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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Cleaning Up Ulsan’s Climbing Crags

Ulsan’s Munsu Mountain, with its temple and its slew of restaurants, is a popular spot for hikers, but it also boasts some steep limestone crags that make a great venue for rock climbing. People have been climbing on Munsu for a couple of decades now, and you’ll find climbers from Ulsan and further afield there on any good weekend.

Munsu is a “sport climbing” venue: a sport route, as opposed to a “traditional” route, makes use of fixed equipment which is bolted to the rock and remains in place permanently. This stuff is needed for climbing safely: although the actual climbing uses only natural features of the rock, falling off, which happens frequently enough, is made safe by the gear and rope and harness the climber uses. If there’s no gear on the route or you forget your rope, falling off means hitting the ground. But if the safety measures are in place, falling off a sport route should mean nothing worse than a yell, a curse and a relieved grin.

At Munsu, a lot of this equipment is now reaching or is past its use-by date. Years of exposure to the elements have taken their toll: what were once bolts are now brown stains on the rock; at the top of the crag, chains and cables hang balefully like medieval manacles. Parts of the crag have been abandoned altogether by climbers as no one wants to take their chances on the rusty old gear there.

Climbers from all over Korea converged on Munsu to replace old hardware. Photo courtesy of KOTRi

Which is where KOTRi come in. Korea On The Rocks Initiatives is a not-for-profit company founded by climber Bryan Hylenski which has recently begun raising money for new equipment to replace suspect old gear, and taking on the task of putting it in place. They’ve already done work on Yeongso Pokpo, and have previously visited Munsusan. Many more projects across Korea are slated for the future.

Bryan and other volunteers from KOTRi visited Munsu for the second time last weekend (19/20 November), and a number of foreign and Korean climbers came out to help. Local climber and gym owner Choi Byeong Ho, who first climbed many of Munsu’s hardest routes, lent his expertise and knowledge of Munsu, and under his guidance a few pounds of corroded metal was stripped out of the rock to be replaced with new stainless steel hardware. At the end of the weekend KOTRi took the old stuff away to be recycled. It was a great opportunity to meet climbers both Korean and ex-pat, from Ulsan and beyond, and to learn some sound crag skills. The rain stayed away and there was even time for a spot of climbing between bouts of drilling holes and screwing in bolts.


An old, rusted anchor on a route no one had climbed in ages






A new anchor and new life for climbing route




There’s more to do but thanks to these volunteer efforts Munsu is now a safer place to climb and there’s a bit more know-how in the Ulsan climbing community. The only downside is that the climber’s long list of excuses for not attempting a particular route has just got a bit shorter.

For more information about climbing, visit the Ulsan Rock Climbing facebook page, or the Korea on the Rocks website.


Article by Nick Hirst.