Seoraksan (Seorak mountain)

Posted on September 26, 2009

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Map picture

Satellite photo of the Seoraksan national park

The weekend following our fantastic trip to Jejudo we took an overnight hiking trip in the Seoraksan national park. Seoraksan (Seorak mountain) is the third highest mountain in South Korea (1708m) after Hallasan (which we visited during our trip to Jejudo) and Jirisan. This trip was organised entirely by Climbing in Korea club, so we didn’t have to care about getting to the park or finding our way in it. Being a member of a club like this is absolutely fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone who lives in Korea. The mere fact that a few locals (led by Mr. Kim) decided to spend most of their free time guiding quite large groups of foreigners around Korea is stunning. The club is run not for profit and you can really feel the genuine care from Mr. Kim and others.

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At the beginning of our hike: 7.2 km to go

We arrived at Hangyeryeong starting point at roughly 1pm. We got split up into two groups: the fast one and the slow one. Although we had a great practice hike to mountain Halla the weekend before, me and Kristina still decided to join the slow group in case we couldn’t keep up with the fast group. Agnė and Harald, on the other hand, joined the fast group. The weather was a bit disappointing, but at least it was not raining. The fog was very thick and the visibility was very limited. Nevertheless, it seemed we arrived just in time to witness the beginning of fall (back in Seoul there were few signs of it): we were surrounded by the dazzling variety of leaf colours.

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Our plan was to hike up to the Jungcheong Shelter right by the mountain Seorak in five hours to make it before the nightfall. The trail was quite steep at the beginning and that seemed to slow down some members of our already slow team, which led to quite a few breaks. But I take it as normal in a big and diverse group of people. Moreover, the fog seemed to be getting even thicker as we continued along the trail and we couldn’t really see any of the supposedly stunning views around us. Unfortunately, we were too slow to make it until the nightfall and had to continue in the dark. As a result, our moods were quite low and we kept asking Mr. Kim if we would arrive soon.

Finally, after about seven hours of hiking we spotted a small light in the complete darkness that was around us. It was the shelter – the end of what seemed to be a never ending trail. Meeting the members of the fast group, who had beaten us by three hours, was a very joyful moment. And we were greeted with a warm dinner, served in the middle of a huge national park, surrounded by mountains and no civilization for kilometres.

The Jungcheong Shelter was basically just two small buildings (one for guys and one for girls), a few tables and toilets outside. Already as we arrived both shelters were packed with a lot of other hikers, who were sleeping right on the floor. We figured to let the girls sleep with us in the guys’ shelter since everybody was already asleep, but squeezing in was damn hard and then we couldn’t really move as there was no space. Luckily, we had to wake up at 4am as we planned to watch the sunrise on top of Seorak Mountain.

It was still completely dark when we woke up and there was no powerful source of light for many kilometres around, which allowed me to see the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen. The amount of stars was overwhelming! Soon we were on the move again to reach the top of Seoraksan and gaze at the rising sun.

As it got lighter a stunning panorama emerged. The tips of smaller mountains were sticking out of the clouds far below us and we were surrounded with a variety of plants in different shades of red, orange, brown and green. With light, everything was slowly coming to life again.

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Once on the top of Seoraksan we could finally see the rising sun and witness a charming game of light, colours, wind and fog. It was a grand experience! But it was not over. We took a different trail down, which took us through the impressive Suryeomdong Valley filled with amazing rock walls with trees growing on top, crystal clear water springs and waterfalls. There was no fog anymore and we decided to go separately from the group, which was speedier. Finally, at around lunch time we arrived at the main entrance of the Seoraksan national park, where a bus was waiting for us to take us back to Seoul.

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Posted in: Korea