Perfect evening on the patio of Unico with a perfect full moon
End of March, everything is bare. Buds burgeon, and BOOM! in a three day period, the entire city is abloom in the white of cherry blossoms, along with scarlets and fuchsias of other shrubs and trees.
Climbing Course in Seoul 03/16/2014, Bulamsan, hosted by Rock Climbing In Korea, session 1 of 4!
(All photos, except those noted, were taken by 원해호, posted to the Meetup.com site)
I’ll avoid describing the terrors of the subway system and just get right down (or is it up?) to the terrors of climbing hehehe. I’m taking a rock climbing course in Seoul for the next 4 weekends, and it is very informative. For our first session we learned two knots: figure 8 and stopper, along with uses of various equipment. The important pieces are your rope (with normal use lasting 2-4 years), harness (this saves you when you fall. And yes, you will fall!), various metal clips and fasteners (ATC, carabiners, rappelling rings, etc.), climbing shoes, and helmet. We learned how to fasten our harness, which has various loops and connecting points and is strong enough to securely stop a large cow falling 90 meters (or so they say). As long as you are tied in properly, have checked your partners ropes and fasteners, there is little chance of injury from falling. I found the double checks and buddy system to be similar to precautions taken in diving.
Our instructor is Korean, and we had an excellent interpreter, along with many additional climbing experts helping, guiding, supervising, and ensuring our safety. After we worked on knots for a while, and got geared up, we ascended to the slab of rock we would be practicing on. Now remember, I had a smidge of practice over the last two weekends on pretty vertical rock and a wall, but this “Slab” was equally scary. You see, I acquired a fear of heights for absolutely no apparent reason about a decade ago. And it sucks! There were others there too with slight fears so I didn’t feel out of place. We were somewhere between a 40-50 degree angle of climb, that’s what I’m guessing. It was steep! Of course our instructors scrambled up the rock slope without a thought to set up a line for us! We end up top roping up and down this incline ("top roping" means the line is anchored up to the top, then comes back down again, where your belayer controls it, while you climb upward toward the anchoring point). It was steep enough that those wearing tennis shoes had to borrow other shoes because they couldn’t’ make it up. It was basically an exercise in form and balance and how to move your body; excellent practice. It was also scary as hell, but I kept my eyes on the rock and concentrated moving my weight and shifting and placement and handholds (which there were none ha ha, unless you call a slight indentation of .5mm a handhold). Luckily I had purchased rock climbing shoes last week in Busan, and while deadly tight, they grip the hell out of rock!
We basically scampered up (slow scampering?) this incline then had to stand upright and walk backwards down the slab. We had a belayer, who is the person and your partner that controls the rope as you ascend or descend, stopping you if you fall. But you try--just try-- walking backward down a rock face in complete trust of the person holding your life at the bottom…whoa!
It was a great experience and I will keep on facing both my fear of heights and of the Seoul Subway system for the next few weekends; then I can relax with easy and cheaper trips to Busan to train at the climbing gym there and hang out with some more awesome peeps!
Amnam Park, on the water in Busan: sheer cliffs with rock in stratified hues of bordeaux, death-mask grey, and all-the-blood-draining-from-your-face-in-fear white. Apropos to my first outdoor climbing experience, although I celebrated with Soju rather than that fine French red.
I wonder if it is common to run through the scale of emotions I felt while clinging to that rock face. I felt enthralled, nervous, terrified, ecstatic, victorious, angry, frustrated, failure, amazement, jealousy, weak, strong, pain, fatigue. The rock seems gigantic and sheer in my memory, and yet small and inconsequential at the same moment. At the time I felt nothing but my physical grip and mental blocks. Now, I am amazed that I was able to put my toe on a small ledge and hold another with fingertips, and remain---attached to that cliff face.
Of course, if I compare myself to those wonderful, talented, strong souls I accompanied, my feat is nothing. But without comparison, it is of the grandest feats accomplished. In reminiscence, climbing that cliff wall was akin to sailing across the Atlantic, absolutely no land in sight, and if I were to slip off the deck... It is a feeling of awe, not of conquering; it is a feeling of oneness, not of overcoming; it is a feeling of respect, not fear (although I was very fearful of falling). And at the core of motivation to move upward upon this rock, and within my deepest Self; this climb is a battle with limitations physical and mental. That is the hardest to face: although I could overcome many physical limits of strength, agility, and knowledge, I could not overcome my own fear. I could not move beyond that one step, that one reach, and this is what drives me on to try again. Because I know I can, and I am determined to, overcome this silly, irrational fear of heights I acquired a decade back. Because I am determined to become stronger and accomplished at this sport of rock climbing. I am determined to squash with violence that meek voice inside that says "You can't do this, you are too afraid, not fit enough, not young enough..." etc. The voice is only a whisper, and I will quell that self-defeating intimation with a roar of:
"MORE SOJU PLEASE!"
AH HAHA HAHA AH HAHA!
Lara and I spent a fab 3 days in Busan! We had many interesting meals: traditional Korean dinner, street food, weird brown eggs, and bad "Mexican"! I drug Lara kicking and screaming through Shinsegae, the largest mall in the world, we visited the amazing Yonggungsa Temple near the outskirts of the city, I did Natarajasana everywhere I could, and we stayed at an awesome "Love Motel", 4 stars by US standards, for $73 per night!
We were swept along with the tide of mainly Korean tourists at Haeundae Beach, watching families play traditional New Year's games in the sand, in traditional costume. Heck we even got to witness a beach volleyball game with many of the men in butt-free jockeys--(one of my fav sights on the trip he he! We luxuriated in the boiling saunas and whirlpools of Vesta Spa, and marveled at the variegated architecture of the city.
We starved, we overate, we laughed loud and whined a little. It was a great weekend with lots of memories captured below!
... the Mountain!
Photos from my hike Saturday... I swear the sign phonetically sounds like "Jason Bourne". (whoops)
...is gadding about!