On Hallasan (한라산). Hallasan being the tallest mountain in South Korea with a 1,950 meter elevation gain had been on my list since my first visit to Jeju. I finally got my opportunity last weekend. I found Halla to be very different from what I’ve come to expect from hiking on the mainland. Plus, since it is winter, there was a lot of snow. The hike itself was easy to moderate, but there were no views or makgeolli at the top. It was still a good hike.
Like all mountains, there were plenty of people on the mountain. At one point we pasted a good of younger folks enthusiastically playing Rock Paper Scissors.
We were underprepared for the hike going in. I had assumed it would be like all other mountains in South Korea with ramyeon, kimbap and makgeolli sold at the base. At the base of Hallasan, in the parking lot, there was a little store that sold little bottles of water and disposable cameras, that was it.
At the top there was a place to buy “instant noodles”, boxes of rice and shots of coffee. It was very different from any hiking experience I have come to expect in Korea. Note the use of the quoted “instant noodles”, the man working made it very clear to me that the term was “instant noodles” and not ramyeon. After getting some “instant noodles”, we found spot in the second shelter and slurped up noodles. Pretty quickly we were showered with Korean oranges, kimbap and chocolate from the other hikers. We enjoyed our feast and warmed up before passing on the space to the next hikers.
We walked for a short time until we reached what could only be described as a winter wonderland of small pines trees covered in snow. Then we reached an area of volcanic rocks, also covered in snow.
After passing the winter wonderland and volcanic rock, we walked along a ridge with a loose rope and then across a long bridge whose boards weren’t secured. According to an interpretive plaque this part of the hike has an epic view of the sea, but because of the conditions we couldn’t see more than a 10 feet in front of us, let alone a view of the ocean.
After some time we made it through the most dangerous part of the hike and it cleared up a bit more.
We come down the mountain on the Yeongsil trail and at the base we shared some food and drink with a couple we had met in the shelter.