I spent most of this sunny afternoon in late March observing my friends attach themselves like little monkeys up and across the rocks. If you know me at all you know I’m not exactly the athletic type. I don’t have muscles for days and it’s quite unlikely that I’d be able to out run, or out-anything, anyone.
This story is a little different, though. This is the story about how I learned to rock climb in South Korea, and if I can do it I know you can do it too.
There’s a little town less than an hour away from the city I call home named Sinban. With not much going on in this sleepy country village, its main charm is that there’s a big ol’ rock, thanks to Mother Nature, perfect for the adrenaline-inducing sport of rock climbing.
I was invited by a super cool group of fellow English teachers for a camping and climbing weekend in Sinban. Although I’d made a goal earlier in the year to climb a mountain in Korea, I honestly hadn’t thought about it munch since the first few months I was here.
We got to Sinban around midday, and found our camp sight just a 10 minute walk away from the bus stop. The cherry blossoms were starting to bloom this time of year, so naturally I was in photographer heaven. The area we set ourselves up at for the night was small, behind a highway, and the ground was pretty much entirely covered by rocks. Definitely not the perfect camping destination, but we made due with what we had, even after a few holes in our tents.
To be completely candid, I really wasn’t planning on harnessing myself up just to fall flat on my face, but with a little bit of encouragement, I changed my mind. I got all harnessed up and mustered up every oz of courage I had to take that first step onto the big bad rock. Then, and guys I was pretty shocked about this, I started climbing.
There were more than a few swear words thrown into the 20 minutes it took me to get to the top of the beginner climb, but I did it. I rang the bell at the top and everything! With my head held high there are a few things about spirit I learned from my one experience as a mountaineer (can I call myself that!? Maybe one day).
Hands are Meant to Be Calloused
I didn’t realize that I’d get quite as many cuts and bruises from climbing as I did. I mean, I’m not entirely sure why I thought i’d come down un-scathed, but it just hadn’t occurred to me. The next day I could feel the minor sting here and there as I grabbed my backpack or wrapped up our tent, but that sting was rewarding. I knew there was a good reason they were there, and I wanted more of them!
Your Friends Will Help You Go Far
There’s no way I would have made it up to the top of that rock without the encouragement of my friends bellow me. They kept helping me along the way, letting me know where the next visible step was and shouting encouraging words. I won’t lie, there were quite a few swear words that came out of my mouth, but I did it, and the descend was way more satisfying that way. Thanks for being my rock on a rock, guys.
Smor’s and Rice Wine Fix Everything
Despite the way that climbing made my heart pump, my favorite part of the day was relaxing around the fire. We made chicken, pork in lettuce leaves, veggie hobo packs, Smor’s and drank lots Makgeolli. By three in the morning our bellies were full and we’d played every party game in the book (you know the ones I mean). These are the moments I’ll remember most from my year in Korea.
That weekend was both spontaneous and delightful, plus a super eye opening experience for me. I seriously felt like I could conquer anything after I made it down from that mountain. I think I’ve found a new sport that I’ll continue to practice and improve at over the years, as I continue to travel to different places in Asia and even back home in the United States or Puerto Rico.
Getting to Sinban
If you click the link above, you’ll see a breakdown of all the different climbs available in Sinban. The article says that the only way to get to Sinban (신반), Gyeongsangnam-do province, is by car… which is absolutely not true. I took a bus from the Seobu Bus Terminal straight to Sinban station. From there, getting to the campsite takes about 10 minutes on foot.
If you’re leaving from another city outside of Daegu, check the bus schedule at your main bus station and there should be a bus that goes to Sinban. Worst case scenario, you may have to transfer buses, but they’re so comfortable in Korea that it’s really no big deal. Let me know if these directions helped, or if you’d like more detail!