Well, it finally happened.
After monitoring the weather for, well, a year and a half (haha) and a failed attempt in the early fall, we hiked the tallest mountain in Korea a few weeks ago.
Mt. Halla is 1,950 meters tall. Based on the fact that our 5th graders climb it at the end of the school year, and a lot of our 5th graders are not exactly the athletic type, I think there was a part of me that figured it wouldn’t be as hard as people say.
Boy was I wrong.
Hallasan has a couple of trails – 4 or 5 – but only two of them summit. One of them happened to be closed due to some falling rocks on the days prior to our climb, so we decided to go for Gwamneusa, the steepest of all the trails.
We had a protein shake at home for some energy (no way we were having a heavy) breakfast at 5:30am, coffee on the road, and snacks. We settled on Korean Ritz crackers, Dr. You bars (our favorite little Korean energy bars), and hard-boiled eggs (maybe that one wasn’t such a great idea). We reached the trailhead at 7:00am and started the hike at around 7:11am. The last song we heard on the radio was “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John. It’s kind of been stuck in my head since then.
The hike started in a promising fashion: soft ground with some wooden paths and seeing a wild boar. Not a lot of people on the trail with us. So far, so good.
The trail is basically divided in four: what we ended up calling an okay part (about 20% of the trail), a “hard part” (about 60% of the trail – I kid you not), another easy part (maybe 5% of the trail and not that easy) and a rather hard climb up to the summit. And then, you’re there. Piece of cake.
Well, it turns out the trail is VERY rocky, and doing it in running shoes like we did will be a challenge to your ankles. There are no pictures of the climb because I was too busy catching my breath and trying not to cry in front of Cameron (I failed when we had about 20 minutes left on the descent – I didn’t cry for long but I did cry).
Considering how few people we found on our way up, we were surprised to see how busy the summit was! People from all over, Koreans and foreigners, who come to Hallasan in an almost pilgrim-like fashion to stand in the highest point in Korea.
This spring has been quite weird weather-wise, and that day was no exception. The previous day was very hazy, which meant leftover clouds and not great visibility from the summit.
I had become rather insistent on wanting to climb Halla. I’m glad we did it, but we would probably not do it again (at least not summit). It’s a 7 hour round trip endeavor, and the view from the summit is not going to change anytime soon. I also didn’t want to do it when the weather was hotter – it’s already quite humid albeit not as hot as it could be.
Overall, it was a very interesting challenge. Cameron always says I sound like I like hiking but then I go hiking and don’t really sound like I like it that much. I’m not very skilled at the “not giving up” mentality – it remains a work in progress for me, whereas thanks to his many years of playing sports he already has a trained mindset on not giving up and pushing through the physical pain or difficult circumstances.
Neither of us had climbed a point so high, so it was special to do it together. Another great adventure on the books!
Our time in Korea is quickly coming to an end. We’ll be here for exactly another 35 days, and then…off to Oahu we go!
Stay tuned! There will be more posts soon with some of the last sights we are seeing before we leave Korea!