|Our Really Big Adventure|
Climbing in Kuala Lumpur
| Take, Mom
TAKE, MOM! came the rising squawk that can only belong to a pubescent
boy. Sitting on a ledge 30 meters off the ground, I smiled quietly to myself,
half at his uncool display of anxiety at his growingly precarious position
on the cliff and half in admiration of a mother taking her 13-year-old son
rock climbing. I turned my attention back to belaying my partner, keeping
one ear cocked as to their progress.
Our climb was finished quickly and Barbara, our Malaysian friend (Bird) and I rappelled to the ground. Tired after two days climbing we were ready to call it a day but Bird, eager for us to see all the climbing Kuala Lumpur had to offer, convinced us to give the bouldering wall nearby a try. We shouted goodbye and waved encouragement to mother and son as they set about tackling the second pitch of the 40-storey cliff. They were climbing well but would need to conserve energy for the crux - 70 meters from the ground, at the start of the third pitch, lay an almost blank section of rock requiring some imagination to see hand or footholds.
It was monsoon season in KL and almost without exception it poured rain every afternoon, so it was perhaps overly optimistic to think we would get any more climbing in that day. Sure enough, as soon as we reached the boulder it started to lash rain the type that, if it doesnt get you wet on the way down, soaks you when it bounces off the ground. We hunched into what little protection the rock afforded, occasionally making a futile effort to try a couple of moves on the now slick rock. Our enthusiasm suitably dampened we decided that it was time to head back to Birds car and to check on how mother and son were faring through the storm.
Crisis! We arrived back to find the son worried, standing on the ground trying vainly to shout instructions through the rain and thunder to his mother anchored 60 meters up. Just as the storm was breaking she had slipped and fallen at the crux. The rope caught her fall, but awkwardly so, painfully arching her back beyond what is natural. With the onslaught of the thunderstorm she lowered her son the full length of the rope to the ground. She would now have to make two standard rappels herself.
The combination of her fall, the rain, thunder and lightening had her shaken and making mistakes that she shouldnt be making, like handling the rope without tying it onto anything. If she dropped it, it would fall to the ground and leave her stranded on the rock. Barbara and I worriedly looked on as she prepared her first rappel; in the confusion she hadnt tied a knot in the ends of the rope. If she wasnt paying full attention she could slip right off the unknotted ends and plummet the 30 meters to the ground.
Bird joined her son in shouting instructions and his fully developed voice better penetrated the storm. Soon the situation was under control and Mom was making her final rappel to be reunited with her now embarrassed son.
Any credibility points lost from her flustered return to earth were instantly reclaimed by her first words to her son.
What ever you do, dont tell Dad!
Rock climber specific information below
Our rough itinerary had us spending 2 or 3 days in KL, checking out the local crags. However, the quality of the rock and the friendliness of the local climbers had us staying a week and wishing for more time. Anyone who is planning on climbing in Thailand should think about making some time for KL.
The rock is white and red limestone with a good selection of different climbs, from overhanging jugathons a là Krabi to delicate slabs on micro ledges. All told there are about 100 sports routes, up to three pitches, spread across 7 or so crags. Conveniently most are right beside each other and all are within a $5 taxi ride of central KL. As the government seems to take an active role in sponsoring the sport, access is no problem with one of the crags (Damai) having its own car parking and gravel at the base.
All of the routes are bolted every two meters with 10mm expansion bolts, in good condition. The climbs are clean and have good anchors at the top. There is a tremendous quantity of unclimbed rock here, with a lot of potential for new routes, however a lot of cleaning is required. The local climbers have grand plans and judging by their previous successes you can expect a continual flow of new routes.
There is ton of climbing for beginners, with most being confidence boostingly over-graded on the French system like Krabi when it is being lenient. The easy routes are most concentrated at the Damai crag, which has the advantage of having many climbs grades painted right on the rock.
The best part of climbing in KL is the local climbers
who are, without exception, friendly, talkative and non-elitist. We had
an amazing time climbing there and we owe it all to the generosity of
Bird and his friends who went out of their way for us, even to the point
of not laughing at our appalling style.