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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mount Hallasan, South Korea

Mount Hallasan, Jeju Island, South Korea



Snow only happens during the winter season. I've booked my unplanned flight on December which was the start of the winter season in South Korea. I thought to myself this will be my chance to see snow for the very first time, from then on I started to check the weather updates in Korea. I've hoped and wished for it however I've never expected that to happen on my trek in Mount Hallasan. 

Winter Trek Vacation Checklist:
1. Heatech Top and Bottom
2. Winter Jacket with Fleece
3. Waterproof Pants
4. Poncho. The weather is unpredictable in the mountains.
5. Waterproof gloves
6. Bonnet or Ear Muffler
7. Neck Warmer or Scarf
8. Winter or Hiking Boots. Pair it up with some winter socks or hiking socks
9. Lip Balm for men and Lipstick for ladies
10. Moisturizer (petroleum jelly) and apply Sunblock
11. Snacks (energy bars,cookies)
12. Water 
13. Whistle and a Photocopy of your passport for emergency. At the same time inform your guesthouse that you're climbing Mt. Hallasan for that day.
14. Everything pack inside a ziplock bag. Bring along small packs of silica gel to absorb moisture.
15. Camera. Place a separate silica gel pack inside your camera bag.

How to get there: From Jeju City Bus Terminal to Mt. Hallasan Entrance
Take No.781 at Jeju intercity bus terminal to 5.16 road or 1100 road, an intercity bus bound for Seongpanak. Get off at the entrance Seongpanak.
Travel Time: 30 minutess
Bus Operation:  6:00-21:30 , Interval between buses : 10 ~ 20min
Bus Fare: 1,700 won
(Two trail entrances: Eorimok (take bus 1100, last bus 3:00p) and Seongpanak (take bus 5.16, last bus 9:30p)
Information for different trail route: http://www.thesouthkoreatravelguide.com/hiking/hallasan_national_park.html


East Entrance: Seongpanak

It was a bright, sunny morning when I reached the entrance to Mount Hallasan. The trail was white, slippery and cold. Due to my excitement I forgot to rent iron climbers for my shoes. No entrance fee collected. The treacherous road ahead made my pace slow and difficult. It started pretty easy yet it was really hard to move one shoe after another in a snow covered trail, some parts of the mountain had big flat rocks to stepped on, I was really thankful for that. I tried to keep my pace fast however it was quiet challenging especially when the trail is as slippery as butter. Some parts of the trail had deep snow, others were a giant puddle bomb, maneuvering the way was like solving boggy traps. I can't afford to have my shoes and socks get wet, everytime a handful of snows get in I had to scrape it out right away. Having cold feet literally on a winter trekking is a bad idea you're prone to having legs cramps and there's no one to help you when that happens. I've never thought about going back to rent some iron climbers, too late when I realized its significant role, so I diverted my attention to just reach the top. 

Slipped on ice several times yet no major falls. Mistaken deep snow with puddle bomb and vice versa. I wore a knee high trekking shoes, the upper part and outer layer was was half drenched with the melted snow sticking in and out while walking on the trail. When I see the snow to be really white I assumed it had a solid ground I was wrong but that implies to some part of the way. I tried to stay away from snow which is light colored because for sure it holds an ample amount of cold water below its surface, this was an excellent observation I've made. One more thing that made me grounded was a hikers footsteps if it made a long queue of shoe path then its safe to follow his leads but when you see one footing is lost, stop and look around. It might be that he stepped on one puddle bomb or he lost his footing and slipped with an aching gluteus maximus which meant he landed on his butt. There were a few climbers before me, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to their contribution to fellow hikers like me. Thank you. 

I tried to hike fast, even faster than my normal pace when I'm hiking. It was definitely challenging to walk on ice, maybe if I'd woke up earlier and maybe rented the iron climbers I would have made the top. The cut off time was 12:30 noon, I arrived around 12 noon. A 30 minutes mistake that cost me to reach the top. I didn't even stop for a break, I slowed down a bit when I drank some water and ate my biscuits however there's no excuse that suffice not to reach the top. The reality hit me when one guy tried to convince the gatekeeper to let him in, he even tried to sneak in when the staff was busy explaining to a few other hikers like me of the cut off time and the weather situation. The wind was actually getting stronger at that time, it wasn't helping knowing that it was already pretty cold and rain started to pour. What I did next is what we usually do in my yoga sessions we suck in the abdomen, engage the core and we don't forget to breathe. I was still high in energy, my happy hormones still intact so I converted that to a positive feeling of accomplishment. My pron's were: I made it without any injuries, I walked on snow without iron climbers and I made it through my first winter trek. A solo female climber couldn't be more happy , so let me just take a selfie. 

There's basic food in the Jidalaebat Shelter and a nearby toilet for climbers to use. 
Cup Noodles: 1,000 won  
Bottled Water: 1,000 won

By 1:30 pm I went down the mountain. Descending down the mountain is a treacherous ordeal. You will need to be more cautious, as the trail is slippery and one slipped means face first doom. This is ice we're talking about one missed step means rolling down in full throttle down the trail, all the grass are covered with snow so there's really nothing to hold on to. During my descend the wind was really getting stronger  each flight even the rain got to the beat of it. Good thing, I came prepared with my poncho, a must to bring on every hike. Aside from the iron climber try to rent two trekking poles, this comes in handy when you're in doubt about the snow trail ahead. A great way of avoid puddle bomb along the way, and a useful support for balance. Both of this essential things for a winter trek was out of hand during my hike. I can't imagine how I made it through in one piece. All the hikers came prepared except me, a looked of puzzlement shows on their faces when they see me empty handed. 


Along the way I passed through a postage that points to a observatory area. I thought to myself I didn't reach the top might as well see at least the crater. A steep flight of metal stairs was the only way to get there, considering the wind and status I still went through the trail. I had to hold on to the metal bars to avoid slipping plus keeping myself steady as the wind blows against me. I made it to the top. The crater was absolutely breathtaking. A friendly Korean hiker shared the same mesmerizing view with me, he even took my picture to mark my presence in the mountain. Now a days with the dawn of selfie sticks, go pro , just about anyone has no reason not to be able to take his own image, so its kind of hard to find someone whose willing to take your picture. 


I'm glad I made the turn to see the crater, despite not reaching the top of the mountain, it somehow satisfied my thirst to reach the summit. It struck me that I don't just climb mountain to see the summit which is still true, yet I do it for the experience and the wonderful feeling of being with nature. It's the experience that makes the climb memorable, its not solely about reaching the top. Sometimes things don't go the way as planned, like for me on that very day I was unable to meet the expected cut-off time which is a good thing for it reminded me the true essence of mountain climbing. If you're planning to climb Mt. Hallasan or any mountain wake up early and start your hike as early as you can. It's a basic rule of climbing mountains, cliché as it may sound "Early birds always catches the worm."


How to get back to Jeju Terminal:
Cross the road from the Mt. Hallasan Office or Parkling lot and wait for the bus . Located just on the other side of the road where the bus alights for Mt. Hallasan entrance. I was there before 4 pm and just right to catch Bus 782 right away that goes straight to Jeju Bus Terminal. 

Timeline: Arrived at the East Entrance: Seongpanak 9:14 am. Started trek around 10am , reached J Shelter around 12:30 noon , 30 minutes late for the cut off time. Lunch. Toilet break. By 1:30 went down the mountain. 


I went back to my hostel, rest and took a quick shower. Then I had my dinner at a restaurant nearby Jeju Bus Terminal. The ajumma who owns the place had a hard time entertaining me, good thing the gentleman helped me out with my order. The pork soup was a heavenly goodness after a tiring,cold trek in Mount Hallasan. It was rich in flavor while the meat was tender and tasty. I just love Korean Food most especially made the traditional way.



Afterwards, I watched a late night musical show at Jeju Nanta Theatre before ending the night. I booked a regular ticket in the guesthouse yet when I arrived there I was ushered to the VIP seat. Woohoo! 




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