Halmea-bawi is great because of the clean flat base area, the variety of grades and the high quality of climbs. The rock provides great friction, is not polished and because of the high usage the loose stuff is gone. During the weekdays it is very quiet but on the weekends it can be super busy with the hordes of Korean climbers from the nearby cities. The local climbing scene is alone worth the experience with the elaborate picnic set-ups, climbing fashions, and general positive climbing amp! On one of the weekends there was a group of 30 people from Seoul who had chartered a bus to visit Halmae-bawi (Saturday) and then Seonusan Park (Sunday).
Where to stay – Gochang has lots of good restaurants, of course most are Korean BBQ. There are also fast-food shops which do spicy meat soups, gimbap (seaweed rice wraps), kimbap (a rice bowl with veggies), kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage), pork cutlets and a variety of bizarre foods. We stayed at Evergreen Lodge (30 euro a night for 2 people, which is the average cost of a hotel in South Korea). There is a good public market in town with fruits, veggies, cosmetics, drinks, and dried snacks. Another option is to stay at the Seonusan Park entrance but the food options are limited and the accommodation costs are higher.
Climbing at Halmae-bawi – The rock type is a limestone conglomerate mix, providing pockets, crimps, underclings, side pulls, jugs and the wall is vertical to slightly overhanging. There has been a lot of rebolting with glue-in steel bolts. There are about ten harder routes, providing about fifty sport routes in total from French sport 5a to 8a+. The routes lengths range from twelve to thirty meters. Some recommended equipment would be a 60 meter rope, 16 quick draws, a GriGri, a helmet and a brush to clean the excess chalk off the holds.
What to do on rest days – Visit the local markets because they are full of wacky experiences, friendly people and vastly different foods.
Another option – is find a Jjimjilbang and have a sauna Korean style, inside there are also hot tubs, hairdressers, rest areas, games, restaurants, work out facilities and over all body pampering.
Where to go hiking – Seonusan Park is close by with a 3000 Korean Won entrance fee to hike the trails and see the Buddhist temples.
Climbing in Seonusan Park – This is the best hard sport climbing in Korea! In the park are three good crags; Tugu-bawi, Soksal-bawi and Mun-bawi. These limestone crags offer about 150 routes from 10 to 25 meters high and on vertical to very steep rock. The style is most often technical footwork or crimps or steep explosive movement on pockets and handles. The majority of routes are graded from 7a to 9a so if you are fit or patient there is alot of fun climbing to be done.
Access – From Seoul (Yongsan station) take the train to Jeongeup about 90 minutes (35,000 KRW) and then bus which takes 45 minutes to Gochang (8,000 KRW). For train tickets check online at South Korean train timetable and ticket prices.
How to get to the crags – from the Gochang bus station take bus 141 or 143 going out to Seonusan park (1000 KRW), after 25 minutes on the bus you will see the Halmae-bawi crag on the right-hand side. Tell the driver you want off by frantic waving, saying climbing, halt from the corner/traffic light it is a one-minute walk. If you want to go to Seonusan Park just stay on the bus for another ten minutes. This bus leaves every hour from 7am till 7pm. To return just wait at the corner and flag the bus down when he comes back. It is really simple.