Sunday, May 10, 2009


From Ganhyeon

This Saturday I woke up early to catch a train to Ganhyeon . Chong, who runs my climbing gym invited me to come climbing with him and few friends.

I was very nervous about the climbing part, because I have never climbed on real rock and while I may appear to some Koreans to have some basic ability and skill in the gym, the fact of the matter is I'm muscling my way through a lot the routes.

The foot of the climb is about a 20 minute walk from the train station and stands to be the most tranquil area I've seen yet in Korea (albeit I haven't seen much). It sits along the edge of a slow river and there are plenty of trees to provide shade from the strong sun.

We arrived about 9:00am and the group I was with started stretching, donning their gear, quick draws, unfolding ropes, etc. I was a bit lost to say the I know how that beginner kiteboarder feels--you know the one who shows up at the beach, doesn't really know anyone, doesn't know the routine, fumbles around with his equipment and takes about 8 times too long to get on the water. Yep, that was me at the climb.

The social embarrassment and fear was striking. It kinda felt like being dropped off at the 1st of day of 1st grade. Not to mention, being white, I stand out like a soar thumb and can't understand a word anyone is saying. It could have been worse right?...peeing in my pants would have been par for the course.

So there I am not really sure what to do. So I start arranging, rearranging, unpacking, packing, and trying to look busy, waiting for some kind of cue.

Then I start getting nervous and forget everything. I struggle putting my harness on!

which way does the harness go...oh no, it’s twisted...Jesus, I think everyone's watching me.

I hear some Koreans casually talking and then laughing off in the distance and I become paranoid,

I think they're laughing at me. Which way do I unfold the rope...what am i doing. Ahhhhh I wanna go home.

I decided I needed too chill out. I found a good viewing spot and just watched for about 45 minutes.

Sensing my hesitation some people encouraged me to try a few easy routes which helped me get comfortable and back in my skin. I have to say climbers are some of the friendliest, helpful, most mellow groups of people I’ve had the pleasure to hang out with.

After trying several routes I settled on a fun juggy 10b route that had a couple difficult sections that sent me dangling a dozen times. Talk about the school of hard knocks though! I'm sure my friends gave me important tips and advice about how to fall---I just didn’t understand it because it was in Korean. So I learned a few lessons the hard way, fortunately with only a few scrapes, bruises and loose teeth to show for it.

Lesson 1: don't grab the rope as your falling. Instinctively, I grabbed it twice. The first time I got a good rope burn; the second time I got my palm pinched in the quick draw.

Lesson 2: That length of rope you were holding in your teeth as you're trying to clip in to the next draw...remember to spit it out BEFORE you fall. I damn near lost all my front teeth as I dropped a good 6 meters and the rope was ripped from my bite...

So I learned a few lessons, but came out relatively unscathed and can't wait to go back again. Here are some pics.