▲ Christine Ahn searches for hand and foot holds while climbing at Squirrel Cave, one of Jeju’s popular and challenging rock climbing spots. Photo by Daniel Kojetin
As a volcanic island with some of the most beautiful natural scenery in Korea, it is no surprise that Jeju offers both amateur and expert rock climbers something special. From the dramatic, sullen landscape of Squirrel Cave to the serene beauty of Oedolgae, there is a multitude of climbing options available on the island.
While most enthusiasts (generally members of one of the two clubs on the island) are in their 30s and 40s, some as young as high school age are also known to enjoy the sport. And even though the rock climbing community here in Jeju is small, it is surprisingly well traveled.
One of its most experienced members is Yu Kwan-Kei, originally from Busan. With over 35 years of mountain climbing experience, including a successful hike to camp four on Mount Everest, and 13 years of sports climbing experience, Yu is a font of knowledge for rock climbers on the island. Yu can often be found helping those making an attempt at a new climb and giving advice. Without question, his favorite place in Jeju to climb is Musucheon. English instructor Dan Kajetin agrees with the choice.
“It is pretty and has some good climbs. It is also a good place to take your family for a picnic.”
Musucheon is a stream running from Mount Halla and is surrounded by stunning rocks and trees. It is just under a mile from downtown Jeju City and is easy to reach. With a wide range of “projects,” or climbs, available for all levels of ability, Musucheon is an excellent location for all rock climbing enthusiasts, as well as those who just want to watch and enjoy the scenery.
Rock climbing uses the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS) to measure the difficulty of different projects, from 5.0 for the easiest climbs up to 5.9. For climbs rated at 5.10 and higher an additional lettering system is used which ranges alphabetically from a to d.
At 5.15a, the “Realization” course in Ceuse, France is widely considered the most difficult in the world. Jeju has its own share of difficult courses, and the hardest is considered to be a 5.13 course located at Squirrel Cave known simply as “Jump.” With almost 10 years of climbing experience, Kojetin can attest to this course’s difficulty.
“No one from Jeju has successfully climbed it. In fact the only person to complete it was the man from Seoul who bolted the route,” he said, referring to hammering bolts into the rock to assist with the use of climbing ropes.
Squirrel Cave is set in a beautiful yet quiet area near the new Halla Library in Jeju City. Despite its proximity to the the city the cave is peaceful and commands an intimidating yet slightly majestic atmosphere. Like Musucheon, a wide range of courses are available at all levels, from one which could be described as a “moderately easy” 5.5 to the aforementioned “Jump” course at 5.13.
Climbing is an excellent workout and requires the use of your entire body. The start-up costs are also fairly cheap, at approximately $150.
Jeju offers two climbing gyms, “Jeju Sports Climbing Move Zone,” in the City Hall area of the city, and “Ace Club,” with memberships typically costing 60,000 won a month. There is also an outdoor artificial wall located at Jeju Sports Complex, just behind the Jeju City bus terminal. This is free to use and lighting is available until 10 p.m.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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