Gwangju Blog

The Crooked Trail: Rocky Starts


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It is official: spring is here. Even though this is officially true, spring is getting off to a bit of a slow start. There have been a few warm days and the various blossoms springing up around the city are beautiful to the point of distraction, but with the cold nights and the occasional deluge, the season isn’t enough of an improvement to be praised yet. After months of hibernation, it’s difficult to prepare for the quickly approaching beach season with how temperamental the weather has been. Lucky for me (and everyone who will have to see me without a shirt on at the beach this summer), there’s a place in town that offers a lot of fun and challenge for anyone ready to get their exercise routine off the ground.

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The Extreme Climbing Center is an independently owned and operated indoor rock climbing facility located in Buk Gu near Dongkang College. Before this, my experience with climbing had been exclusively outdoors, primarily on bluffs and hills back home. This previous experience did little to prepare me for the arduous but rewarding experience at the climbing gym last week. Upon entering the center, we were greeted by the owner who immediately asked us our shoe sizes and quickly returned with what looked like sporty ballet slippers. My experience with outdoor climbing left me thinking I’d need heavy boots, not rubber slip on socks. Trusting that the owner, an avid and impressive climber, wouldn’t steer a new person wrong, I dutifully put the climbing ‘shoes’ on and walked towards the first set of climbing walls.

Upon looking in the first room, it was obvious this would be nothing like the climbing I’ve done before. The walls were speckled with what looked like seashells and a myriad of colored stones with color coded numbers at uneven intervals. Obviously confused, after a short explanation and tutorial on climbing technique, it all made sense. The numbers denoted paths along the various rocks along the wall, ranging in difficulty from simple to punishing. Luckily, especially since my muscles aren’t accustomed to this type of exercise after the long, cold winter (it’s a reason, not an excuse and yes, you’re welcome to say the same), the floor is lined with thick, soft cushions that do a great job of absorbing the force of a 4 meter fall. This feature more than anything else allows the freedom to push past what seems possible, allowing novices a chance to climb without fear of injury. After a few times to the top, even seasoned climbers occasionally find their strength wavering a bit. Besides, it’s really fun to fall on a safety pad from almost 2 stories up. For more advanced climbers, there’s also a second room with a harness and rope system for additional safety and realism. I’ll be sticking around the first room for a while longer though.

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The Extreme Climbing Center is located near the bus stop for Cheong-myeong Apt. which can be reached via the 27, 28, 35, and 55 buses. Near the bus stop, or across the street from it depending on which way your bus is arriving from, is a Kimbab Nara. Walking down the road to the left of this restaurant, you’ll soon come to a street with the Gwangju Squash Club. Turn left onto this street and you’ll quickly see the Extreme Climbing Center on the right. Admission for the entire day including shoe rental is 10,000 won, offering access to all the climbing walls, a small exercise area with free weights, and the occasional pointer from the owner, who offers private lessons upon request, though this may be at an additional charge (to be fair, this is something I didn’t ask about). The facilities are not extensive but they are very comfortable and everyone there was extremely courteous, friendly, and understanding which was especially surprising being with the rambunctious crowd I was with.

Indoor rock wall climbing was unexpectedly tiring but also a really fun experience. For people who are allergic to exercise, this activity may not be for you but for those who want to start the season of growth with an active push, this is the perfect way to work on picking up some healthy habits. It may be a little rough sometimes but climbing to the top is often the best way to see the path ahead on the crooked trail.

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