Sunday, July 15, 2007

Bukhansan hike: crotchless edition

I had wanted to write this post on Friday evening after my morning hike up Bukhansan, but after a brief run to the office that afternoon, I discovered I was simply too tired to do the necessary photo editing. I collapsed in bed at a much earlier time than is normal for me.

On the morning of Friday the 13th, Sperwer and I met near one of the mountain trailheads at around 6:35AM. I had promised a 6:15 meeting, but ran a bit late. This was partly my fault, for two reasons: first, I had gotten up about fifteen minutes later than I should have; and second, I had to lumber over to the office to grab my trusty backpack. It was also partly the fault of the cabbie, who was friendly enough, but who took a somewhat longer route to the trailhead than I was used to.

The hike took us about five-and-a-half hours. It turned out that my backpack was probably the trustiest thing on the trip. The honor of Most Trustworthy certainly didn't go to my legs, whose strength was horribly diminished from when I had first done this hike last year. On my very first trip up Bukhansan, which I took after having been in training on Namsan for a while, I was able to make the trailhead-to-Daeseongmun leg of the trip in a little over two hours, which is about the time the old guy at the ticket booth had told us we'd take. This time, however, the same trip took a shameful 3.5 hours, and not because Sperwer was slowing us down. No: Sperwer has been dieting and exercising like a madman for the better part of a year, and the results are apparent. He maintained an energetic pace, and I was the one who kept calling for rest stops.

Not only did my legs fail me, but my arms and lungs failed me as well: I had forgotten just how much Bukhansan can take out of you. It also didn't help matters that I was doing this climb in warmer weather; cold, as I've mentioned before, energizes me. Bukhansan wasn't especially hot on the 13th, and thank the gods there was relatively little humidity, but I still felt the sun's unkind caress.

The worst was yet to come, as I had two major equipment failures. About two-thirds of the way through the hike, somewhere during the downhill stretch, the soles of both my hiking boots decided to part company with the uppers. On both boots, the rearward two-thirds of the soles slipped off while the front third stuck fast. This wasn't as big of a problem as it seemed as long as I was stepping up or down, but whenever I walked on flat ground, a distinct slap, slap, slapping noise could be heard, as if I were wearing extremely heavy sandals. I joked with Sperwer that, if I were to die on the mountain, that slapping noise would be the sound of my ghost.

An even worse equipment failure occurred before my boots gave up the ghost: my heretofore faithful pair of dark blue shorts, which had served me well for years, finally decided to betray me in a most public fashion barely halfway into the hike. The hike was instructive in that it gave me an idea of where I needed to improve and how I needed to train, but the most memorable part of the hike was, without a doubt, the sundering of my pants.

This wasn't some simple split along the ass crack. In fact, I had no idea how severe the rippage was until I got home to my apartment and took a look for myself. As it turned out, the rip went along most of the length of the crotch, but also curved sideways around the upper thigh region. While on the trail, I had some idea of how well-ventilated I had become (going crotchless actually has its good points when you're on the mountain and sweating), but couldn't really bring myself to look. Sperwer had a good laugh, especially while I was deliberating over how best to proceed. Ripping your pants when you're on a mountain trail-- and hours from sartorial rescue-- is no small matter.

I finally managed to jury-rig a solution, with Sperwer's help. As he was grinning at my predicament, Sperwer said, "I've got a jacket if you need one," and that remark reminded me that I had brought an extra tee shirt and my jacket along with me. So I took these out, tied the jacket around my waist to hide the rear view, then tucked the folded tee shirt into my belt at the front in order to minimize the horrifying sight of my sweaty, underwear-clad Gentiles. I was almost-- almost-- passable, and was now wearing two-thirds of a kilt. The point was make myself socially acceptable to all the hikers we would be passing along the way. I think, for the most part, that my solution worked, but I can't be sure. Unlike the emperor with his new clothes, I was pretty self-conscious about accidentally flashing strangers.

"You look like you should be holding a claymore," Sperwer cracked, indicating my man-skirt.

I knew that the pants-ripping episode was perfect fodder for a Hairy Chasms entry, but I had to think long and hard about whether I would actually show you, Dear Reader, pictures of the damage. In the end, I decided to put my ego aside and reveal all. What follows, then, is a series of pics that show the damage to my shorts and boots, and how I handled the situation. If you're not sure whether you'd care to see me in a revealing pose, you'd better skip this post and go visit other blogs. By the end of the day, I'll have posted a couple more times, and this post will have been shoved down too low for you to see.

The first pic shows me in a reconstructed version of the makeshift kilt-- tee shirt in front, jacket wrapped around the back. The next pic shows the damaged boots (I ended up tying my laces around the soles to keep them from clop-clopping too much), and the final three pics are all about the shorts. Again, skip those final pics if you're shy.

Here goes.

Ha! Did you really think I was going to hawk the jewels? Fool!

Lessons learned:

1. Work on leg strength. I've only just re-started stair training; this needs to continue, and if possible, intensify.

2. Work on arm strength. Pushups are good because they exercise your punching muscles (pecs, triceps, etc.), but getting the biceps and forearms in shape is also a good idea for when you're hiking in the mountains. Navigating a Korean trail is, as Sperwer agrees, a whole-body workout. Sometimes you're heaving yourself over large rocks. Sometimes you're pulling yourself up by grasping roots and thin trunks. Sometime you're holding onto a rail while navigating a steep, slippery, rocky slope.

3. Wear clothing that doesn't rip.

4. In the event of rippage, be sure to have kilt-making material (or perhaps another pair of pants).

5. I'm not sure what could have been done about the boots, which appeared fine on Friday morning, but I guess the moral is to check the boots for any problem, however small. In the meantime, these boots need to be repaired. I hope to do so early this week, as I plan on heading up the mountain again this coming Friday. God help me.

6. Maintain blog readership by not exposing genitals. Only female bloggers have the cleavage- and genital-exposing prerogative.



Unknown said...

"wear clothing that doesn't rip"

I hear speedos are very durable.

Max said...

So, where does one buy such quality boots? ;)

Jelly said...

"Welcome to my pants"
You're falling the hell apart!
Those boots were surely made in China. Everyone in Korea knows everything made in China is crap!

Anonymous said...

*There's always SPANDEX! That won't rip...

*My Vasque hiking shoes have treated me very well. They confidently took me to Wheeler Peak and back without any issues.


Levi Kaufman said...

Where does one buy such quality garments and footware? Betcha a shiny new 10 won piece it was Itaewon. Hopefully I'll dodge that bullet by having my MIL make my clothes for me.

Kevin Kim said...


You need to read this post. I've had the boots since the early 1990s. They've gone through a lot. And the shorts were American, too. My ass, however, is of the bustin-out half-Korean variety, and the shorts were also several years old.


Jelly said...

I know you're of Korean and American descent, but your ass must be Chinese if it's breaking things. My co-workers tell me every week that everything made in China sucks (ass!)
What doth the "American" portion of you meaneth? Where doth thou American roots cometh from? (I'm curious.)

Unknown said...

Duct tape.

Don't leave home without it. It would have fixed your shoes, and I'm sure something could have been worked out for your shorts.

(Can you tell I'm a country boy? No, not a redneck, but was raised by cowboys.)