Rock Climbing and Hiking in Korea: Maintaining the Mountains


Although the energy and pace of Korean city life is exhilarating, some days the longing for the stillness of nature becomes too great to ignore. From tranquil mountain strolls to rock climbing adventures, Korea’s natural mountainous natural environment caters to everyone—both casual nature enthusiasts and extreme athletes alike.

And yet, in one’s escape from the city it is easy to overlook the amount of work that goes into maintaining an enjoyable hiking trail or a safe rock climbing area. Much of the work done by the Korea on the Rocks Initiatives (KOTRi) initiatives involves the testing and replacement of old, unsafe climbing hardware in fragile natural environments.

KOTRi founder Bryan Hylenski, in 2010, identified the need for rock climbers and nature buffs to come together to take responsibility for the impact they have on Korea’s environment. The organization was born from a vision to upgrade and maintain the natural heritage that inspires Korea’s rock climbing and outdoor communities.

Since KOTRi’s inception, a dynamic mix of local and expat rock climbers and community members have been gathering across the peninsula to implement maintenance programs at some of the country’s best climbing spots.

“The work done by KOTRi helps keep these special natural places looking great, which draws climbers, hikers and other visitors,” said KOTRi spokesman Les Timmermans.

According the group’s founder, Hylenski, the recent signing of Adidas Korea as an official KOTRi partner for 2012 means that this will be a big year for the organization.

“The funding that we are getting from Adidas Korea will allow KOTRi to pursue programs and ideas we simply couldn’t have afforded previously.”

Adidas Korea has agreed to purchase all hardware, supplies and equipment required by KOTRi to complete their 2012 initiatives.

A crew of expat and local climbers gathered in early June near Guyre in Korea’s Jeollanam province for a weekend of hard work, as an ongoing initiative at Yongseo Pokpo climbing area resumed. This initiative is a long-term project aimed at improving and maintaining the area’s spectacular climbing faces. A major goal of KOTRi’s at Yongseo Pokpo is to create a more sustainable climbing environment. Towards this, KOTRi will also be managing trash collection and recycling as well as installing an eco-friendly bathroom.

The general improvement of the area as a whole is valuable for both rock climbers and nature enthusiasts alike, who all enjoy this special area for its unique beauty and peacefulness. Due to the sheer size of the climbing area at Yongseo Pokpo, KOTRi has allocated two-to-four years for the project, during which time it will replace all the outdated climbing hardware, build new access trails and restore the current ones.

The Munsusan Initiative is another of KOTRi’s ongoing initiatives. It began in 2010 and climbers gathered mid-June this year to continue replacing old climbing hardware at the popular climbing site on Munsusan Mountain near Ulsan.

“Our goal is to make sure that Munsusan is a safe climbing zone for future climbing generations,” said Hylenski. The event was described by Hylenski as a
“huge success”, with five of the eight climbing walls now fully restored. This project will be wrapped up this fall. KOTRi has planned a very active year with two new refurbishment initiatives set to kick into motion later this year at Bueongsae and Pyocheongsa, both in Gyeongsangnam province near Miryang.

The work of securing a safe climbing environment is very often limited to expert climbers. However, non-climbing outdoor lovers can get involved by lending a hand with sign posting, trail building and general site clean up. “There is always room for extra helping hands with non-climbing environmental projects,” said Timmermans.

Apart from hands-on assistance, non-climbers can show support at KOTRi’s fundraising events. “So much of KOTRi’s fundraising success is owed to the generous support of non-climbers with whom the organization shares a common interest in natural areas and community building.”

Learn more about the organization and how to get involved at

Adidas Korea is an official partner of KOTRi.



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