First, I think the thing that impressed me most about climbing in Korea was the trust Koreans have in other climbers not to steal their stuff. On quite a few routes we found a full set of quick draws (the metal clips that your rope goes through) already left on the bolts in the rock. At an average of about $15 per draw, this meant that each route had over $100 of quick draws left on it, supposedly to be retrieved later.
Actually, our own group left a number of quick draws up over Saturday night, and sure enough they were still there when we returned the next day. We even left our rope bags hidden under a rock to save weight, and those are about $200 for a decent sized bundle. Back at the camp we had left all our valuables in the tent all day, unattended, and they were still there when we came back. Upon our arrival after Sunday's climbing, we found a family had patiently waited all day for our return so that they could ask us for a peek inside.
The second most impressive thing about the trip were the size of the bees. Redish, with black stripes, the Koreans call them "horse bees," and I would say they are roughly twice the size or more of a normal bumble bee. The Koreans told me that although they have the temperment of a normal bumble bee they can sting multiple times without dieing, and that the venom from one horse bee can knock a grown man out, but if three bees sting you it can bring death.
Since I am talking about large insects anyways, I should take this opportunity to mention that last week I saw a mantis for the first time in person. It was in a tree just over my head, brown in colour, and about five to six inches long. While it did not frighten me at the time, I suppose there was a miniscule (and by "a miniscule" I mean zero) chance it could have accidentally dropped out of the tree on my head and proceeded to hack and slash me to... well, pain I suppose. Now that I think about it, I should have killed every mantis in the world for this one having the gull to scare me.
On the trip back home I saw three separate police cars on the highway with their lights flashing. I've mentioned before that I don't think too highly of the Korean police officer's work ethic, so I was amazed to see flashing lights on a highway actually belonging to a moving vehicle. In fact, until this time all of the flashing red and blue lights I had seen were just police lights attached to a pole or a parked vehicle (not a police car), in an attempt to trick drivers into slowing down.
Nearer to Seoul, I also saw a woman with her driver's side window rolled all the way down, and her Chihuahua literally hanging halfway out the window, whilst standing on her lap. That one just made me shake my head.
However, none of these things tops the fact that while listening to some Korean radio on the way home, the DJ actually played "Youth Gone Wild," by Skid Row. I've often felt that in many ways some of the cultural trends in Korea mimic those of Canada in the late '70s, and early '80s. However, I never thought I'd hear late '80s hair metal on the radio, and especially not that song (note: I really like the song, I'm just not certain it belongs on "modern radio.")
To finish off I'll include a few pictures of the climbing, etc. for those of you who had expressed interest.
(This is a "Tourist Guiding Map" of the area in which we were hiking. You can see the red dot which marks where location of the map. However, unless you are a tourist who can understand Korean, you might have no idea where to go from there.)
(I didn't get any pictures of the "horse bees," because they don't like to cooperate by staying still - unless it's to hover around your legs while you try to shoo them away - but check out the size of the beetles compared to Choi's fingers to give you an idea of the size of insects one finds in Korea.)
(One of the many beautiful tiger lillies in this section of Seonunsan Provincial Park. My camera decided to focus on the background for this shot, but I feel it makes for a more interesting picture so I decided to keep it anyways. I cannot remember the exact name of this flower in Korean, but Ji-Hyeun told me it means something similar to "longing for a loved one you can never see." When the flower is in bloom the leaves are not visible, but when the bloom is over, the leaves come out while the petals disappear. The Koreans compare this situation to what Romeo and Juliet experienced, and thus the rationale.)
(Choi's DSLR takes a much better picture of this scene- as he can change the depth of focus - but these are a bunch of large rocks Choi managed to balance on their ends. I tried it, and the points are much smaller than they look in the picture; i.e., it was quite hard.)
(I can't remember her name, but the woman in front is the same woman who finished her 5.12a project this weekend. Here she watches Rina Park climbing Baek-am 3, 5.10b, while Ji-hyeun belays.)
(Mystery 5.12a woman's boyfriend and my climbing/belay partner, Han-soung, climbs Baek-am 3, 5.10b.)
(This is Korean language student, originally from Los Angeles now studying in Jeju-do, attempting to climb the "harder than it's graded" route, JCC 3, 5.11b. Ji-hyeun and Rina both said I could climb this route because I have good footwork, but considering this woman flashed Baek-am 5, 5.11a (finished the route on her first time), and it took me 6 tries, I'm not so certain I believe them. Then again, they also said I could send a 5.11a before this trip and I didn't believe them then, either.)
(Choi making easy work of Baek-am 5, 5.11a.)
(Ji-hyeun, looking a lot like Choi, also making Baek-am 5 look easy.)