Facing this hill are the successive peaks of Mt Bukhan (836m)
running like city walls on the N and NW outskirts. Another series
of peaks represented by Mt Dobong (741m) adorn the NE fringe,
from which the undulating range recedes into distant and higher
Across the Han River flowing
E to W on the S part of Seoul are expanses of new city development
areas at the end of which spreads again a chain of mountain
starting with Mt Kwanak (629m). Foreigners are amazed to find
here such harmony of mountains and habitations culminating
in the overall natural beauty of the city site.
These mountains around Seoul, mostly of steep granite peaks,
had stood as natural bulwarks against foreign invasions till
the end of the 19th Century. With present-day transportation
facilities, thousands of Seoulites enjoy mountaineering on
every Sunday and holiday.
Particularly Mts Bukhan and Dobong
have more than 20 precipitous peaks and have become the cradle
of Korean alpinists as a kind of a rock garden for your climbers
since 1930 or thereabouts.
The first even of Westernized alpinism in Korea was the ascent
to the summit of Mt Paekdu (2744m) by Capt Francis Younghusband,
British explorer and alpinist, in 1886. Later in 1926 Mr.
C. H. Archer, British Vice Consul to Korea, and a certain
Mr. Macre of a british mission in Japan succeeded in rock-climbing
the steepest separate peak in Mt Bukhan called Insu Peak(803m)
and tow other peaks Manjangbong and Obong. This is recognized
as the first inst~nce of modern rock-climbing in Korea.
It is historically interesting and meaningful that the British
who had climbed and studied many highlands and mountains of
several continents introduced the European geological, explorative
mountaineering and modern alpinism (mainly of rock-climbing)
to Korean people at these peaks of metropolitan Seoul. Thus
mountain climbing in the 1930s was rudimentary peak-hunting
but since 1940 or so the Korean became more advanced than
the Japanese in this field with the help of the Baekryong
Club, a Korean alpine club, as their center organization.
They now tried more sophisticated patterns using combinations
of face and ridge climbing, which Europeans used in exploring
such high peaks as the Alps and other noted mountains of the
Here are some records of the first rock-climbing ascents of
peri-Seoul peaks during 1926-45 period. There were 33 routes,
mostly consisting of 9 peaks around and in Mt Bukhan together
with 12 on Mt Dobong. At the close of World War Ii an independent
group called Corean Alpine Club was started.
One should observe
that Korean mountaineering till then was chiefly free climbing
wherein pitons were used only occasionally on routes of Grade
IV or over.
However, thanks to the influence from European and American
alpinists, rock-climbing courses began quickly increasing
as techniques of artificial climbing were introduced to Koreans
step by step. Recently some young members of a climbers' club
conducted a research on the rocks and peaks around Seoul and
formally announced 113 routes in existence. If we exclude
the previously mentioned 33 routes, there are more than 80
new routes since 1945.
Among these are some outstanding courses
including those of Grace V + 9 necessitating artificial climbing
of overhangs but a portion of it is a combination on the way
or some irregular interchanges between and among established
In the instance of the S wall of Insu Peak, a web-like
pattern of routes has been developed and one can see the traces
of brazen artificial climbing with tens of bolts and pitons
pegged in on end upon rock surfaces.
These excesses have led
to a call for restrictions preventing destruction of rock
surfaces and encouraging conservation of nature in general.
The use of jam-nuts and grip-fingers for clean climbing is
encouraged, the preference of an increasing number of mountaineers
these days. The following are the details of a few typical
alpine routes near Seoul.
Baekwundae Crest (836m) on Mt Bukhan is the highest peak near
Seoul and attracts the largest number of climbers on holidays.
Historical records say that a Baekje king climbed to the summit
of this crest in the 18th year BC for construction of a fortress.
King Taejo, the first of the Joseon Dynasty, became the first
Korean rock-climber by reaching the summit with deft control
of a cotton-sheet belt handled as a sort of climbing rope.
Since then only those few brave enough could climb this crest.
In 1926 a group of interested notables collected a fund to
carve out stairways and install iron handrails along the climbing
way, which is now one of the most popular mountain courses
The S rock-wall was climbed in 1929 by the present
writer and party, then junior high school students. This is
shown here as an example, for later on there will be descriptions
of the grades of routes about Insu Peak. On Beakwundae Crest
there are 12 routes altogether.
Insu Peak is one of the 9 rock-peaks on Mt Bukhan.
number of routes reaches over 50. Meanwhile, there are 5 hotels
of Western and Korean styles on the piedmont and 5 chalets
on the breast of Mt Bukhan, providing pleasant facilities,
as well as mountaineering classes and relief teams at weekends.
Furthermore, there are 8 Buddhist temples with traditional
architecture dotting the quiet corners of the mountain, offering
visiting mountaineers serene places of recuperation intoned
with Buddhist monks' scripture chanting.
With no chance of access to high alps as in other countries,
Korean alpinists like to train themselves by simulating a
larger scale ascent, carrying out combination climbing on
more than 5 to 10 routes at a time stretching over a few days,
thus trying to reproduce the situation of grand alpinism overseas.