If Hobbits can climb Mount Doom, surely I can do Mount Daecheonbong!!!
If you have seen lord of the rings then you may be aware of the huge mountain they climb and the snow peaks they cross to get there, seemed all easy huh!...Well im here to tell you it was all FAKE! It's not like that at all! Not once did I have inspiring music or the friendly hand of a elf to help me along...but we did see a mountain ninja
I'm not exactly sure why we decided to climb a mountain and it was a question I asked myself many times on the ascent...over...and over...and over again....
But I speak ahead of myself... from where we last left off I was in deep with zen buddhism. Literally just outside the temple grounds we founds a store selling what ended up being the best meal I've had in Korea, it also sold groceries. It looked to be three generations working the store, It's kind of cool for the child to be able to play with her grandmother and parent all day. They even had entertainment, in the form of the cutest kid ever! (You can probably see her in the big picture poseing haha) She was very proud of her noise making, light flashing hotrod of an automobile.
We then catch the bus to Deaugu for a transfer to Sokcho the next day. The only thing of interest I see is the delicious food displays in the store windows.
By the time we get to the main terminal in Daegu the next day we have an hour to kill so we search for an ATM as we thought there might not be many in the mountains. Now somehow during my travels I've accumulated more weight and size to where people point and laugh (Paul included) I have to agree, something needs to be done... We allready had one close call of what BBS (Big Bag Syndrome) can do to someone, luckily I was there to help him up but he could of starved before being able to get up again.. Finally we board, it takes only 5 hours and costs like $16.
In time reach snow and have a stop off, the bus is really comfortable.
We plan to stay in Osaek on the south side of the mountain, where it is known for its natural hot spring spas. We had thought the place right next to the main city (Sokcho) that we would arrive at but later found out in the taxi that it was 40 minutes away! Happily the taxi driver asked if we like K-pop or Abba and put the mini TV on. This was going to cost us. You see the website for the place we chose was all in Korean (We had the hostel previous call them) so all we had was some paper with Korean on it to show a taxi driver and nothing else.
Arriving quite late we were greeted by an excited lady who was great, the room was traditional (sleep on floor which is heated) with a TV and its own bath/spa! Its amazing what things excite you. Every time I went even close to the exit the owner was on me asking if I'm going for food and that a store she knows is "#1" ! Having previously spied a shop that had a beef sign earlier I said I'm just going for a walk and found the shop closed. Thinking that a recommendation is better than random I head back and ask where the shop is and head off. One over priced meal later and I'm wise to the way things work here, we went to another hotel next to this one which also had a "#1" place to recommend. We survived on rice and tuna the rest of the time...
So the reason we were there as I mentioned was the Seoraksan National Park. We decided that before the tallest peak we should check out a smaller day trek to Ulsanbawi peak. I was excited by even the views from the ground heading in and a few suprises like a huge metal Buddha..who knew and also a temple which the photos don't do justice with the mountain backdrop covered in snow..
Along the way we came across a wild boar. Cleets were needed to reach the peak which fortunately I bought at the base. They just attach to the foot over the shoe.. The story of Ulsan Bawi ..
It was a pretty easy trek as in that there was stairs provided for most of it, which are needed as you can see here... Getting some height.. Mountain treking is serious business.
and one more pic leaving ha
So one down and Daecheongbong to go! The plan was to trek from the other side of the mountain range to the peak, stay at a shelter near the peak then travel down the next day to Osaek. The first part of the trek taking 8hrs and then down the next day 4hrs. We finally decided that 8hrs of what would probably be below par scenery than Usanbawi was not worth it and a shorter but steeper route from Osaek base would be better and still stay up at the shelter over night. Happy with the previous climb I felt I could climb any mountain.
So we let the rangers know where we are going. (We had left our baggage with a hotel we were coming back too the next day so we could travel light). Stocked up on rice, tuna and a can of peaches with a shitload of junkfood for energy we trek off.
The trekking becomes very hard very quickly, it's nothing like the trek yesterday and I wonder what I have got myself into, I have my cleets on and there is a mixture of rock and ice. So on rock it is slippery and ice I need them or I'll slip, so it's a catch 22. The stone steps seem to go on forever and the cleets make it hard work, perhaps saying steps is a bit of a stretch, maybe randomly placed rocks better suites. So the rocks finish and then it keeps the same steep ascent but now it's snow and ice, it's not much of an improvement. Our idle chatter slowly diminished to grunts of dispair especially when you cross the point of it's going to be quicker to continue than head back as we kinda left late, leaving not alot of time to travel before dark...we did not want to get stuck out here after dark. Even in the daylight with the wind the tracks got covered up with snow in no time. If you left the track quickly you fell into deep snow. So we travelled up near vertical hills of ice and snow scrambling up and sliding back down. We did have one stop off and ate some food, some nuts in a can and a drink and chocolate. Paul looked at his can of peaches fondly he was talking about them with a crazy fervour that they would be a triumphant feast for the shelter. It was hard to move along again and the wind was picking up in strength the higher we went up. Finally after %hrs of non stop hell we reached the peak, it was around 6pm and the sun was setting over the mountains, quite scenic really but we did'nt care. We had become slaves to our primal needs of warmth and automated we put one foot infront of the other knowing that there was still a slog to the shelter past the peak. Buuut we made the effort and quickly got in some snaps. So before the pictures I want you to know that it is like -20 degrees (My scarf is frozen solid by the moisture in my breath and i have icicles on my eye lashes) at the peak with gale force winds, I am really trying to hold onto the rock for stability. It's amazing as the photo just shows a nice sunny day lol after our shots we see on the otherside salvation, Paul does'nt waste time (bottom right). But I hold him up for one more shot i reckon will look good, he does the botox smile as his face is frozen..haha
So 5.5hrs, 5.6 kms and a height of 1708 Metres.
Arriving to the shelter Paul is allready ordering blankets (He ran ahead energzed of the idea of warmth, his fingers were numb) I have everyone look at me and laugh...I'm not sure why and probably never will but I did'nt care at all as I was in shelter! I think my face was really red and I looked like death itself perhaps. As I warm up I notice that the shelter provides food, the menu is short including rice and tuna, the very things we carted up there! aaannndd to my amusement they also sell canned peaches! haha this exotic can that Paul had used as a source of inspiration all the way up, quite funny.
The morning after is an early rise and it was quite special staying there over night with it so cold outside hearing the winds. If you wanted to go to the toilet it was outside in the cold! I take a couple pics before the descent. The way down was infinitely more fun..
We take only 3.5 hrs to get down. We stay the night and head out the next morning to Seoul. We race for the bus and it's quite cheap again. I think the price was reduced for the probability of the bus carrering over the edge of a cliff. I may not mentioned this before but Korean bus drivers are CRAZY!!!!! The busses are really powerful for some reason and the bus drivers think they are in a rally car, then add that to winding mountain roads...I still feel you dont understand how fast these guys go, it must be experienced. Somehow I think this may pale in bus trips to come but I expect them to be just slow and dangerous maybe?!?... Anyhow now I'm at Seoul hanging out waiting for my visa news, I'll be here a while. I have found a good hostel, very homely.
Ciao for now.