Monday, December 17, 2012

Rock climbing in Korea: Where we climb

Climbing in Insubong
Climbing in Korea has become such an extensive part of our lives here in Seoul. If you followed us, you know we continuously post these pictures up with us on this mountain. We have a few rambling videos on climbing on "Insubong"; here and here. We have several albums of pictures dedicated to climbing in Korea on our Facebook pages. We even have an album of climbing pictures here. We think it's about time for us to release some more information of what we're doing here, climbing-wise.

The information isn't by any means secret. But if you're wondering what we're climbing or if you're reading this blog sniffing out climbing routes in Korea, keep reading! This could be a great round the world idea for you to start your outdoor travel adventures!

Climbing Insu-bong in winter via Go Deok Gil
There are a lot of climbing gyms in Korea, but most of them are bouldering gyms. We're not really gym rats... Korea is a very mountainous country. Dont' know where to go in Seoul? "Bukhansan", on the northern edge of the city, a city which few would think of as an "adventure getaway". Rock climbing in Seoul is actually very accesible. The city literally wraps around this mountain which is in a national park called "Bukhansan National Park". This is a very popular park for Seoulites. The peak in the mountain we climb is called "Insubong" which is across from the main peak called "Baegundae". From the summit of Insu, when you look across, it looks like an ant hill. Easy access (but complicated to get there) and a plethora of different routes attracts a lot of climbers to Insubong.

The climbs on the main face of Insubong are mainly high friction granite slabs and cracks. Multi-pitch trad climbing is prevelant. There are other climbs on the rappelling side that attract more sport climbers, single pitch stuff. There are 5.12 stuff for you stronger climbers. Most routes are about 5 pitches, so leave your portaledges at home! You can find a picture of the routes at the bottom of the main slab.

A few favourite routes of ours is "Insu-B [인수-B]", "Yang Ji [양지]", and "Gomak-B [검막 - B]". Standard rack should suffice. There is this one 5.7 splitter crack, though, that requires BD5's. But that's one special case.

A brief description of some of our favourite routes, by no means comprehensive. We're also a fan of mish-mashing routes together instead of sticking to one route the entire way. This is to give you an idea. For a more comprehensive climbing guide, check "more information" at the bottom of the page.

On Insu-B crux pitch, the off width cracks or the slabs. 
"Go Deok Gil" 5.6 (5.5?)
This route can be done with minimal trad gear. However, bring out your slings, because this is where you'll need them. At the big slab head up right. Way right, like you're going to leave the climbing area. This route is great for foul weather climbing as it's very not-exposed. It's about 6 pitches, but most of these pitches are less than 30m. Crux pitch is the last pitch that starts with a 5.7 shallow crack that opens into a layback. Several routes converge right here and usually bottle necks traffic. Bring up to a BD 3 here.

"Insu - B" 5.7
This is by far, our most favourite route, mainly because Ian learnt how to trad climb on this. We usually start this on the slab, but the official beginning is a 5.7 crack. The crux pitch is pitch 2, where you can navigate a 5.9 slab on the left and right, or stick into the off-width 5.8 crack. Ian usually sticks to the crack. Not a bad idea to bring a size 5BD camalot for this pitch, especially near the top of the crack. The rest of the 3 pitches are cruisers hovering around 5.7's.

"Gomak - B" 5.9 (with A0 on crux pitch)
If you like slab, this ones for you. On the 3rd pitch, before you head up the climb, you have to walk down a bit to get to Gomak, otherwise, the route you're looking at is a 5.8 splitter crack which requries 5BD's and a lot of them. Navigate your way up the 5.9 slabs and you should find yourself at the bottom of the aided bolt pitch, 5.10c or A0. Quickdraws to aid should suffice. Just grab the bone and pull up. This is the crux pitch, freak out on it and cruise up the last 2 pitches.
Ian on Gomak crux pitch, 5.10c (A0) slab

There are about 8 anchors on top of Insubong that allows a quick descent. With the amount of teams up there though, getting down is a battle, mainly fighting for an anchor. You'll need 2x 60m ropes. If you're only stuck with one rope, like how we usually are, there are anchors at the 15m point to tie in again. There is a 7 meter over hang on the anchors to the mid and climbers left of the face. In the late afternoons, around 3 or 4, it gets windy.

To get to Insubong, get out of Suyu Station (line 4), exit #3. Get onto the bus island and take the 120 bus to the last stop, which is a small bus terminal. Hop on a taxi infront of the area where the bus for the temple picks up people, which is located across from the small bus terminal. The taxis usually shuttle people up and down for a flat rate of 2,000kw per person. This area also has a lot of small little stores with hikin and climbing clothes you can browse.

Or, alternatively, catch a taxi from Suyu station and tell them "Doe Sun Sa", which takes you to the rotary. It shouldn't cost more than 10,000 kw (~10 USD).

You'll arrive at the rotary and the trail head. Enjoy the view of the Koreans decked out in their finest Sunday climbing clothes. From here, start up the trail. The approach takes about an hour. Once you reach the campsite (about 40 minute hike in) look for campsite 11. From campsite 11 you'll see the a trail that leads up. Follow it, but keep in mind your navigation toward Insubong.
Chirsta climbing up the rappel side,
under the overhang

If you're a well established climber, you can search for more routes here on Korea On The Rocks (KOTR). This site gives you a lot of beta and different climbs; bouldering gyms, climbing gyms, and artifical outdoor walls. KOTRI (KOTR Initatives) recently just came out with a guide book "Climb", you can find here.

If you're not a well establisehd climber but want to head out on the mountain anyway, there's a great guide company called SAN. They offer various beginner and intermediate rock climbing courses, rescue courses, ice climbing, guided climbs, and programs, a great way to get started in climbing! It's all conducted in English. They're also great for satisfying your outdoor travel adventure junkie inside you! That's actually where we started climbing. San also helped sponsor the Reel Rock Tour film festival in Seoul. Check out more of the Reel Rock Tour here

More pictures of our climbs here

Explorations Ramblings videos of Insubong climbs here (the view at night) and here (on our favourite route Insu-B). What are Explorations videos? Find out here!

One of the 2 videos up on our YouTube site. Us with a buddy, Tom H, up on Insu-B on the crux move.

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