The Sea Cliffs of Gadeok Island

Two climbers sport climb near Busan. Photo by Winter Ramos.

Ryou Don-il, a long-time climber, guidebook author and route developer, took me to Gadeok Island to check out a unique sea cliff sport climbing area tucked away in a stunning setting. It’s  close to Busan, only 50 kilometers across the East Sea to Japan.

On the trip, I saw a vibrant sea-scape, spectacular sea cliffs and Korean roe deer jumping through a rich and aromatic forest.

A cargo ship by the climbing spot. Photo by Winter Ramos

While climbing the sea cliffs, I watched enormous cargo ships float by like giant ghosts in the mists, on their way to the Busan Newport Terminal, the world’s fifth largest port and a transport hub of North East Asia.  This massive port is almost entirely controlled by computers with little human labor.

As we sat tucked away among the sea cliffs sipping makgeolli, a traditional rice wine, Ryou described his more than 30 years rock climbing in Korea.  When he first started, there were only a few climbers in Korea. Now, climbing is a booming and trendy pastime with hundreds of climbing gyms in the country. He enjoys having many more people to climb with, and he doesn’t have to search hard for partners. But he says many new climbers have a “climbing gym mentality,” having never climbed outside. They haven’t learned the ethics of the outdoors.

We finished the day in a Korean BBQ restaurant eating delicious food and laughing around many bottles of soju.

Makgeolli, Korean rice liqueur. Photo by Winter Ramos