Hiking matters #101: The three-day traverse of Jiri-san: From Banyabong to Cheonwangbong

Continued from Part 1: From Banyabong Peak, we pressed on towards the next mountain hut, Yeonhacheon Shelter, where we arrived before 1800H. It became clear to us, though, that if we are to pursue a comfortable itinerary on our third day, we had to march on to the next shelter, Byeoksoryeong Shelter. So although night trekking is technically not allowed in the park, the ranger gave us permission to go ahead to the next shelter.

We began our night trek at 1930. The trek was not easy, because the slopes were rocky and there were even some roped segments. Nonetheless, before 2200H we were already comfortably sleeping in Byeoksoryeong Shelter. It was fully booked, but some kind Korean hikers ushered us into the inner chambers of the shelter – which was great because at least I experienced staying at an authentic Korean mountain hut!
The next day, though, we had to wake up very early to gain more time. We were already pushing to Seseok Shelter by 0500H, arriving there before 0900H. Again, the rock formations were very impressive. Father-and-son Pak ang Hwang joined us and they would later accompany us all the way to the bus station at Suncheon. Meanwhile, by 1200H we were at Jangteomok Shelter – just an hour away from the summit!
It was a very excited moment for us, even though I was near-exhaustion. From Jangteomok, it would be a nonstop ascent at noontime. My throat kept getting dry (and began to hurt) even though I was gulping a lot of water – this is because I am unused to the low humidity of temperate countries. The cold was more tolerable – it was just like Mt. Pulag.
The thrill of the peak waiting for us very soon kept us going. The scenic views along the way, too, were an encouragement. As the trail got steeper and steeper , my motivation grew stronger. Finally, at 1248H, we arrived at the summit! There were so many people up – an indication of how popular hiking really is in Korea – but we couldn’t care less. We snapped pictures at the highest point, rested a bit, and enjoyed the beautiful, 360-degree view from the highest point in South Korea’s mainland.
We thought that the ‘suffering’ was over, but we were proven wrong. It turned out that the descent to Jungsan Village was even more punishing than the ascent: we had to lose a total of altitude of 1900 meters in a span of less than three hours! Fortunately, we had our Korean friends, father and son Hyungsoo Park and Hwan-woong Park, who accompanied us. I told them of the Filipino term ‘basagan ng tuhod’ but to our Korean friends the descent seemed normal, and were oblivious to our hardship!
Even so, we were thankful that we were marshaled to that swift (and horrible) descent because in that way, we were able to get back to Jungsan before 1700H – thus we were able to travel to Suncheon before the bus routes close in the evening. We celebrated the successful Jiri-san climb with galbijang, sour plum juice, and green tea ice cream. The Korean hikers said that it was unusual for good weather to arrive at this time of the year. “You must be the lucky charms!” they said. But I knew I had God to thank for the success of what may be my most difficult international climb – so far.
Hiking gear I used for this climb:
Pack: Deuter Aircontact 55+10
Pants: The North Face Horizon Peak
Inner Jacket: The North Face Fairfax Crew Sweater
Outer Jacket: Aigle Actimum GoreTex
Raincoat: Mountia Raincoat Blue
Shoes: Merrell Waterpro Maipo
Gloves: The North Face Denali Gloves
Altimeter: Casio Protrek Waveceptor
Headlamp: Petzl Tikka 2
Cameras: Nikon D3000 + Fujifilm Finepix Z33 WP


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