After work last night, Lacey and I went to the local climbing gym in Siji for some much needed exercise. We used to go in the mornings (well, lunchtime, but that's morning for us) but schedule changes have made that impossible for the last couple of months. Even though it meant a very delayed dinner, going in the evening meant we actually got to meet some of the local climbers and see them in action. Chubby beer-swillers they are not. Well, maybe not the beer part...
Koreans never do anything by halves. Studying, hiking, golf, drinking, school testing...it seems everything is taken further and faster than back in the slow-moving West. When a Korean likes a sport, they practice All the Time, wear all the Right Gear - and they improve quickly. The studying regime, and drinking habits are well known aspects of modern Korean culture, but they fit into a broader context than I first realised.
So I guess it shouldn't be surprising that every one of the 5 or 6 climbers we saw last night was of a standard far above the average climber at Ibrox. I can't say anything about their rope-work as its a bouldering gym (though one guy was practicing clipping in with a rope tied around his waist) but their strength and all-round athleticism certainly is impressive. It reminded me of a training article by Dave MacLeod where he talks about how a lot of climbers are limited simply by being surrounded by climbers of their same level and so they don't feel the need to push themselves. While I'm nowhere near the peak of fitness, I did find myself pushing harder just by having harder climbers in the same gym, something I rarely did during our quiet morning sessions.
But what about 'traditional climbing' and the philosophy that goes with it? I've accepted that I probably can't continue my apprenticeship in Korea, and I doubt it's something that would even have much meaning here. Nature and wilderness are not revered in the way that they are in the UK, and especially Scotland, so of course the climbing culture is different. While I can't imagine sport-climbing beating the elation of completing a gruelling multi-pitch climb on the Cuillin Ridge, it was a fantastic way to spend a week in El Chorro. And indoor climbing, despite its limitations, undeniably builds fitness and strength.
As we were leaving last night, our new friends told us to come back soon. And drink some beers. While climbing. Oh Korea :)