A very cold start!When I traveled to Korea, I wasn't intending on hiking in the winter. I admit, I first was surprised that it was even cold there in the winter! I was actually doing some volunteer work there.
When my friend proposed a winter hike on South Korea's third highest peak, I was bummed that I had not brought ANY of my gear! I asked for crampons, Ice ax, insulated boots....you know the bear minimum!
What I got was:
1/2" toe crampons
A very used pair of (lightly) insulated hiking shoes
A large synthetic jacket that I crammed under my small waterproof shell
I don't remember what I had for pants.
The other stuff I had with me.
I was by no means prepared, but I wasn't gonna turn down this hike! My friend Sang-bea, drove the three hour charge pretty much across the country! When we got there around 2:00 or maybe 3:00 am, It appeared to be windy and very cold! I got out to use the bathroom,(a tree) and getting back in the car as quick as I could, It made more sense to abort the climb! I would say that the winds were around 20-30 mph (40 kph) and the temperature at -20 degrees! and this was at the trail head!
A very steep start.....with stairs?
The hike up to the ridge was a very steep one! Strangely, and thankfully the Koreans go all out with their trails! Every steep scramble had very long stairways, yes stairways! All made with welded metal and used tires shredded and weaved for the treads! They even had railings! It was a steep climb, and the trail head is very close to sea level! There was another group we saw trying to figure out the trail in the dark. I think that they saw us and followed us.
A cold and pleasant ridge walk!When we gained the ridge, it was even windier! The sun was coming up over the east sea, and there was a cold feeling of desolation. I lead the way and bushwhacked a little bit, but after seeing the summit at a distance, and knowing that we gained the ridge, i knew that it wasn't rocket science!
we went over a couple sub peaks and took in some brief views. there was about 6 inches of crusty slippery snow everywhere. One of my friends had nothing for traction on his feet, and he was in skateboarding shoes. I thought I was ill prepared!
"The food hut"
We came to a view of the main summit. We had already hiked a long time, and it was nearly lunch time, and I had been hiking all morning in the cold in cloths that weren't even mine! the col that we reached had a hut positioned in the middle. Now where I come from on the east coast near the White Mountains, there are huts up in the mountains. These huts have bunks, benches, and sometimes a cook. One can spend a relaxing evening in one with out having to carry the extra weight of a tent.
These huts had another purpose. Now, my housekeeper told me that Koreans climb mountains mainly for one thing, and that is to eat their soup at the top. (Now it is not what you think, I'm no "Fresh Prince of Bell Air! I'm actually quite under privileged!) I kinda shrugged her coment off. The truth is.... that she was right! The hut's
The summit is not very far from the hut.With full bellies and tired legs, our group went up for the prize. The top was very windy, and we could see the East Sea(Sea of Japan). It was too bad that it was hazy, because I think that the view would have been much better. If you go in the spring, there are pink and purple cherry blossoms everywhere here!
It was the coldest day of the winter, we weren't well prepared, and none of us had a normal sleep on the night before the hike. We were on the summit though! It is a whole 5604 feet or 1708 meters, right on the Sea and very close to the border of North Korea. My eye lashes were frozen, and so was everything else, but I was happy to have hiked one of South Korea's highest peaks with my friends who are also spiritual brothers!!