Climbing in Cambodia: A Journey through South East Asia

Cambodia is not the place that usually springs to mind for climbers in South East Asia and it is often thought of as a totally flat country. It is true that Cambodia has the one of lowest elevations in the region, at an average of 126 meters above sea level, which is significantly less than in neighbouring countries. However it would be false to represent Cambodia as mountainless. Its highest peak, Phnom Aural, is actually 1,813 meters and Phnom means mountain or hill in Khmer. That being said, mountains and crags are more scarce in Cambodia than other parts of the region. It is true that the climbing in Cambodia is lower in both quality and quantity than in bordering countries. We knew we wanted to include Cambodia as part of our trip, and it fit well with our route, entering from the Laos border and crossing into southern Vietnam to begin the long journey northwards up the coast. There are a handful of climbing areas to choose from in Cambodia and there are less climbers here than anywhere else we visited on our trip. We were glad we visited, Cambodia was a really nice country with a distinctive culture and a long captivating history.

Limestone cliffs with vegetation on top of them rising out from the green rice fields with blue but cloudy skies
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Climbing In Laos: A Journey through South East Asia

Laos is one of the least visited countries in South East Asia, receiving around one tenth of the visitors Thailand does and significantly less than the majority of other countries in the region. The reason for this seems mostly down to the fact many travellers believe there is ‘nothing to do’ in Laos, which is of course false. There are still plenty of tourists visiting Laos, but it is much easier to escape the crowds and finding authentic local places is very straightforward.

Climber making the clip on the steep limestone cave roof with featured pockets.
Making a strenuous clip on the amazing ‘Jungle King’, 7b

The even better news is that Laos has some of the best climbing in the whole of South East Asia, in terms of quality and quantity. Climbing in Laos only got started in the last few decades, so the areas still feel relatively new and unspoilt. Around 70% of Laos is mountainous and a similar percentage is forested. There are endless stunning mountains, crags and rivers in Laos and the landscape really lends itself to climbing. 

We started our journey in Laos by crossing the border with Thailand near Huay Xai and made our way southwards through Laos before crossing into Cambodia near Nakasong. The crags will be described in the order we visited them and by coincidence this correlates to their quality, saving the best till last!

Wide and slow moving river with forested mogotes in the background on the right side of the river and jungle on the left. In the foreground on the river edge there are bamboo huts
A stunning view on the way to Pha Tang
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Climbing in Thailand: A Journey through South East Asia

Thailand has been well known to climbers for many years thanks to its stunning rock and tropical paradise locations. There are lots of wonderful climbing areas spread throughout the country, and there is definitely a lot more to Thai climbing than Tonsai and Railay alone. Climbing aside, Thailand is very popular with travellers and holidaymakers, being the most visited country in South East Asia. While some places can get overcrowded, what shines through is the warmth and kindness of the Thai people, who remain incredibly welcoming. We made our way into Thailand overland from Malaysia, and traveled up through the country before crossing the border into Laos. The climbing areas below will be discussed in the order we visited them, of course there are many other areas in Thailand we didn’t visit. We chose the areas we did based on the quality, quantity and location of the routes and we thought all of the areas we visited were really good.

Masses of limestone cliffs erupting out of the sea
Stunning rock and location near Koh Ya Wa Sam
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Climbing in Malaysia: A Journey through South East Asia

Malaysia sits in a beautiful part of the world, with the country split between two areas, one on the Malay peninsula and the other on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is well known for its delicious cuisine and being one of the most culturally diverse countries in South East Asia. Rock climbing in Malaysia has been established for some time, with historical routes going back several decades. We chose Malaysia as the starting point for our trip to South East Asia, the country has a lot going for it and the climbing is high quality. As the next leg of our journey would take us northwards to Thailand, we spent all of our time in Peninsular Malaysia. Malaysian Borneo is famous for its mountains and is home to Mount Kinabalu, the countries highest mountain at 4,095 meters. However, the peninsular contains the greatest density of sport routes as well as many mountains of its own, with several over 2,000 meters.

Looking out of limestone cliff with tufas dripping from the steep roof. Looking out over the rice paddies with some jungle covered mountains in the background.
Amazing rock at Bukit Keteri
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Climbing in Freyr: Belgium’s Premier Forge of Fingers

Most climbers won’t have considered Belgium as a destination for climbing, and many of those who have a vague idea of Belgian climbing won’t appreciate how good it actually is. There are many crags in southern Belgium and Freyr is the crown jewel, with several impressive walls close to the river and overlooking a chateau. Those who do know of Freyr will also know of the crags fierce reputation, nothing here comes easy. If you can climb a certain grade in Freyr, then you can climb it anywhere and although the routes are hard the rock is superb. Belgium is also famous for good beer, chocolate, waffles and fries, which is really a winning combination for us!

Limestone fins protruding out form the slow moving river. On the other side following the river is a road with green fields and forest.
The beautiful Freyr, seen from the top of ‘La Jeunesse’ sector
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Climbing in Berdorf: Luxembourg’s Sandstone Paradise

Luxembourg is an interesting small country that sits landlocked between France, Germany and Belgium. In the east of the country is a village called Berdorf, which is home to some superb sandstone sport climbing. Berdorf could reasonably claim to be one of the best known crags of its type, owing its reputation to its quality. The crag is set in a beautiful forest, which is itself in the European National Protection Zone, due to the quality and abundance of rare plants in the area. The environment at Berdorf is very special and it should go without saying that climbers must treat it with the utmost respect.

Climber on steep overhanging red sandstone arête within a forest.
The steep and juggy Berdorf classic ‘Voleur De Spits’ 7a+
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Climbing in Sweden: A Scandinavian Road Trip

Sweden is a great country for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting over 97,500 lakes and a whopping 27.9 million hectares of natural forest. For climbers, Sweden is often overshadowed by its more mountainous neighbour, Norway. However, Sweden has many superb crags of its own, as well as having the benefit of being much less touristy than Norway. As part of our road trip in Scandinavia, we spent 3 weeks in Sweden and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sweden and Norway have many similarities and differences, they are both wonderful countries that complement each other well.

Climber jamming their hands up a crack in the granite rock
Enjoying the classic ‘Tuborg’ at Utby
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Climbing in Norway: A Scandinavian Road Trip

We were fortunate enough to spend 7 weeks in Norway, enjoying a stunning road trip and sampling many of Norways best climbing areas. We drove up Sweden to arrive in Northern Norway in peak climbing season, starting with Lofoten. After visiting more crags further north, we made the long and beautiful journey down the west coast of the country. The crags will be described in the order we visited them, so depending on where you plan to climb in Norway it might be worth starting from the bottom of the article. The country is full of mountains, fjords, rivers and crags – we only visited a small selection of what’s on offer, even on our relatively long trip.

Climber using small crimpy holes and a high foot to climb the face of the route at Kvitnes, Kristiansund. On their left side is a sharp arête of the rock and in the background is some rocky outcrops and the sea.
Beautiful rock and location on ‘Til Min Venn Thomas’
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Our trip to Uzbekistan: A Cultural Success and a Climbing Failure

We had long wanted to visit Uzbekistan, a country with a fascinating history and beautiful cities. We also really wanted to do some climbing in Uzbekistan, but for a number of reasons it never happened. The two main factors were the very hot weather (over 35°C) and the fact we got severe food poisoning only a few days into the trip. We felt totally wiped out and couldn’t really face the effort of trying to find any crags, let alone climb on them! At the moment there isn’t really any developed climbing in Uzbekistan at all. However, there are definitely plenty of mountains and canyons in certain parts of the country and it is surely possible for climbing to be developed.

Large tiled and detailed decoration on the front of a madrasa, a grand  arced entrance with two minarets either side. The tiles, which are different blues and creams created different floral and decorative designs on every part of the front.
The Ulugh Beg Madrasa, dating back to 1420
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Rock Climbing and Hiking in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is a vast country with an equally vast amount of things to see and do. Kazakhstan is actually the world’s largest landlocked country and the ninth largest overall. Despite all of this, Kazakhstan doesn’t receive many visitors, particularly from western tourists. We spent just under 3 weeks in Kazakhstan and had a great time. Of course, it would have been impossible to see much of the country in that time, so our recommendations in this article will be focused around the Almaty region. Kazakhstan’s other regions have a lot to offer as well, but a combination of the landscape and transport links make Almaty the obvious place to start.

Limestone lie cliff of Tamgaly-Tas it is sat upon a grassy bank
A panorama of Tamgaly-Tas
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