A climb that brings heaven to earth
Whenever I go climbing, I think, “I wish I could hang out with people like this all the time.” When you run into fellow hikers, people always say, “Good morning” or “How are you?” When you step aside and let them pass, they say, “Thank you, enjoy your day.” You cannot help bur be friendly to these kindhearted people. And greetings are only the beginning of the new friendship. While my party was having dinner at Seseok Shelter, I offered some instant coffee to the people sitting next to us, and they gave us a sack of boiled eggs in return. This spirit of sharing is not usually found in urban settings.
Maybe that’s because only good people like to go climbing. Robbery and assault are very rare in mountain shelters. We stayed the night at Seseok Shelter, where there are separate rooms for male and female hikers. But last spring, when I spent a night at Jungcheong Shelter on Mount Seorak, only co-ed accommodations were available. But sexual harassment was never a concern. Hikers were knocked out and snoring. Of course, professional climbers say that the mountains are not completely free of crime. They say that, in the past, they would set up a tent and go climbing and their equipment would be left untouched. But nowadays, they occasionally have their tents stolen. At Mount Jiri, the Seseok and Byeoksoryeong Shelters have personal lockers for 1,000 won ($0.85).
Nevertheless, the crime rate there is nothing compared to the outside world. Your own equipment is heavy enough and you don’t think about coveting the property of another. Maybe even a person who is not good at heart becomes good when they go climbing. Or maybe I should say that those who are good on the mountain become bad when they get down?
The pleasure of hiking comes when you are exhausted. I passed Tongcheonmun, which sits 1,814 meters (5,950 feet) above sea level, and climbed Cheonwang Peak, the highest point on Mount Jiri. Tongcheonmun is the gateway to heaven when you climb up, and to earth when you come down. I wish Tongcheonmun were closer to earth and that we’d have the same goodness whether we were on the mountain or not.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun