Learning how to rock climb has been on my to-do list for a few years now. My goal finally seemed attainable when I started dating Dave because in my eyes he is an incredible rock climber. I’m pretty sure he was a spider monkey in a previous life.
This past summer I finally committed to learning to climb, and invested in a pair of climbing shoes. Unfortunately, the shoes are just as painful to break in as ice skates, so i wasn’t very motivated to climb because my feet hurt so much. I also have never had short nails and was distraught when I discovered I needed to cut my nails short.
We only climbed three times outdoors with ropes and three times in a gym before we left for Korea, so I didn’t have too much experience before we got here. Dave and I alternated being sick for our first two months in Seoul, so it wasn’t until about a month ago that we finally went to a climbing gym. I discovered this awesome website called Korea On the Rocks that has reviews, directions, and pictures of climbing gyms and areas all over South Korea. Turns out climbing is a popular pastime here.
One evening while Dave was sick, we mapped out all of the climbing gyms in Seoul on a subway map so we could determine which gyms would be the easiest for us to get to. We combed through all the pictures and reviews to see which gyms looked best. It was a little disappointing to find out that there weren’t many gyms that offered sport climbing (where you climb with ropes). Almost every climbing gym in Seoul is geared toward bouldering, which is climbing without ropes on shorter routes. When bouldering outside, you typically climb large boulders rope-free with pads underneath you in case you fall.
The gyms that do offer sport climbing, which is what I was originally more interested in learning, are far from our place and very pricey. It makes sense that this is the case in such a populated city where space is hard to come by. I gave in to the idea that I would have to boulder, at least until the end of winter.
The climbing gyms in Boulder, Colorado (where we were living before) are some of the best out there, so it was a little hard to adjust our expectations for climbing in Seoul. After the initial realization that the gym walls wouldn’t be very high and there wouldn’t be any sport climbing until spring, we decided that the first bouldering gym we would try would be Summit Sports Climbing Center.
The directions we had made it incredibly easy to find the place. We first went on a Tuesday afternoon after school and when we arrived it was practically empty. We were a little confused by the routes (aka problems in climbing lingo) to begin with because they didn’t have any markings indicating what level climb they were. Dave found a good problem for me to work on and I am proud to say that after a month of working on it, I finally completed it on Saturday without cheating or falling off. I am on my way to becoming the climber I’ve been wanting to become!
We haven’t yet tried any of the other gyms we found online because we have fallen in love with Summit. It’s not crowded, it’s not too far away, there are good eats nearby, there is free chalk and coffee, and the man who runs the place is a total sweetheart. He speaks some English and he gave us free Summit stickers on our first visit and t-shirts on our fourth. He seems like a seasoned climber and I look forward to hopefully climbing with him and some of the other folks from the gym outside in spring. By then I should be stronger and a little more skilled.
If you are interested in visiting Summit Sports Climbing Center, take the subway to Ehwa Women’s University and leave out of exit 6. Walk straight until you reach the first intersection and make a left. Walk two blocks until you reach a three way intersection and make a hard right. Walk down this street until you see the sign for Summit on the left hand side. The gym is in the basement.