Ulsanbawi and Daecheongbong
Trip Start Aug 28, 2009
48Trip End Sep 28, 2010
As soon as the bus reached the entrance to the park I found myself a hotel. With only three hours of daylight remaining I didn't waste any time, and set off on a short hike up Ulsan Bawi. I walked briskly, although paused along the way to admire the giant buddha near Sinheungsa temple
About an hour further on I reached Heundeul Bawi, a massive 16 tonne boulder, which could be rocked two and from by a small group of people. In some ways it reminded my of the Golden Rock pagoda in Burma, balancing precariously and somehow not toppling. Even more impressive was Gyejoam, a small prayer hall inside a cave. I could feel the energy the instant I walked inside, and would have loved a little more time to soak it up.
From here it took another 45 minutes to scale the imposing granite cliffs face of Ulsan Bawi (873m). This was done by hauling myself up a somewhat daunting 808 step steel staircase, although it was well worth the effort. The view from the top was simply spectacular, made all the more so because the clouds parted just enough to let the sun shine its setting rays on the craggy peaks of the national park. I spent about 45 minutes around the summit, taking it all in before reluctantly making my way back down to avoid finishing the hike in darkness.
I rose early the following morning to attempt a 10 hour hike up the park's highest peak, Deacheongbong
The walk itself was really nice in the early morning, slowly climbing up a stunning valley with a gushing stream passing through it. After about three hours I reached a vantage point where I could look back over my trail and up towards the peak. It was quite impressive, although unfortunately it was to be my last decent view as the clouds quickly moved in and settled over the peak.
About half an hour later I reached a small rest point, completely exhausted after climbing some 1300m that morning, and with only half a chocolate bar remaining couldn't have been luckier. Next to me was an American with too much trail mix, and he gladly gave me about 300grams worth. He was hiking with his Korean girlfriend, and made me feel a little better when he said the climb up had been surprisingly tough, even though he had enough food. I was glad it wasn't just me, and couldn't have been more grateful for the trail mix he gave me.
From here it was a short climb to the summit, which given the clouds was an anticlimax. My new friends made it up soon afterwards and we had a short chat before parting ways. I had climbed the north face of the peak, and planned to climb down the shorter southern face before getting a bus back to my hotel
The last day of my trip had been an anticlimax, although the view from Ulsanbawi the previous evening made the whole trip worthwhile. I rose early the following morning and got a bus to Seoul where I made my way out to Itaewon and the small Aussie pub owned by the drummer from The Church for the final time. A drawn Grand Final was the last thing I expected, and I left knowing I'd be watching the replay back in Hobart. I had only three days left in the country, where I tied up a few loose ends before making my way out to Incheon for the flight home.
My year in South Korea had been a truly amazing experience, made all the more special because I had Ania to share it with. We got out and saw as much as we could, made some fantastic friends and really tried to savour as much of the culture as we could in our short time there. And I think we did a pretty good job!