Thaktek, Laos climbing guide

Thakhek is the premier climbing destination of Laos and one of the best in all of Southeast Asia. Similar in style to the heavily featured limestone climbing found in Tonsai, Thailand, you’ll generally score lower temperatures and humidity in Thakhek.

The climbing itself is actually located 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from Thakhek, which is a border city on the other side of the Mekong River from Thailand. As such, it’s a bit isolated, but the Green Climbers Home, started by Uli and Tanja Weidner in 2011, forms a summer camp/resort-like community for the traveling climber.

The Green Climbers Home—with two locations less than a ten-minute walk from each other—is situated in the middle of hundreds of routes. The bulk of these can be reached with a five-minute stroll, but even more are available for someone willing to “adventure” up to 30 minutes. Thakhek is fast growing in popularity among other venues in the Southeast Asia climbing scene and surely isn’t to be missed.

Specific description of climbing style

Most visitors will come for the sport climbing, though you can also find some bouldering.

Both are included in the guidebook, available for purchase from the Green Climbers Home. The climbing ranges from slight overhangs to 90-degree roof climbs, with plenty of tufas and huecos to climb through.

Best season

The Green Climbers Home is closed during Laos’ rainy season (June to September), and the best time to come is during the winter months.

As it is in southeast Asia, some degree of heat, humidity, and bugs are to be expected, but it is possible to chase good conditions here. Since shade falls over one-half of the valley in the morning and the other half in the evening, it’s best to wake up early and climb on the shady side, head back to the Green Climbers Home for lunch and a siesta, and climb on the other side once the shade hits. Because most of the routes are so close to either one of the Green Climbers Homes, it makes this tremendously easy.

Climbing grade range

The bulk of the climbing is in the 6a-7c (5.10a-.12d) range, but there are routes from 4-8c (5.6-5.14b), with several projects yet to be completed. Most crags have a variety of difficulties all close to one another, so you can enjoy a day of cragging with a group of all different abilities.

Most say that grades in Southeast Asia are soft, but in every yearly revision of the guidebook, it seems that each climb gets downgraded by a letter. Knowing how to knee bar will certainly help you at the roof sector!

Top climbs in the area

  • Saugeburt (6b+/5.10d): Ask someone who speaks German what it means; a bizarre climb that has you beach whaling onto and shimmying through a tunnel, followed by a pumpy finish
  • Mon General (6c/5.11a): A powerful start with some big reaches, followed by really fun technical and endurance climbing on pockets and tufas to the top
  • Schwitzerland: (7a/5.11d): Slightly overhanging and sharp, starts powerfully, climbs through tufas, and finishes on pockets
  • Jungle King (7b/12b): A perfect introduction to the monstrous Roof sector. Climb in-between tufas on big pockets to the first set of anchors, and hold it together as the holds get increasingly further apart until the anchors. Not perfectly horizontal as with other climbs in this sector, but still really steep!
  • No Knee to Worry (7c/12d): The most horizontal climb at the most horizontal crag. Use clever toe and leg hooks at the opening, get a rest once you pull the lip, and then either make a huge reach or a series of powerful moves to make it past the crux. There’s a part where the climb actually dips past horizontal and one quick draw is lower to the ground than the one before!

Best kept secret

The community feeling is strong—it’s a little climber’s oasis in the middle of nowhere. It might be one of the easiest places in the world to find a climbing partner. Also, get used to seeing goats and cows every day.

Best local spots

The Green Climbers Home offers food, drinks, and snacks. In addition to a regular menu of authentic Laotian cuisine and some western staples, there’s also a rotating dinner special every night.

In the actual city of Thakhek, food options range from street food to other sit-down restaurants, but the selection at the Green Climbers Home is more than enough to keep you satisfied.

View this post on Instagram

Sometime a place can hold a certain significance in your life. For @samkatzman the green climber home in Laos holds two personal milestones. The first time she climbed a 7a and a few years later the first time she sent a 8a. In the photo she has yet to send the route "keep on smiling". We climbed with Sam for close to a month and she couldn't have been a better friend. Every day we miss her smile and infectious energy. We hope things are going well for you Sam and look forward to the next time we get to see you. Which might be sooner than you think 😉. . . . #greenclimbershome #climbing_is_my_passion #climbasia #onbelay #climb #rockclimbing #liveclimbrepeat #climbinglife #limestone #goldendays #loveyousam #bigsmile #stoke #getafterit

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Where to stay

The Green Climbers Home offers the option of staying in a private bungalow, a dorm, or a tent—and with so many crags within ten minutes of the Green Climbers Home, many people never venture further than that.

If you want to entirely avoid climbing crowds, stay in the city of Thakhek and either rent a motorbike or hire a tuk-tuk to get you to and from the crags.

Other information

On a rest day, find and explore the daily market in Thakhek.

And if you have a couple days to spare, do “The Loop”—a 3-day motorbike tour that was popular in Thakhek before climbing tourism ever was.

Now to you

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