Deep Water Solo’ing

March 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm

After returning from our trip, Mark and I have been asked several times “Why go all the way to Thailand for a vacation?” And our answer is pretty simple. There are not many places in the world where you can do something like this…

Mark Deep Water Solo'ing

To be honest, deep water solo’ing was not on our list of “must-do”s as we made our plans. But at a reasonable price of 800 Baht (US$24) a person through Wee’s outfit, which covered a full day of cruising around islands, a nice lunch, the option to snorkel and play on remote and deserted beaches, well, it was an offer we couldn’t refuse. And it was worth every Baht.

John heading for the drink!

I highly recommend checking out all of the photos for this one in the gallery.

Mark heading up for his first climb out of the kayack

The method for the day was surprisingly simple. We motored out to an area of very featured rock, covered in chalk, for a morning warm-up. Too, one of the most excited, energetic, coolest climbers I have met in a long time, acted as our guide and shuttle. He would usually climb a route once, declare it “Easy! Like 5c!” and then pile climbers in the kayak and start paddling them out to the rock.

Mark Climbs in Swim Trunks

Once on the rock, you had plenty of freedom, and you were pretty much responsible for your own safety. The “look before you leap” mantra was very important here, especially when another two boats full of climbers from Tonsai pulled up and joined us on the walls.

Climbers working their way around the rock

Usually, you could keep your shoes dry in the ride on the kayak out to the rock. The guides had stashed chalk in various bowls of rock around the cliff, so you could chalk up once you were on the rock and head up. More experienced solo’ers seemed to prefer powdering their entire arms up, and then using chalk off their biceps as their hands greased up in the humid air.

Mark working up the route

I didn’t really like the feeling of falling long distances. In the morning, I climbed a bit of a traverse and then jumped off before getting too high. Mark worked his way up the side of the cliff. Jumping off once or twice, and falling once or twice, he eventually figured out the sequence to a high ledge. He then decided to try to climb out on to the free-hanging stalactite a meter away from him… over quite a lot of air. And the first time, he missed.

Mark Heads Down!

After a long fall, a bit of red on his back, and a rest in the boat, he decided to try it again. On his second time, he got it.

I, of course, was actually climbing, far below, at that moment. But I heard both groups of climbers get quiet for a minute, gasp, ooh and ahh a bit, and then applaud just before a huge splash on the far side of the rock from me. Evidently, Mark was quite the hero for making the jump to the stalactite, and then hanging there, 20 meters above the water, before calmly letting go.

Another big splash!

We had lunch in a nearby cove, a beautiful and quiet place. Too brought out a tub of shrimp fried rice, and we all dug in. When I pointed out that I was allergic to shrimp, the guides replied “Then eat around them!” So, I had a little bit of fried rice, and munched on some cucumber slices.

Our lunch, a big pot of shimp fried rice

Mark and I found snorkeling gear on the boat, and went for a bit of a swim after lunch. The fish swimming in the clear, warm water here were amazing.

Mark plays with a lot of fish (feeding them rice)

In the afternoon, we found a shady traverse, that was much harder and more solid rock than it looked. I really enjoyed working this, but the currents were so strong under the climb that it was a fight to swim back to the boat each time. We only did a few rounds of this before most of us called it a day.

Kate Deep Water Solos

Mark decided to climb one more route for the day. It was a nearly vertical climb, and he carefully scaled it higher and higher. There was no clear place to stop on this one… just the point where I started getting nervous and calling him to consider jumping down.

But he climbed a little higher

Which he did!


It was definitely a great day all around. After this, Mark and I were incredibly sore, tired, and sunburned. It called for a rest day. But it was an incredible experience, one that I’m very grateful we had a chance to have.