Rock climbing and climbing walls, Jeju, South Korea.
Rock climbing and climbing walls on Jeju
Story and photos by Danielle Mader
Looking for a challenge? Seeking vertical adventure? Then come cram your feet into some tiny little shoes that make your toes feel like they are being squished into your heels, cinch yourself into a “Cadillac” of a harness (which still is a collection of straps that pull your underwear into nether regions) and tie yourself onto a really long rope. After your straps and knots have been checked over by the expert that is belaying you (holding the rope that you are depending on to save you from a fall), you are ready to reach for the heights but what you are climbing depends on your location.
Jeju-do boasts a small but active climbing club, mostly composed of Koreans, but a few intrepid wegugin have infiltrated the ranks. Home base is located in Gu Jeju at the bouldering gym owned by Jung Sang Soo, the Jeju climbing guru. Although small, occupying one floor of an office building just up from City Hall, it is well maintained and boasts “boulder problems” to challenge any level of climber. This first time climber couldn’t make it off the beginner wall and looked on with mouth agape as other advanced climbers swung themselves across the ceiling. Since it is a bouldering gym, no ropes or harnesses are needed as falls from seven feet are well absorbed by the spongy mattress covering the floor. Members of the club sometimes host friendly competitions complete with prizes. Gym membership is 60,000 won a month. There is another bouldering gym in Jeju Si called Ace Climbing Club.
If climbing outside is more to your taste and you have the equipment and know-how needed to climb a “sport” climbing wall, then convey yourself to the extreme south eastern corner of the stadium complex which is located behind the bus terminal in Gu Jeju. There you will find a towering edifice also known as the outdoor climbing wall. The front wall is the beginners section with larger holds (although the experts use the wall for speed climbing) and the two sides are made more difficult by the wall’s undulations. In order to climb this you will need a partner who knows how to belay and “top rope”, two harnesses, rope, clips and of course the shoes. There you can practice your climbing terms in English and Korean. Actually, many of the key climbing terms such as “tension” (pull the rope tight before I peel off the wall), “slack” (give me some rope, it’s too tight), “down” (lower me please!) and “match” (what the expert yells at you when he wants you to put both hands on the same hold) are the same in both languages. There is also an outdoor bouldering wall near Seogwipo in Donnaeko.
Climbing inside or on the artificial wall was lots of fun, but this climber’s favourite was climbing on a real cliff face. Ten minutes outside Sin Jeju in the Musucheon river bed, a number of sport climbs have been predrilled and bolted into the canyon walls. The difficulty of the climbs varies from intermediate to more difficult (5.9 to 5.12 on the climbing scale). We beginner climbers tested out our “rock star” abilities on a climb that possesed an overhang right at the beginning, an obstacle that proved to be insurmountable to us as newbies so we had to be boosted up over it by our “expert”.
Yes, climbing is definitely a sport and a workout. It takes great skill to place one’s feet correctly in order to reach the next hold with one’s arms – a vertical dance. To get started either make friends with one of the few wegugin that climb or join the climbing clubs located at in Jeju Si.
Jeju Sports Climbing Center
Ace Climbing Club
English language website about climbing in Korea with Jeju section:
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