Monday, September 7, 2009

Episode 7: Climbing Trip, Day 1

The van from Ace climbing gym left at 9:00 PM on Friday night. There were six of us, and the Ace Climbing Club's Hyundai turbo charged diesel van had room (sort of) for 8 people, so there was a bit of room to spread out.

The climbing would be in Seonunsan Provincial Park, in Jeollabuk-do, a province on the South-West Coast of Korea. The trip took over three hours, and so by the time we arrived at the campsite it was past midnight. What followed was the fastest tent construction I've ever seen. Choi and the gang put up the behemoth tent, and attached the second room (a separate tent) in the pitch-black, in what had to be less than fifteen minutes. For my part, I brought the wrong tent poles when unneccessary and then decided it was best if I just stayed out of the way.

The Ace Climbing Club has a massive tent called The Castle, and with the extension there is room for at least ten adults to sleep in relative "comfort." Furthermore, Asian-sized people (like me) can not only stand up inside of the tent, but raise our arms above over head without touching the roof. This of course means there's almost as much room inside The Castle as a Nissan Cube.

(The Castle. People would ask me if I was with "the Ace guys," not because they had recognized the decaled van, but because they recognized the tent.)

(Our neighbours were just cheaters, and brought everything including a gas powered stove.)

I'm not sure what time it was when we finished putting up the tent, but 12:30 AM would be a good guess. I thought we would go to sleep, but out of multiple climber's bags came the various pieces to a portable camping cook set. Like everything else necessary for camping, I had forgotten to bring my chopsticks, spoon, or bowl. However, luckily I was able to piece together a makeshift dining set by borrowing the appropriate utensils from the other climbers.

Back in June I wrote an article on camping with Koreans. At the time I thought the campfire samgyeupsal meal was a unique occurrence. To my surprise (and good fortune) I found out this trip that Koreans take their food vary seriously, and are not about to let a little thing like not having a kitchen stand in their way of making ridiculously complex meals.

(preparing a feast at close to 1:00 AM)

(breakfast the next morning)

After supper I was given a packet of black onion juice (not a joke), and was told to drink it because it would give me "stamina." I had seen black onion juice being sold before in Noksapyeong station (near Itaewon), and oddly enough had not experienced an inclination to try any at the time. I cannot say my motivations had changed any since then, but I never say "no" when I am offered food in Korea. I downed the package of black oil as quickly as possible, and I wish I could say it was as disgusting as I thought it would be, and that I am the bravest man alive for finishing the package, but it was actually relatively sweet and quite easy to drink (if you don't think too much about what it is). I'm not sure if it gave me extra "stamina," but I did notice that I made a pretty easy hike of the mountain on the way to the climbing crag the next morning.

A note about the sleeping: As I had mentioned earlier, I had not brought anything necessary for camping like a sleeping bag or pillow. In my defence, there wasn't really room in my suitcase for a sleeping bag, and I don't even have a pillow at my home (because I didn't bring one to Korea either). However, Choi brought along an extra small blanket for me. Additionaly, the ground was something (much) less than even, and so it was next to impossible to sleep for more than two hours before I found myself tangled up in the tent (I was on the outside, and apparently Ji-hyeun had the same problem on the other side). Never-the-less, I had actually thought everyone was bringing their own tents and I was going to have to sleep outside under the stars (I brought a coat at least), so I was grateful for the minimal comfort I did have.

(Part 2 still to come...)