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Crazy Horse Buttress

Chiang Mai Day 01-03 – Crazy Horse Buttress
Chiang Mai Day 04-05 – Crazier Horse Buttress
Chiang Mai Day 06 – Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai Day 07 – Samoeng Loop
Chiang Mai Day 08 – Doi Inthanon

Chiang Mai Day 1

Songthaews

We made our way, bright and early, out of Chiang Mai's Tha Phae Gate (East Gate) and eastwards to Warorot Market (ตลาดวโรรส), the point where the yellow songthaews that made their way to Mae On District for the buttress of Crazy Horse supposedly waited. We hadn't had much time at all to see the city since we had arrived in Chiang Mai late the day before, but that hadn't left me discouraged in the slightest as we had travelled all this way predominantly for the excellent rock climbing that Chiang Mai was reputed to have on offer.

Warorot Market was reached just before we met the Ping River. This market is the oldest of all of Chiang Mai's markets and is sprawling, with countless make-shift vendors overflowing out of the main three-storey building and onto the streets, all of whom sell a variety of wares ranging from flowers and fresh produce to trinkets and clothes. We didn't venture into the building itself but instead tried to avoid the throng by staying on the main street and just continuing on towards the Ping River.

Songthaews (สองแถว, literally "two rows") are very common in Thailand and are basically utility vehicles that have been converted into a small bus of sorts, not too dissimilar from the Philippino 'Jeepney' but without the kitschy decor. Songthaews that operate around Chiang Mai are colour-coded to distinguish them based on the direction that they travel to: yellow for northern routes, green for north-eastern, white for eastern, and blue for southern. Westerly routes do not have a specific colour as travelling in that direction quickly brings one to the formidable hills of Doi Suthep that enclose and overshadow the city. Red songthaews however, don't follow specific routes and one can just hail one down and inquire directly with the driver.

We found the right songthaew (that had 'San Kamphaeng Hot Springs' emblazoned across the front) almost immediately, and spotted the driver off to the side next to the river with a common mynah (Acridotheres tristis) on his hand. The bird hopped onto the ground as we approached, and the driver turned around to speak to us. Online accounts had stated that the journey would only cost THB50 but the driver just pointed at me and held up 8 fingers. Each and every time we asked for five, he would shake his head and reiterate that it would be eight, so with resignation, we just went along lest we end up having to wait a while for another songthaew. We clambered on after I stowed my North Face Duffel Bag on the roof rack and squeezed myself up into one of the corners next to a pile of sweet potato-filled bags. After perhaps fifteen minutes of waiting, the songthaew began to depart, looping southwards around the square before heading back up towards and across the Nakhon Ping Bridge.

We were to find out a few days later that a new service had been established that covered the same route, a white air-conditioned van that departed from the Chang Phuak ("White Elephant", north of the North Gate) bus station and passed by Warorot Market, and at only THB35 per way, was a much cheaper and a far more comfortable alternative!

Jira's Homestay near the Crazy Horse Buttress

Jira Homestay

We clambered off the songthaew just before noon, almost an hour and a half later, and walked down the gravel pathway to Jira Homestay. Jira's had a rustic feel to it, with the wooden structures and dried grass roofs adorning the small huts along the pathway reminding me of Rapallas somewhat. The owners greeted us cordially (Nong Yaw) and welcomed us in. I had been in contact with them via facebook and had ensured that there would be rooms (double occupancy room with fan for THB250 per night) available when we arrived. The room was comfortable enough for the price but needed cleaning so we dug in on our lunch (coffee, THB25; rice x3, THB30; red curry shared, THB89/2) in the meantime whilst Nong Yaw fixed it up for us.

Jira's Homestay near the Crazy Horse Buttress

A male Fulvous Forest Skimmer

A male Fulvous Forest Skimmer (Neurothemis fulvia) perched on a cable

Next : Crazy Horse Buttress (Part 2)

Crazy Horse Buttress

Jira Homestay was the closest accommodation to the crag and we really didn't have very far to go to get to Crazy Horse Buttress. After grabbing our climbing gear, we turned right and walked up the road until we saw a large wooden signpost, turned left here and followed the gravel path westward and up the hill. Once the rock formation that was supposed to be the head of the horse began to peak out above the treeline, we realised that the crag's carpark could not be too far away, as it was located just a kilometre from Jira's. There was a small outhouse with squat toilets (bring your own toilet paper!) tucked in the corner there just beside the path that continued onwards to the Heart Wall. The main wall however, was at the end of a smaller path on the right and up some crudely-made, yet very effective steps.

The walk to Crazy Horse Buttress

The main wall turned out to be completely congested, so we decided to walk around and to explore the other nearby walls. We followed the path down to the right at first and passed by Horseshoe Wall and The Furnace but then decided to head back up the ladder rungs and go through the The Archway instead. We continued walking along the trail, clambering over rocks and ducking underneath branches, continuing along the switch-backing trail whilst keeping our eyes peeled for a wall that was unoccupied. When we reached the fork, we turned right and began to head up to The Rooftop (continuing left will lead down to the Gatekeeper Buttress).

The Crazy Horse!

Can you spot the head of the Crazy Horse?

The walk to Crazy Horse Buttress

The two routes that we climbed at The Rooftop were very straightforward and were perfect candidates for warm-up routes. The first route we climbed was called 'Hue Fah' (Ascending the Sky), 5b, and was also the first line from the left of the crag. The route starts off fairly easy, with some small-balancey holds at the middle until you get to a huge jug, but is then very straightforward all the way to the anchor. The second route was (appropriately) called 'A Route with a View', 5c+, and I found it to be a lot more interesting with a good mix of different movements. There was a saddle of sorts in the middle that we had to scoot over and from there was (once again) straightforward all the way to the anchor. Both the routes had great views of the Mae On Valley at the anchors at the top! Unfortunately, the sky quickly began to darken as the sun began to set, leaving us with insufficient time for a third route. We packed up and made our way back to Jira's for dinner (rice x3, THB30; green curry shared, THB89/2).

Suunto Movescount Stats

crazy-horse-mc1

crazy-horse-mc2

The information from the Suunto Ambit for this part of the trip can be found on my Movescount Page

Expenditure

End of Day 1 Expenditure (THB)

Transportation : 80

Food : 175

Accommodation : 125

TOTAL (THB)

Total

: 80

: 175

: 125

: 380 

Next : Crazy Horse Buttress (Part 3)

Chiang Mai Day 2

More Rain

We found to our dismay that it was drizzling that morning, and our hopes for an early start were quickly dashed. We decided instead to try out the free motorcycle (along with free drinking water and wifi) that Jira offered and head to the Ban Sahakon (บ้านสหกรณ์) market (at GPS coordinates: 18.796986, 99.244355) to sample some of the local breakfast delicacies. We ended up grabbing a few random pandan leaf packages (THB40/2) along with two packs of glutinous rice (THB20), and bought a small pack of washing detergent (THB10) so that we would be able to wash our clothes in the sink.

With the rain stopped and our hunger satiated, we made our way back to the Crazy Horse Buttress. To our great disappointment, it began to rain once again. We decided to walk to the right side this time around to see if there were any crags that had somehow remained dry, passing the Junkyard and then on to the Hanging Gardens. It began to pour once we arrived so we figured that we would try and wait it out in a little cleft of sorts that provided limited shelter, but the rain did not seem to let up in the slightest and we were forced to head back down the muddy slippery slopes and to wait out the downpour back at Jira's.

The rain began to let up after a little while and soon after that, the sun came out behind the dense cloud-cover in all its glory. We waited for half an hour to give the rocks a chance to dry before setting off once again, walking back to the crag but cutting through the path to the Furnace this time around. There were no sounds coming from the crags on the left and the rockface at the Furnace turned out to still be a little damp, so we decided to continue on to Crazy Horse's main wall with the friendly local tail-wagging dog (Canis lupus familiaris) in tow.

The Crazy Horse main wall

'Muppet Show', 5b was the first warm-up route we jumped on, doing so quickly to try and escape the clouds of mosquitos (family: Culicidae) that were beginning to swarm around us. Long tubular waxy nests of stingless bees (Trigona collina) dotted the base of the route, to such a degree that we had to take great care when pulling down the rope. The route ended up being quite straightforward, but still remained fairly interesting as it made its way up to the tree at the top of the wall and veered left around the pinnacle before reaching the anchors.

On the way down, I heard a very loud, unearthly-sounding, metallic croak. At first I thought that the large slab under my feet was about to sheer off, so I lowered myself with caution before peering into the crack to my right. A large Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko), with a light blue body bespeckled with orange spots and its tail discarded (via autotomy), surprised me as it jumped out of the crack and let off another hollow croak. I lowered off and let out a sigh of relief, glad that the rockface was not going to come crashing down on us.

It began to rain once again, just as Fiona began climbing 'Ding Dong', 5b. We ran around haphazardly, quickly packing up our climbing gear and made our way to the Anxiety State Crisis cave, hoping for some sort of shelter from the rain. We made our way past the main entrance with the bamboo (Subfamily: Bambusoideae) doorway at the base, and continued along the path and up to the upper cave entrance. The opening here was dusty and a little precarious, but the large skylight opening that let in shafts of light that illuminated the rock made it very spectacular. We sat here for a while, admiring the huge cavern above us.

The Crazy Horse cave

The upper chamber of the Anxiety State Crisis cave

The Crazy Horse cave

The upper entrance of the Anxiety State Crisis cave

On our way down, we made a quick detour through the bamboo doorway to the main cave below. We managed to locate the three routes that were graded 5 but by then, darkness had begun to descend upon us so we were forced to make our way back to Jira's for dinner (rice x3, THB30; red curry shared, THB89/2).

Expenditure

End of Day 2 Expenditure (THB)

Transportation : 0

Food : 115

Accommodation : 125

Miscellaneous : 10

TOTAL (THB)

Total

: 80

: 290

: 250

: 10

: 630 

Next : Crazy Horse Buttress (Part 4)

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Chiang Mai Day 3

Anxiety State Crisis

I sat inside the doorway of the room glumly looking at the sky, listening to the raindrops that pitter-pattered outside and imagining all the climbing that I could be doing instead. I found that tuning out a little bit made other movements a lot more noticeable - dragonflies hovering and skimming around in the air, leaves and branches swaying in the wind, and the occasional flutter of a bird that flew by. After a while, another small, irregular movement on the ground caught my attention and when I went to investigate, I found a tiny bush frog (Family: Rhacophoridae) hopping across the gravel. As I watched, I noticed more and more joining in (possibly 2-3 frogs every minute), all of them travelling in the exact same direction. My reverie was suddenly broken when a message came through to my phone. It turned out that Alex, a friend that we had climbed with in Batu Caves and in Yangshuo, had made his way to Crazy Horse without letting anyone know! So we quickly packed our climbing gear and made our way to the crag despite the drizzle.

After trading the customary greetings, we all decided that our best bet was a wall that provided some sort of shelter and the only option that we could think of was the Anxiety State Crisis Cave. What place could possible be drier than a cave?

Steps up to Crazy Horse

Crazy Horse Buttress

The cave turned out to be absolutely spellbinding as light rays streamed inside the opening high up above, both illuminating the rivets of water and the drops of rain that made the long journey down to the bottom of the cave floor, as well as adding drama and lots of depth where previously there was none. I stood there with my neck craned and my mouth agape, in awe of the spectacle that lay just before me.

Rain at the Anxiety State Crisis Cave at the Crazy Horse Buttress

The cave turned out to be nowhere near as dry as we had hoped. At first we figured that the routes that we had looked at yesterday were so easy (grade 5) that a little bit of moisture could not make too much difference, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. Everything was far more difficult with the presence of the slippery gunk, slime and mud that coated the rocks. The first route from the left, 'Short Tail', 5a was fairly straightforward except for a fairly big move that required a rockover of sorts. The second route, 'Cave Man', 5b, was more complicated. Two sections required a big move like a stem or a rockover, and the precariously slippery footholds and handholds made even the simplest of moves a little bit scary. The third route from the left was completely saturated with moisture so we decided to just head back out of the cave once we were done.

Climbing the Anxiety State Crisis Cave at the Crazy Horse Buttress

Alex climbing 'Short Tail', 5a

The rain had stopped but the crag was left completely soaked, rendering our search for a dry wall completely futile. We walked to Buddha Buttress and then back past the Furnace and all the way through to the Junkyard, the Hanging Gardens and Tamarind Village but could not find anything that was not drenched. A little demotivated and very frustrated, we decided to call it a day and head back for some market food (approximately THB60).

Expenditure

End of Day 3 Expenditure (THB)

Transportation : 0

Food : 60

Accommodation : 125

Miscellaneous : 0

TOTAL (THB)

Total

: 80

: 350

: 375

: 10

: 815 

Next : Chiang Mai Day 4 – Crazier Horse Buttress

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