Get to Crazy Horse
There are many ways to get to Chiang Mai with good road links from all surrounding areas. The airport has direct domestic and international flights coming in.
From Chiang Mai town there are several ways to get to Crazy Horse, some are better than others depending whether you are staying at the crag.
- Hot Spring Bus, the cheapest way to get to the crag. A 45 Baht bus going from the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Just tell the driver to drop you off at Jira Guest House opposite the crag. GPS co-ordinates of the bus stop are 18.790866, 99.001645 or click here.
Bus Leaving Chiang Mai at 07:30, 11:30, 15:30, 18:30
Bus Leaving Jira Guest House at 06:00, 10:00, 14:00 and 17:00 – you can either stand at the side of the road outside Jira or order a drink and ask the lady at Jira to call the bus driver to ensure he stops.
Look for this bus.
- Rent a motorbike, there are plenty of motorbike rental shops in Chiang Mai with prices starting from 150 Baht per day if you look hard enough. No licence is required but they will keep your passport until you return. Click here for the crag location, or just type Crazy Horse into Maps.Me or Google Maps
- Uber, is very popular in Thailand and costs about 400 baht one way. Probably the quickest and easiest way to get to the crag.
- Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Association (CMRCA) have a return, daily service from their shop that starts at 395 Baht click here to book. *This only runs when there are enough people.
The entrance to the crag has a big road sign and is on the left hand side of the road, 150m after Jira Guest House which is on the right if you are coming from Chiang Mai.
Accommodation in Crazy Horse
There is plenty of accommodation in and around Chiang Mai if you are planning to do daily trips or just go there for one day.
It is on the opposite side of the road from the crag, about 20 minutes walk to Crazy Horse Buttress and run by Nongyao and her family. They are all super friendly and the numerous times we stay there it really feels like a homestay.
Here is the link to book as they can get full in busy times and also close for a short period during low season. Alternatively, their number is 0871 939 709.
They provide free drinking water, communal fridge facilities, WIFI and can provide old climbing guides that have been left behind. They even allow you to use their motorbikes for free to go to the local market, 2km away to stock up on snacks and fruits or visit the local hot springs. Do fill up the tank if it’s running low just out of common courtesy.
Their food is also the best we’ve sampled in the area, you will see a lot of locals turning up just for dinner. Just be warned the portions are huge, so order less at first.
A couple of things to note is that breakfast is either omelette and rice or rice/noodle soup, so no Western options. Furthermore, none of the rooms have aircon.
There is more accommodation locally but you will need a motorbike to commute as they will be further away and the local public transport is limited. Air BnB or the local guide book would best for searching.
How Good is the Climbing at Crarzy Horse?
The limestone is still in excellent condition although the crag is over 15 years old now. Expect a small amount of polish on the most popular routes but no where near as much as in Tonsai. The majority of routes are in the 5’s and 6’s, with only about 40 routes at 7a and above including multipitches.
The cave climbing is unique for Thailand and the multipitches are not the longest but nice and still a bit sharp.
The routes are a mixture of fingery, technical cruxes as well as pumpy pocket overhangs. Sometimes you will get routes that start slabby and balancy and then finish into a juggy pump. Heart wall has a nice selection of iconic tufa and stalactite routes.
There are a few crags protected from the rain and generally the crags will dry off pretty quickly.
Are the Bolts Safe?
The bolts are safe at Crazy Horse. Generally all the routes are well protected, sometimes with gym-style steel carabiners at the top. Bolt counts on the route do not include the anchor and are not always accurate so try and take a couple more draws than you think you will need. All the anchors are backed up.
Things You Need to Know
- Crazy Horse is not the easiest place to come as a solo climber. You can have a look in the CMRCA bouldering gym to see who is advertising for a partner or try your luck and turn up at the crag or Jira to see if there is anybody climbing. Sometimes people just turn up at the Hot Springs Bus to see if anybody else is going in. People often post on the FB groups if they are looking for partners.
- There are some religious structures and monks can sometimes be seen in the area. Please be respectful. Having your feet above a monk’s head is extremely disrespectful, so do not climb if they are going to below you.
- There are two squat toilets in the car park.
- Be careful of the local wildlife, there are mosquitos (bring mosquito coils) and often bees. There are two types of bees, the wax bees are cute and will eat your sweat while fanning you. The hive bees are vicious, don’t get closer than 3m and check your route before climbing.
- CMRCA, the guys who built and maintain the crag, have a good resource on crag etiquette here.
Chalk, Gear & Guides
The CMRCA shop in town is well stocked with all the gear you will need. They also sell the climbing guide in app and book form. The latest book is a few years old now so I would advise spending on the app as it is more up to date. If you have a book already you can go in and take pictures of the new routes as they are still bolting.
The gear is all imported and they stock Sterling ropes, Black Diamond and Mad Rock shoes. They can also provide rental gear, prices are here.
According to the guide book they also provide free helmet rental if you ask.
Jira Homestay has gear that’s been left behind, you’ll see the old shoes hung up and Nonyao mentioned she had a rope as well. Beware of the condition of the gear as they don’t climb or understand the risks.
Of course it’s best to bring your own gear (and cheaper). A 70m rope is perfect and will allow you to link up a couple of pitches. All the climbs can be rappelled on one 60m rope. 16 quick draws should be enough but try and take a few long draws to deal with drag especially if you are linking pitches.
Power & Wifi
There is no Power or WIFI at the crags but mobile reception is adequate.
Jira Home Stay has 24/7 Power and good WIFI throughout their facilities.
Food & Water
If CMRCA are running a trip from Chiang Mai they will usually bring a big water dispenser and leave it in the car park. Please donate if you use their water.
Otherwise there are no other shops or restaurants within walking distance except Jira Home Stay. If you are staying at Jira the water is free and they provide take away lunches in Tupperware.
The town is 2km away with a 7/11 and a fresh food market, so good for stocking up there or in Chiang Mai city.
Our Favourite Climbs
5c – ‘Out of the Trees Into the Sun’ on The Horse Shoe, very nice climb.
6a – ‘Skyscraper’ on Rooftop, the highest you can get at Crazy Horse, consistent all the way with some variation in rock along the way. Bring a camera for the top.
6a+ – ‘Ruam Jai (Together)’ on Heart Wall, 36 meters, starting on classic tufa limestone and changing into a juggy face climb.
6b+ – ‘Flushed’ on The Ant Hill, very consistent yet diverse route with a crux that gets surprisingly manageable with a sweet knee jam. Really nice moves and well protected at the crux.
6c – ‘Blood, Love, and Steel’ on Crazy Horse Area, a classic, starts very balancy and slabby then enters a mini Groove Tube with big jugs to finish.
7a – ‘All Quiet on the Eastern Front’ on Gatekeeper Buttress, super technical with a balancy crux early on, nice views at the top.
7a – ‘Earthquake’, Windy Cave, take the time to figure out where the route goes and bring a decent head torch. An awesome climb in a cave where it’s always cool! Tricky crux with an interesting traverse at the end.
7b – ‘Intensify’, on Ant Hill, super hard crux at about the 4th bolt, the crux is extremely technical, powerful and balancy (it’s really hard). Then turns into a sustained and pumpy finish, it will feel more like a 45m climb than a 30m when you finish.
What to Do on Rest Days
If you’re having a rest day at the crag for the purpose of this section, we will assume you are staying at Jira Home Stay or in the Mae On area.
- There is one massage place in the town. From Jira turn left at the market and it’s about 300m on the left.
- Tad Moei and Mae Gam Pong Waterfalls
- Local hotsprings
- Muang On Cave
Chiang Dao Climbing – The Newest Crag near Chiang Mai
Chiang Dao is the latest crag that CMRCA have been developing. It’s one and a half hours out of Chiang Mai and nowhere near Crazy Horse Buttress. We didn’t make it there but were considering it and found some reasonable accommodation nearby. We advise you to talk to the CMRCA shop about it and they should be happy to provide basic topos and better directions.
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