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Climbers strengthen safety on peaks

A group of dedicated mountaineers is set to improve a Korean mountain for other climbers.

Expats from Korea on the Rocks initiatives are teaming up with people from the Korean climbing community to replace aging mountaineering hardware on Munsusan in South Gyeongsan Province.

KOTRi founder Bryan Hylenski is to lead the group of volunteers along with Choi Byeong-ho of Ulsan’s Climbing Gym and Choi Jeong-ho of Daegu’s Challenger Gym to repair climbing gear fitted on the rocks this weekend.

A mixer and social climbing will kick start the project Saturday, followed by renovations on the Ulsan mountain Sunday.

KOTRi aims to replace all of the mountain’s climbing equipment over the next two years as much of it has fallen into disrepair, with one climber recently pulling a support bolt out in their hand as they scaled the rock face.

“All of the climbing routes were put up in the early ‘90s using everything from car parts to regular steel. They have rusted and eroded,” said college sports teacher Hylenski.

“There has not been a major accident yet but there is a feeling in the climbing community that if something happens then it is going to happen on Munsusan.” 
KOTRi volunteers gather after a day of replacing Korean mountain hardware. (KOTRi)
KOTRi volunteers gather after a day of replacing Korean mountain hardware. (KOTRi)

Volunteers will help remove current hardware, add new anchors and supports as well as help to maintain belay areas and clean up the crags.

Hylenski, who has been working in Korea on and off since 2004, and now lives in Gyeongsam, set up KOTRi two years ago to help protect Korea’s natural landscape and forge links between the expat and local climbing communities.

All old hardware that is removed from the rocks will be recycled with any funds generated used to purchase new materials. The non-profit company has already replaced more than twenty anchors on the mountain in May and donated 21 more for future projects.

KOTRi’s first initiative at Yeongseo Falls in South Jeolla Province saw expats team up with the local climbing community at Ackdong Climbing Club to replace dangerous safety equipment such as bolts and anchors, as well as creating and maintaining trails.

The group also supports the local community by providing bilingual menus and cleaning up mountain campgrounds and rivers.

The group will host a Reel Rock Film Tour annual fund-raiser at the SETEC Convention Center in Seoul from 5-10 p.m. on Dec. 10.

The bilingual event will be the South Korean premiere for adidias’ film “Antarctica,” as well as featuring six other adventure sport related movies.

Tickets cost 10,000 won in advance or 15,000 won at the door of the venue near Hangnyeoul Subway Station.

Almost 4 million won was raised at last year’s event, 98 percent of which was invested into KOTRi mountain improvement projects, including importing specialist stainless steel parts from Spain that will last for up to 100 years once installed in the rock face.

For more information, or to donate or volunteer visit www.koreaontherocks.com/kotri/ or e-mail kotrinitiatives@gmail.com.

By Kirsty Taylor (kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)
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