Cambodia has never exactly been a hotspot for mountaineers or rock climbers. The highest peak only reaches slightly over 1,800 meters and sport-climbing spots are virtually non-existent. But, hey, if you find yourself visiting the country there are a couple of spots worth checking out.
Cambodia’s highest mountain, Phnom Aural, reaches over a mile into the sky and takes a couple of days worth of trekking to reach the top. The thing about Cambodia is there’s a lot of stuff there that can kill you, both from nature and man. The temperatures bounce between extreme highs and lows depending on the season and the mosquitos are ravenous and carry some deadly diseases like malaria. Trust us, you don’t want to catch that one.
There’s also the threat of landmines to keep you on your toes. Over 64,000 landmine casualties have been reported since 1979. Granted, the country has cleaned most of them up over the years, but there are still some pretty dangerous places in rural areas. Most climbing trips, including ones up Phnom Aural, require a guide who knows what to look for.
One of the coolest reasons for climbing Phnom Aural is the landscape. It’s an extremely remote area of the country, virtually untouched by man. You’ll trek through bamboo forests, rice fields and a wildlife sanctuary with some of the country’s rarest species all around you. You’ll also get to spend a couple of night out under the stars.
If you’re more a fan of rocks than mountains, Cambodia has recently seen the opening of the country’s first official outdoor rock climbing spot—Climbodia. Most of the routes at Climbodia average somewhere between 5.10a and 5.12 in difficulty, but there are a few easy routes to keep the kids or beginners busy.
A lot of the routes are already bolted, but there are still untouched crags where you might be able to create your own. We can’t imagine that’ll last long, though.
The climbing spot is located outside of Kampot to the east and is pretty easy to get to. If you want to go, though, you’re going to have to pay. Climbodia is part of Phnom Kbal Romeas Natural Heritage Site and doesn’t allow public access. Individual climbers pay $10 per person for access if you’re not signing up for one of Climbodia’s climbing programs, and you probably aren’t if you’re a serious climber.
You’ve also got to wear a helmet, which you probably should be doing anyway.
It’s not a huge area, so if you get tired after a couple of days climbing, they’ve got some other awesome activities for you. The guides here are trained in abseiling, caving, and via ferrata.
Due to safety concerns and a desire to protect the natural wildlife, climbing in Cambodia is pretty restricted. If you’re there exploring the area on vacation and get the itch, these two places are your best bets. So few have done it before, that you’ll feel like a rock pioneer on jungle routes.