Dinasour Ridge at Seoraksan National Park

              The leaves are falling, it’s getting dark earlier and earlier  and the days are rapidly becoming  frigid.  I think it’s safe to say winter is coming to Korea, and coming quickly. It’s been a beautiful fall full of fun activities for this Seoulmate and I will cling onto every last day of the season until winter approaches and I hibernate in my Ondol cave for the next few months. Although I do plan on going on a few more hikes before I have to strap on my snow shoes, I think I am ready to proclaim my fall favorite. 

The weekend of October 11th, 2013 was officially Seoraksan’s  peak weekend for foliage and my first trip to the amazing national park.

 I again joined Indigo Hills  hiking group on a 24 hour trip to Seoraksan. The itinerary included Oseak – Daecheongbong – Jungcheongbong – Socheongbong – Hweiungak shelter – Dinosaur Ridge – Madeungryeong – Bisundae – Shinheungsa – Sogongwon.  There was also a second more leisurely hike provided by the group.
 
 I again joined Indigo Hills hiking group on a 24 hour trip to Seoraksan. The itinerary included Oseak – Daecheongbong – Jungcheongbong – Socheongbong – Hweiungak shelter – Dinosaur Ridge – Madeungryeong – Bisundae – Shinheungsa – Sogongwon.  There was also a second more leisurely hike provided by the group.
            Our trip began at 11:00pm on Friday evening. I left my house equipped with warm snivel gear and hiking clothes and boarded a subway car full of young Koreans dressed in club attire and smelling of fresh alcohol, ready for a night on the town.  This was the furthest thing from my mind, as I braced myself for hours of hiking in my near future.  About 30 hikers met at Sports Complex stadium where a chartered bus drove us to the base of Oseak in Seoraksan national park,  our starting point.  The bus ride took about three hours from Seoul.
             Daecheongbong is the highest peak in the park.  It is to the east of this mountain is OeSeorak and to the west is NaeSeorak (which is divided into North NaeSeorak and South NaeSeorak.) This was where we headed to watch the sunrise.  The gate for this peak opens at 3:00 am, allowing hikers to make it to the peak for sunrise.
            We joined hundreds of other hikers, as the gate doors opened and we ALL made our way up the mountain.   I was quickly reminded of morning commutes into a city, as hundreds of head lamps were suddenly very reminiscent of stop and go vehicular traffic.

 

 

 
In the darkness of the forest, people pushed, yelled and weaved, trying to make their way up the mountain.  It was easily the most chaotic hike I have ever been on. People walked bumper to bumper for the entire four hour hike up the first peak.  Inches divided each person from the next. I was quickly questioning if hiking was a better idea than being in my warm bed as day break approached and we were at a standstill for what seemed like the 100th time.

 

Finally around 6:15am  I reached the summit of the mountain. The sun was climbing into the sky at the same pace as my legs moved me and it peeked through the clouds and made its first appearance as I reached the peak.
            The summit looked more like a packed parking lot as people watched the sunrise.  It was also freezing! I had been told to dress warmly, but wished I had additional layers as the wind howled through my jacket and scarf.  I tried to get to the peak’s shelter as quickly as possible to avoid the freezing temperatures but had little luck with the large sea of people around me.  Finally, after getting wind chapped cheeks I entered the shelter and had some relief from the bitter wind.

 

I know what you’re thinking… you said this was your favorite hike of the fall?  Well this is the part when it starts to get much better.
            After buying a warm can of coffee (sold at the shelter) and sitting inside to stop my chattering teeth for a while, I met up with several group members and we continued on to Hweiungak shelter where we had breakfast.  The shelter was at the opposite side of the base of the mountain we had just climbed and in the heart of Seoraksan National Park.  As we descended towards it, on metal stairs built into the cliffs of the mountain,  the park unfolded before our eyes under the warm morning sun.  Beautiful foliage could be seen for miles amongst the many mountain peaks.  The views were stunning.

 

  After reaching the second lodge we sat down to breakfast and shared a meal amongst one another.  As usual, everyone brought plenty to share and passed around international foods.  After our meal the group divided up.  16 members decided to continue on and tackle dinosaur ridge.  
 

Our now smaller dinosaur ridge group’s skill level varied from the extremely advanced hiker to intermediate.  Our guide, Mr. Kim, made sure everyone was up for the challenging peaks and everyone was accounted for throughout the remainder of the hike.
            Dinosaur ridge or Manmul-sang is comprised of six rock peaks that look like the back of a dinosaur, thus giving its nickname.  It is located in the Southeastern Seoraksan. We quickly learned, that once you are in dinosaur ridge there is only two ways out, either by foot or from the several locations that can be reached only by helicopter.
 As we neared the summit of the first mountain exposed rocks emerged.  Wire ropes were secured into the rocks for hikers to use to reach the top. Stairs, ropes, and ladders have been secured throughout dinosaur ridge to help hikers in  challenging locations

As we climbed over the exposed rock suddenly a helicopter emerged from the sky.  The co-pilot motioned for us to get down and our group held fast to the metal ropes, crouched together.  The helicopter neared us, and dirt, rock and debris flew through the air from its wings.  A hiker in another group with a broken leg was airlifted from the mountain.  This was not a reassuring sign as we began the first leg of our 13 hour trek across dinosaur ridge.  I again wondered what I had gotten myself into.  Luckily that the only injury we witnessed on the mountain.

 

For the next 12 hours we weaved up and down the spikes of the dinosaur’s back, slowly conquering one after the other.  Each peak exposing new and amazing views in all directions. Seoraksan’s surrounding cities are also visible from several of the peaks as well as the ocean.
The foot traffic on this area was also heavy, but far less intense than our first peak.  Several times, at small passage ways or areas only accessible by rope, there was a line to access the next part of the trail.  Generally though there was plenty of breathing room to enjoy the beautiful nature. The pathways on Dinosaur ridge are also completely covered by rocks.  There are very few locations with dirt paths.

 

Seorak Mountain area was designated as a Natural Monument preservation area in 1965 and a Park Preservation area in 1973.  In 1982 it was given the title of a Biosphere Preservation District by UNESCO. The park is spread among four cities: Sokcko, Inje, Goseong and Yangyan. There are numerous valleys throughout the park including Baekdamcheon where all the streams meet and picturesque Baekdamsa Temple is located. Seorak can also be referred to as Seolsan or Seolbongsan. Seol means snow in Korea and Ak means mountain. The area is significantly cooler than Seoul, allowing the snow to stay on the rocks for the majority of the year.

 

Around 4:00 pm our group stopped at the last peak for lunch.  At this point we had reached our final high point of the mountain before making our gradual decent. Again a meal was shared.  Mr. Kim prepared fresh bibimbap right on the mountain and passed it out in small cups.  Others brought cheese, eggs, fresh fruit, nuts and delicious treats. It was a great lunch and fun break after 13 hours since the group initially began hiking.

Around 6:00 pm the last of our group reached the base of the opposite side of dinosaur ridge. The last leg of our journey consisted of a hour long hike through a valley with a beautiful stream running through it, a temple and large Buddha statue.  We reached our bus in the darkness around 8:00pm when we hopped on board and made our trip back to Seoul.  Our exhausted group stopped for dinner and then silently took the final trip to Seoul too exhausted to speak. We arrived back around 11:30pm with great memories and aching muscles.

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s