In January-February 2008 I spent eight days during a two-week period putting up, and then trying to redpoint, a new route on an unclimbed tower at Na Pha Daeng. I eventually managed to climb the whole of the crux pitch to a point just four meters from the belay, where on relatively easy ground a handhold snapped and I fell. Out of time, I had to leave, but I was not happy with the situation. So, in December 2009, while on a climbing trip to Thailand, I returned with Philip Flaming for just three days to finish it.
The route lies on what we called the White Tower, 20km along the road north of Vang Vieng. Four years ago Vang Vieng was a quiet village, but in the intervening time it has evolved into an ugly tourist resort. The tower is easily reached via a trail across rice fields, and to its right are good sport routes on the “red walls” (Pha Daeng means red walls) put up by the German, Volker Schöffel.
The route has eight pitches, the first five from 6a+ to 6c+. Pitch six is 7a+, and pitch seven is 7c. The crux is the eighth and final pitch on the overhanging headwall, but the highlight is undoubtedly the fourth. Here, you climb up a smooth wall to a hole, where you enter a cave and climb most of a ropelength inside the rock before emerging onto the front face again. On one of my earlier attempts I got bitten by a huge green snake, which was lying on the edge right where you stick your hand out of the cave. It jumped into the air and sidled away in the jungle below. I’ve never seen anything like this before. And in the big cave above pitch four we found ancient drawings on the walls.
After a long period on the incredible headwall, I finally got it at 8b. We have named the 220m route Deeper than the Day. Natural gear and some bolts were placed for protection, and we equipped the belays for rappel. It is a beautiful climb, and as far as I know the hardest multi-pitch route in Asia. For more information on Laos visit laos-climbing.com.
Jens Richter, Germany