Climbing The Elephant Cliffs Of Phrae

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by ianyonok, Jul 9, 2017.

  1. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    David had kindly sent me a link of lesser known mountains to climb. Doi Chang Pa Dan, Phrae, struck me as a bit special.
    Like in many places in the north, these cliffs look like a stone spine raised up out of the earth. (photo credit to Hmonghot)
    Doi Chang Pa Dan (Yes, it does look a bit like a sleeping elephant - head on the left). The peak over on the right, Doi Chang Pa Daeng, is about 2klms further away. Spectacular when you see them both, in the rock.


    They show up nicely on Google Earth too.
    Daoi Chang Pa Dan & Pa Daeng.

    Taking the 1024 east out of Phrae, I rode about 20klms. When seeing the "Golden Rock" temple of Pratad InKwen, I turned right on a small road that wound up to the Thai Lue village of Mae Lua, nestled in a small valley. I was now on the eastern side of the mountain.
    2017-07-06 16.02.29.

    Looking back to Phrae city.
    2017-07-06 16.22.23.

    The views of Doi Chang Pa Daeng are great too, but I'm told you cannot climb this peak.
    2017-07-06 16.17.06.

    Arriving in the village, I parked outside the clinic. The doctor was very friendly and helped me arrange a guide for the next morning's mountain ascent.
    2017-07-06 15.45.09.

    Looking around the village, I came to this lovely Thai Lue temple. Beautiful in it's simplicity.
    2017-07-06 15.46.34. 2017-07-06 15.47.42. 2017-07-06 15.48.21. 2017-07-06 15.48.40.

    I headed back to Phrae city for the night and to pack the backpack. Wonderful little pack, small enough to travel anywhere, even fits in your pocket!
    2017-07-06 22.24.21.

    But when it pulls out of it's built-in stuff sack, it will carry a 1.5ltr bottle of water, jumper, lunch, waterproofs and a small kitchen sink....
    2017-07-08 03.58.06.

    Next morning, I was back outside the clinic at 07:00.
    2017-07-07 07.28.02.

    My guide, Anek, was ready to rock and roll. I wore hiking boots and showerproof walking trousers. Decided bike gloves might be handy too...... good move... on the jagged rocks. The weather was perfect and nice and cool. Had it rained overnight, the ride and the hike may not have been possible.
    2017-07-07 07.27.50.

    We rode about 5klms up to and along the ridges.
    2017-07-07 07.36.56. 2017-07-07 07.40.48.

    About here, to the right, is a vertical cliff with ancient rock art on it. But unfortunately, inaccessible from where we were.
    2017-07-07 07.48.15. 2017-07-07 07.53.52. 2017-07-07 07.54.40.

    Easy enough stuff with some rough hilly bits, but it was a bit slippery.
    2017-07-07 07.56.57.
    Then into the single track technical section between the rocks......
    2017-07-07 07.58.41. 2017-07-07 08.01.09. 2017-07-07 08.04.03.
    Arriving at a small sala, we parked up and began to walk through the jungle.
    2017-07-07 08.16.39. 2017-07-07 08.22.33.

    The jagged peak showed itself through the trees from time to time. 2017-07-07 08.27.34.
    It wasn't far until we arrived at a monk's retreat.
    2017-07-07 08.30.57.

    After giving alms to the monk (luckily I had some food with me to give), it was time to climb the peak. It was at this point, that Anek declared he wasn't going any further, it was too dangerous.... What !!..... I've come a long way to climb this damn mountain.....
    I declared I would climb it alone then. At which point, the monk gave me a wonderfully inscrutable look, then said "follow me".
    2017-07-07 08.40.14.

    Thankfully, he never once said "be careful". It was blatantly obvious..... if you were not.... you would probably die! 2017-07-07 08.41.11.
    Keeping 3 points of contact and not looking down, we slowly climbed up. I don't even like heights...
    2017-07-07 08.41.13.
    Phra was like a saffron robed mountain goat in woolly hat and flip flops.
    2017-07-07 08.41.16.
    He did point out some footholds and handholds, but watch out for those cracked rocks........
    2017-07-07 08.41.21.
    Wow, must have 4 or 5 points of contact needed up here, when looking at the views, the knees were wobbling somewhat..
    2017-07-07 08.52.21.
    But my friend was in his element, on top of the world in this primordial environment..... wonderful man.
    2017-07-07 08.52.43.
    Spectacular 360 degree views.
    2017-07-07 08.53.12. 2017-07-07 08.53.16.
    I felt fortunate indeed, when having reached the age of getting a free bus pass, that I was able to free climb this peak and see such special views. Weather was still perfect too. Rainy season beauty.
    2017-07-07 08.54.45.

    Phrae city is at about 150m above mean sea level. We had reached 1072m. Not so high as many northern mountains go, but regarded as the highest peak in Phrae province.
    Looking west to Phrae city. Perfect spot for meditation.... except you better rope in first!
    2017-07-07 08.54.49. 2017-07-07 08.54.55.
    Verdant mountain scenery all around.
    2017-07-07 08.55.34. 2017-07-07 08.58.19. 2017-07-07 08.59.35.
    It is probably a peak that few farangs have summitted. We are lucky too, that Thailand has not yet embraced some of health and safety lunacy of the west. We are still free to embrace danger, to get the real thrill of the meaning of life, when looking at possible death.
    2017-07-07 09.05.01.

    We gingerly descended just below the summit, via a different route and had a look at a cave there. Anek had decided that if the old bugger could climb up, he better show willing and made it to the cave.
    2017-07-07 09.12.13. 2017-07-07 09.21.35.
    After walking back to the bikes, Anek suggested I go in front. Good idea,... them 2 stroke fumes are not so healthy.
    2017-07-07 10.04.27.
    So, it was time for the farang to show the Thai how to ride a bike...... Great fun hammering down the path and I got well ahead, but then hit a puddle that was deeper than expected...... The inevitable happened.....!
    2017-07-07 10.10.44.

    It was a good one too...! managed to throw the KLX right off the trail and down the side of the mountain.
    2017-07-07 10.10.50.
    Anek cut a thick bamboo staff down and together we levered and dragged the bike back up to the trail. Some of the plastic was a bit bent, but it still worked fine, after pulling the gear lever back into shape, away from the crankcase.
    Hiking boots and thin hiking trousers are not ideal for trail riding.. haha..
    2017-07-07 10.25.50.

    Later, tired, damaged and in hospital, but nothing could detract from the feeling of satisfaction and happiness to be still alive, after such a wonderful day on top of the world.
    2017-07-07 13.39.37.
    A serrated indent from the KLX folding footrest. Those footrests may be good for people who wear the correct riding gear, but I need some rubbered footrests... this ain't the first time I've had this injury.... in fact, I think last time was in exactly the same place.... hahaha..
    2017-07-07 13.39.43.

    My Thanks to David, for the suggested climb, Thanks to the doctor in Mae Lua for organising the guide, Thanks to Anek for showing me the way, and most of all, Big Thank you to Phra, for just being where he was and for being the most marvellously enigmatic inspiration, that showed that even the toughest things in life, can be possible.
    Wonderful Thailand.
    • Like Like x 6
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Fantastic report Ian.
    Glad you made it to the top.
    That's quite a hike; & your still setting a high bar for gtr adventurers.
    Well done & many thanks.

    I will endeavor to dig out some more tips for you.... Where's that old Shan ruby mine again?
  4. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Thanks David,

    Yes, bit of a scary one, that one, great to have made it though.

    I got a tip from a local in Phrae, that Wang Chin, Amphur Long, is a good area to explore.
    Looking at the map, if you take the 1023 west out Phrae, then southwest, you cross the northern railway line at Bahn Pin before reaching Long. You also get back to the Yom river, which has run southwest from Phrae to Den Chai, then west to Long. I would guess this whole area was a hive of activity during the logging years. The northern railway line opened in 1895, but I'm not sure how far it went at that time. Perhaps up to Den Chai, specifically for the logging. Seems it was extended up to Chiang Mai in 1926. Den Chai is the junction for the rail line up to Chiang Rai, although I don't know if this has opened yet.
    Anyway, continuing SW from Long on the 1023, you get to Wang Chin. To the west of there is the Wiang Kosai National Park, which emcompasses a NE-SW mountain range, of which the ridge line is the Phrae - Lampang border. The highest peak on the border looks like Doi Khun Khiat at 1267m with Doi Ang at 1140m. Lots to explore in there, with 4 large-ish waterfalls. I bet there are lots of dirt trails too.

    I heard the old ruby mine was a Brit operation in Long. Need to investigate.....
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2017
  5. Oddvar

    Oddvar Ol'Timer

  6. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Thank you Oddvar.
    But I'm sorry, I didn't save that trail. All I have is the co-ordinates for the trailhead and the top of the mountain.
    "must try harder in future"..... hahaha...
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    I love this image

    2017-07-07 08.54.49.
    that must be looking towards Phrae, right?

    This is pretty cool too - looking S-W no?

    2017-07-07 08.55.34.
  8. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Yes, I love that one too. Actually, I didn't have much choice but to get the monk's head in the photo. I couldn't move as I was balanced on the jagged rock pinnacles. Looking WNW towards Phrae and the airport, with a reservoir in the west, that serves that side of the city I guess. Although it has a fault and doesn't hold enough water at the moment, according to the monk.

    The second shot is looking southwest over the mountain range that forms the Phrae - Uttaradit border.
    Earth map Doi Chang Pa Dan.
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

  10. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

    Great report Ian.
    Along with the spectacular views, the riding looks amazing.


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