In the fall of 2015, I and two friends joined a meetup group over a three day weekend we had in October and went to Sokcho Korea to hike Seoraksan Mountain. Seoraksan Mountain is located in Gangwon-do and we were going to conquer one of the top three biggest mountain hikes in Korea. Sokcho is located in northeastern Gangwon-do and we were headed there to enjoy the beach before the hike.
We started out trip at 5 am heading to Seoul from Incheon to meet our bus. From Seoul, the bus ride was supposed to be 3-4 hours, but due to the holiday and heavy traffic, it took us 8 hours to get there. We were supposed to arrive by lunch and have the afternoon to enjoy the beach at Sokcho. Sadly we didn’t arrive until almost five so we didn’t have much time. But we always go with the flow and make the most of things. So we went into to the ocean for a bit because it was still warm enough in October! Then we took a speed boat ride. It. Was. So. Much. Fun! A bit unsafe but that’s Korea for you.
As the sun started to set we had a dinner of Samgapsal with the group. My friends and I decided to head back a little early to get our stuff ready for the hike in the morning. On our way, this Korean family called us over and had us sit and enjoy some of their meal with them. This was completely random and we couldn’t communicate, but they just wanted to make friends and share what they had. We finally made it back to our Pension that we were staying at with the group. Most people thought it was a good idea to stay up drinking the night before an 11-hour hike, but not us.
The next morning we got up at 4:30 a.m. for the 5:00 a.m. departure to head to the mountain. We arrived at the mountain and started hiking by 6:00 a.m. Our hike was to go up to Daecheonbong Peak (Seorakdong) 16 Km and estimated time to finish 11 hours.
We started the hike in the dark but the sun was starting to come up. We passed big Buddas, bridges, and a lot of great nature. The beauty all around Seoraksan National Park was breathtaking. Korean hiking trails are well maintained and clear to follow most of the time so it was fine starting a little in the dark.
The hike up Seoraksan was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve gone on and I’m from the mountains of Colorado. Not only was the mountain very steep, but the terrain was rugged at times. Korean mountains also tend to be full of hikers which meant slow going in some places.
The biggest challenge of this hike was how crazy the weather was. One minute it was a beautiful fall day in the 60’s and the next it’s raining and then it’s blizzarding. When we started it was nice out, however about half way up it got cold and started raining. Needless to say, this made our hike much wetter, colder and more dangerous with wet slippery rocks and earth. Thankfully we came pretty well prepared especially compared to other people in our group. Some wore shorts and didn’t even pack a coat or enough food. We did buy rain poncho at the ranger station half way up to help keep us dryer. When we were about 3/4 of the way up it stopped raining for a bit and the sun came back out. We rested there and took some photos, had a bathroom break and had our lunch break too.
As we started up to the summit we could see that the weather was not going to be nice to us, but we had no choice but to keep going. So we continued on and made it to the summit where it was not raining, but snowing/blizzarding. So we quickly got our photo and headed down.
The hike down was the worst part of the hike for me. We were tired, cold and wet and still had about 3-4 hours ahead of us. Although the hike had not really been bad and was really beautiful and quite enjoyable mostly. Going down was a little rough. It had stopped snowing but was still raining. It was also very windy and cold at this point and the rocks were so slick with rain and mud it was a bit scary. An another factor was that EVERYONE was trying to hurry off the mountain, so some pushing deffently happened from Korean Hikers. After 3 hours descending in those conditions and in running shoes (never hike a big mountain without proper footwear learnt my lesson) my knees were killing me. When we saw the gate to exit we ran to it with joy. After we enjoyed food and the sauna.
Hiking Seoraksan was such an amazing hike and it tested me in ways I haven’t been tested before during a hike.
1. I learned you are never too prepared.
2. Have real hiking shoes with ankle support.
3. Bring a rain poncho
4. Have fun, even when you wanna cry (just a little ;))
I am so glad I did it but I am not itching to climb that mountain again anytime soon.
We came and conquered and crushed the hike time. We were able to complete the 16 km hike in 8 hours 45 minutes because #shehikes. Heres to other mountains that need to be climbed and the lesson and fun times you have climbing them!