Mountain Climbing in Korea; high altitude… high fashion?!?!?!!
Mountain Climbing, for real.
A few months back I mentioned mountain climbing in one of my articles, but didn’t really talk about mountain climbing.
Ladies and Gents, in Korea mountain climbing is the national pastime. (Well for the younger generation, that might be starcraft, but for anyone over 40 it’s all about mountain climbing.) I’m not older than 40, but I was once a boy scout. I’ve been known to climb a mountain, catch a fish, or horribly mangle a meal cooked outdoors here and there. In fact, I wish I had outdoors type friends who would join me. Oh wait, I’m in Korea, so that means on the weekend the whole 40-60 year old male demographic will join me whether I like it or not.
Now, I’ve climbed a few mountains in Korea. As I usually only have time on the weekends, that’s when I go, and man, it’s crowded. Some parts of the mountain trail to the top are so packed that you have to walk single file and only stay at the top for 5 minutes out of courtesy. This isn’t all bad though, because atop Bukhansan, the most popular mountain in Seoul to climb, I proposed to my fiancé. The other people at the top were all very happy and clapped for me when she said yes. It was awesome.
One thing you’ll notice about these people who climb the mountains… even though it’s merely a day trip, they’ll be dressed as if they are climbing Mount Everest! You’d think they were all professionals, what with the designer hiking boots, quick drying jumpers and outdoor pants, even some equipment I’ve never heard of, like mountain climbing gloves. Some even bring huge backpacks (the kind I used in boy scouts for 3 day hiking trips that included enough water, clothing, food, and a tent). I’m not really sure if it’s more about climbing the mountain to enjoy nature, or if it’s to impress the other climbers with the latest and greatest mountain climbing equipment.
Usually I went wearing jeans, a t-shirt and some old athletic shoes. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to me until I stopped for lunch and brought out the U.S. Army MRE that I bought on the black market from a surplus store. Suddenly I got all these oohs and aahs.. as I cooked the MRE simply by adding water to it and activating the heater. One guy even asked me to let him taste it, which I reluctantly agreed to. He exclaimed how wonderful it tasted when compared with Korean Army field rations. Several climbers asked me where I bought the MREs, so it’s possible that the U.S. Army MRE might be the next biggest thing to show off to people in the weekend mountain climbing community.
Getting back to their clothing, I wondered if the clothes really enhanced performance or if that was simply a tag word that they liked to put on some articles. I’m too cheap to actually buy the stuff before trying it out, so a friend of mine was kind enough to let me borrow his mountain climbing gear. Here’s how I felt about it all.
Sweat Proof breathable Hat: It kept the sun out of my eyes, and allowed the wind to come into the hat, but since it is sweat proof, the sweat kept trickling down my face into my eyes. It might have been better simply to wear sunglasses.
Climbing Backpack: Wonderful. The Cross Clip made it such that it didn’t feel heavier than it actually was, and it didn’t cut into my shoulders. However, it also warmed up my back, causing me to sweat more than I would have otherwise. I now have to clean the backpack because it absorbed sweat.
Performance fleece sweat proof top: This is the same material that they make soccer jerseys out of. The idea is that the soccer jersey will not absorb so much of your sweat that it will weigh you down or stick to your body like cotton would. Soccer jerseys are also very loose fitting so the sweat simply trickles off your body. This jumper however has the unfortunate design of warming you up with the fleece, and not absorbing any moisture with the inner part. The result is a disgusting sweat buildup that runs downward into your cotton underwear, making it soggy.
Sweatproof pants: Now this actually is a good idea, because sweaty jeans are uncomfortable. Trouble is, the sweat trickles down your legs from your already soggy underwear , into your cotton socks, soaking them.
Hiking shoes: Okay, this is where I was actually pleasantly surprised. The shoes were great! They felt so light and so form fitting, even though my friend has been using them for so long. I was used to those big heavy leather hiking boots that the boy scouts recommend. You know, the huge heavy leather army combat-like boots. After having a terrible experience with everything except the shoes, I decided to find out what it is about them that made them so good.
The shoes were made by a company called Treksta, which has been making outdoor shoes since 1988. It appears they have put a lot of research into making the perfect outdoor shoes.
On their website, it says that they’ve tested over 20,000 human feet to come up with a design that can accommodate everyone’s foot.
The rest of the shoe appears to be constructed in a way that makes it durable, functional and long lasting.
All that other stuff that the weekend climbers were wearing is totally unnecessary, but I think good shoes make all the difference. I felt less sore the next day.
I’ll have to get some better hiking shoes of my own before I go hiking again.