Going Up or Down? Climbing and Caving in Northern Thailand

25 Apr Going Up or Down? Climbing and Caving in Northern Thailand

Hat Tham Phra Nang Peninsula at sunrise, Rai Leh, Krabi, Thailand. (Photographer: Dan Morris)

Thailand is well known as the land of smiles, beautiful beaches and incredible climbing on “Salvador Daliesque” limestone. What many do not know, however, is that the same conditions that create the endless climbable yellow and orange karst towers also create a fantastic network of underground caves. On arrival in Thailand, many adventurers head south to climb in the idyllic locations of Rai Leh (above left photo) and Koh Phi Phi. But those looking for something a little different should look to the northern hub of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is the old capital of Siam (around 700 years ago).  It is world renowned for it’s myriad Buddhist temples and delicious Thai food. Just outside of this ancient city is an incredible limestone crag called Crazy Horse Buttress, developed by Josh Morris (full disclosure: my younger brother).  There, climbers will find a slew of climbs ranging from beginner to advanced (5 – 8a+).  But its inside the crag that the fun begins.

The Anxiety State Crisis Cave (Tham Wiung Fah) is a massive cavern, more than 70m deep, inside the limestone formation that makes up Crazy Horse Buttress.  Perhaps the most incredible climb I’ve ever done can be found here.  Anxiety State Crisis (7a, see bottom photo) takes a line up a featured pillar in the center of the cave. Alternatively, for those looking to go down, just left of the climb’s start is a hole leading even explorers even deeper.  Proper caving rigs are required to descend into and ascend out of this pit (see below photo).

Spelunkers (cavers) prepare to descend into Mae On Cave at Crazy Horse Buttress, Chiang Mai, Thailand (Dan Morris)

Surachet "Add" Kongsingh leading the airy first pitch of Anxiety State Crisis, 7a, Crazy Horse Buttress, Chiang Mai, Thailand (Dan Morris)


The staff at Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures (CMRCA) adventures offer a wealth of information on adventuring in the areas surrounding Chiang Mai.  Whether you are a newcomer wanting to try caving / climbing, or a veteran, they offer courses, gear rental and valuable advice.  Check out their website to get the latest info on caving expeditions.

Here’s a short video showing a few of CMRCA’s latest caving exploits:


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