Saturday, December 12, 2009

Episode 40: In Which DFM Climbs With A Korean Pro, And Tries Not To Fall On His Face

Today (Saturday) was the date of the final Ace Climbing Competition for 2009 (and my final Ace Climbing Competition before I head back to Canada).

This month's competition was held on a Saturday afternoon, as opposed to the typical Thursday evening, because we needed the extra time. I get the sense that year-end competitions are usually a big deal at Ace, and if so this year was certainly no different.

Ji-hyeun had sent me an sms earlier in the week telling me not to forget about the competition because I could win many prizes. Prizes are definitely a new aspect of Ace competitions for me, but Ji-hyeun still hasn't learned that my life essentially evolves around the next competition of any kind, and so there was no chance I would have forgotten either way.

This time I finally got a chance to climb in the same team as the incredible Yun Gi-yeun. Gi-yeun, so I've been told, is a professional Korean sports climber (climbing outside with ropes, etc.) and today he took no more than two tries to finish any of the routes in the competition. If you remember, this is the same climber I wrote about a while ago who completed 8 laps of a 100 move route, for a warm up.

After the climbing competition, the real fun began. Ji-hyeun and Choi had planned three fun games for even more chances to win prizes and have more fun.

The first game was a team speed relay event. Each of the five teams selected three members to take part in the relay. The first leg of the relay involved a beginner member following a short course and then tagging any body part of a waiting intermediate level climber. The intermediate level climber then set off on another short course to tag the leg of an advanced level climber, who in turn set off to the finish as fast as he/she could. Of course Gi-yeun was my team's final competitor, and even though he climbed his route without using his feet, we still won by a full second.

Next came the slacklining event. Choi strung up a low slackline between two walls, and numbered off sections of the line for the competition. The confused expressions of the climbers in the picture below gives you a clue as to just how little Korean climbers practice their slacklining compared to climbers from The West.

(Yun Gi-yeun, in the orange and white shirt, and some of the other advanced climbers contemplate this strange new contraption in the climbing gym.)

This part of the competition also had a bonus section, in which everyone, even those climbers not competing, could win a prize by correctly guessing the winner of the competition (the climber who makes it to the furthest zone, marked by the white tape).

(Han-song, in the black tank-top, and the other climbers look on with interest during the Ace slacklining competition.)

I was too busy taking pictures of everyone to actually practice the event myself, but I noticed that none of the climbers could make it more than two steps without wobbling wildly, and tumbling off the line soon afterwards.

I had learned to slackline by practising on a suspended cable I found in a playground near my University a few years ago. While I am by no means an expert, I was pretty certain I had a good chance of making it a few metres down the line without falling. This knowledge, combined with the fact that I didn't really know the full names of any of the athletes competing compelled me to vote for myself as the winner.

I ended up getting second place, and narrowly missed first place by one step. One of my friends expressed mock anger at my not having practised, because if the other climbers had seen my relative poise on the webbing they all would have voted for me. It mattered not though, because the winning technique seemed to be stumbling forward awkwardly, as fast as you could, and hoping that you lucked out and hit the rope at a far number before taking a wild fall (see below).

(Another one bites the dust during the Ace slackline event. Check out Gi-yeun's expression on the left.)

Next came the one-footed paper pick up. That may not seem difficult, from the title, but there's a catch - you have to pick the paper up with your mouth, and the one foot is used for standing.

(Here Choi explains the rules. Stand on one foot on the wood. Crouch down and pick the paper up with your mouth, and then stand back up again without touching any other body part to the ground.)

Below, my friend, the "Man In Black" (yes, I'm referencing a movie, but no it did not feature Will Smith) shows you how it's done.

(Step 1: Marvel at how inflexible you are/how far away the paper seems.)

(Step 2: Hurt yourself getting down even further, only to become flummoxed by how the paper has not gotten any closer to your mouth.)

(Step 3: Dislocate your hip and knee to get your mouth within three inches of the ground by quickly jerking your head down as quickly as possible.)

I also voted for myself in this competition, and I almost won again, but I fell over on my way back up, with the paper in my mouth. I'm going to practice this at home and fly back over to Korea next Christmas, just to win this event.

(Of course, what would an Ace Climbing Competition be without a big group feast at the end?)

The end of an "era" of Ace Climbing Competitions. Time to say good-bye. One last picture though...

(Na-ra, "fighting!")

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