(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!