Seoraksan Hiking, 1st April 2011

One of the things that I like about Korea is that I often get a day off work for what I see as no good reason. Last week, for example, we were all given Thursday off because it was the Company’s birthday. Perfect, don’t you think? Well no actually, perfect is when they give you the Friday off as well because it falls between two days when you are not at work. It’s known as a Sandwich Day.

With no sport to watch, I thought I’d use the two bonus days to do some hiking and I headed for Seoraksan National Park. Seoraksan is over in the North East of the country, not far from the border with North Korea and is home to the third highest mountain over here, the 1708m Daecheongbong. My plan was to tackle that one and spend a night in one of the shelters up in the hills.

I’d had a bit of a heavy evening on the Wednesday though and it was lunchtime before I got to the Express Bus Terminal. I caught the one o’clock bus to Sokcho and two and a half hours later I was at the seaside.

Sokcho

I did consider spending the night at Sokcho and having a proper look around but after half an hour of wandering around the beach area it seemed that the only entertainment was groups of teenagers throwing each other into the sea. There’s a limit to how long that can keep me amused and as half an hour exceeded it I decided to move on to the National Park instead. A fifteen minute taxi ride took me to the Mt. Seorak Tourist Hotel, which is the only hotel that is actually inside the National Park.

One of those rooms was mine.

The bloke on the front desk was extremely helpful as he explained that all of the trails from that end of the park that went anywhere near Daecheongbong were currently closed. This severely limited my options and as all I was left with were a few small hikes I decided to forget about overnight shelters and instead I booked in for two nights so that I could leave my backpack in the room the next day. I got an off-season rate of 65,000 won per night for a double room with a balcony and a view of the big hill opposite.

The hotel fella also pointed out that despite it being close to five o’clock I would still have time, if I was quick, to make my way to the Biryeong waterfall and back before it got dark. The trail took me through the woods for about two and a half kilometres, passing a couple of cafes that sold home-made wine. There was still a small amount of snow on the ground as I gained a little bit of height, but it wasn’t too difficult keeping my footing.  The waterfall was fairly unusual, long and thin, it would definitely be ‘white knuckle’ if it were a theme park log flume. As I followed the downward progress of individual leaves I did wonder whether some of the water molecules would eventually get more than one go on it and concluded that eventually they probably would. The best part of it all though was that there was no-one else there. The main entrance area to the park had still been pretty busy, particularly with school parties, but anyone who had wanted to visit this waterfall must have done so earlier in the day.

Bigfoot.

I sat around for about twenty minutes, enjoying being there without swarms of other hikers and then made my way back as the daylight faded. The hotel has a restaurant, so I had dolsot bibimbap for my tea before sitting out on the balcony.

The next morning I was up early as my plan was to make my way to the top of the 875m Ulsanbawi and I thought it would be a lot more enjoyable if I could do it before the crowds arrived. By just after seven I had passed the big Buddha statue and reached Sinheungha Temple where I paused for a quick look around. The monks must have still been in bed as the place was deserted.

Sinheungha Temple

A little further along I met four hikers who I presumed were on their way down after seeing the sunrise at the summit. They were the only people who I saw though apart from three blokes who were carrying stacks of boxes for the trailside cafes on their backs. Ulsanbawi is famous for being a bit of a slog with plenty of stairways providing easier access than would otherwise be available. It was fairly straightforward though and an hour and a half after setting off I was at the top.

Looking 'Northish' from the top of Ulsanbawi

The actual summit area was a bit of an anti-climax, being fairly small with the views to the West obscured by a tarpaulin barrier. The views to the other sides were ok though and again it was great to have the place to myself. I spent about half an hour at the top before making my way back down. The trail was a lot busier by that time with a few family groups and a couple of large school parties making their way up.

I paused for a cup of coffee by the side of the trail and watched as people trudged up one of the staircases that was visible from below.

Ulsanbawi

Next I climbed to the top of Gwongeumseong fortress, which isn’t quite as impressive as it sounds as a cable car takes you to within fifty metres of the summit. Gwongeumseong fortress isn’t actually a fortress at all but a rock that could only be said to resemble a fortress if fortresses were actually made of stone and lacked any of the features that you would normally associate with them. I scrambled right to the very top, although no-one else did, probably because it was quite windy and I had to time my upward movements to coincide with the spells when the wind had dropped, Once there, I was able to sit by myself for twenty minutes looking down in to the valley with my hotel and the monastry in it and Ulsanbawi in the distance.

It's all down there.

In the afternoon I had a wander along to Geumgangul Cave. Most of the trails in that area were closed and I had to check with a Park Ranger to see how far along I would be allowed to go. The routes to Madeungryeong and the Cheondang Falls were both shut until mid-May leaving the cave as the only option.

The cave is the thing that looks like a hole.

The cave is positioned part of the way up a cliff face, but with plenty of staircases it is easily accessible. At the back of the cave there was a small temple and at the front of there was a woman dressed up in monk clothes talking loudly into her mobile phone.

Not the biggest temple I've been to.

As I hadn’t seen anyone else climbing the staircases I’d been looking forward to enjoying the solitude upon reaching the cave. I appreciate that expecting a monk to be observing a vow of silence is probably a bit too much to hope for these days, but yapping away non-stop into a mobile phone? FFS. If it had been me doing that in the temple at the bottom of the valley I’d have expected them to go all Ninja on me.

STFU.

I was at the cave for about ten minutes and she didn’t even seem to pause for breath. You know that way in which Koreans sometimes drag out the “aaar” sound at the end of a word as if their Dad was a pirate and their Mam came from Somerset? Well, that was her.”Ten under paaarrr, hit by a caaarrr, boiled in taaarrr”. She would have been boiled in taaarrr if I’d had anything to do with it. Eventually I left her to her one-sided conversation and set off back down the trail, where my mood was lightened by watching a chipmunk eating it’s lunch.

I love my new zoom lens.

Back at the hotel I took advantage of the balcony again and as it got dark I sank a few beers beneath the mountains that I’d sat on top of earlier in the day.

5 Responses to “Seoraksan Hiking, 1st April 2011”

  1. Paul Says:

    much better than that football nonsense, and 850m is still a proper hill, unless it started at 550m. And Hotels are always preferable to mountain huts.

    beer and beds vs boards and burps

  2. onthetrailofthelionking Says:

    There’s room for both I reckon. Judging from the later views from a hill that was about the same height I reckon it was probably not far off the full 875m ascent. But its quicker with staircases.

    • Jayesh Says:

      for getting the Airport Exteme card (although you can buy a third-party base sttioan for less). I am able to browse the Internet in any room of my house well worth the extra $100 or so.I have the 12-inch monitor, but that was because Apple hadn’t released the 15-inch in the new style when I made my purchase. The 12-inch is fine it’s much clearer than my old PC notebook but if I had the opportunity, I’d probably go with the bigger monitor.DRAWBACKS-While most software is available for Mac OS X, there are some programs that aren’t (Google toolbar, Yahoo! toolbar, Kazaa, AvantGo) or minor problems in software that is available (Quicken can’t access accounts on Ameritrade via Macs)-The PowerBook doesn’t have a fan, which is great for the battery, but can cause it to get a bit hot underneath where the user rests his left hand. Regardless of those drawbacks, however, buying a Mac was an easy decision. If you have any questions about it, click on my profile and send me a e-mail.UPDATE: After 14 months, the hard drive started making noise and system performance got slow and I couldn’t run as many programs as I used to. I called Apple and had to spend $300 for them to put in a new hard drive and some other hardware. They were unable to transfer my data to my new hard drive, so I’ve spent the past four days reloading all of my software and applications. No idea why the hard drive went. Hence I dropped the rating from five stars to four.

  3. geraldine Says:

    How I wish I were able to video shoot such sports events so I have video to include in my work why I love Korea…. hope you like how I presented the beauty and culture of Korea.

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