So I was really determined that we climb Hallasan Mountain, despite the weather trying to stop us. Sunday was supposed to be rainy in the early morning, then give over to strong winds. Perfect! We arrived at Seongpanak trailhead a little after 8. The parking lot was already full, so we just parked along the shoulder like everyone else. We sat in the car for a bit, hoping the drizzle would stop, but then just decided to go for it. I had my rain jacket, and we picked up a cheap poncho for Domingos at the trailhead shop.
We set off up the 9.6 kilometer trail, the woods shrouded in heavy fog, and just kept going, even when it started to rain more and the winds picked up.
About two-thirds of the way up, after we stopped at the last shelter and ate the awesome trail bars I had made at home (cashews, almonds, cranberries, chocolate, pumpkin seeds, rice krispies, and some other ingredients), we started to pass people on their way down. Several of them, seeing us in our t-shirts, stopped us and earnestly warned us how cold it was. The Koreans, meanwhile, were mostly bundled in down parkas with rain coats over them. It actually felt really nice in short sleeves, probably because we weren’t really taking any breaks, but the last half hour got really windy and cold, so we did eventually put the rest of our layers back on.
We made it the summit (Hallasan is the tallest mountain in Korea!) in exactly 3 and a half hours, but it was crazy windy and cold with zero visibility, so we got a few quick photos and continued on our way down the shorter and more demanding Gwaneumsa trail (8.5 km). It was supposed to be more scenic, but the rain started in earnest and we couldn’t see anything. It was still beautiful, though! No regrets.
We stopped at a shelter for about twenty minutes to warm up and eat our second trail bars, then continued on down, soaking wet and exhaustingly picking our way down the very rocky path. What an experience! There were two points on the way down where we encountered flights of stairs going up, and I seriously wasn’t sure I had any up left in my body!
We were finally down exactly six hours and 55 minutes after we started – not bad considering the weather and a total of about 40 minutes of breaks! I was paying for it the next day, of course.
We got a taxi back to our car – they wait there at Gwaneumsa trailhead for precisely that purpose – and headed back to the Hyatt for a very welcome hot shower and rest. We celebrated our achievement by returning to Childonga for pork BBQ, and even ended up walking back to the hotel again!
I’m going to throw Monday’s lunch in this entry, since we didn’t really do anything else of note on our travel day home. Before returning our car, we went to Jamae Guksu (746-2222) in Jeju City for gogi guksu, pork noodle soup. I’ve heard there’s usually a long line there, but we arrived around 11:40 and immediately got a table. When we left, there was already a line.
All in all, a fabulous vacation, even if the weather was uncooperative! I really hope to return some day.