Odaesan National Park II

Published: April 5th 2016
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I had visited Odaesan National Park a couple of years ago in the autumn and it became my favourite national park in Korea. It was just so beautiful and the hiking wasn't too difficult. When I saw that there was a winter hike planned I really wanted to go back and experience the park in a different season. We left Seoul early as always. The traffic seemed pretty light, not too many travelling on a random Tuesday, even if it is a holiday. The bus journey wasn't too long maybe two and a half hours. I dozed for most of it. When I woke up properly, I looked out of the window and saw that everything was white. There was so much snow about, I was shocked, I really didn't expect to see that much, as Seoul and Gyeonggi don't have any even though it only snowed a couple of days earlier. Also the other mountains I have been to recently had been pretty bare in comparison.

We drove through the entrance to the national park and along the road to the car park, where we would be starting from. After limbering up, we were off. We walked along a nice wide paved road, which was covered with compacted snow. Not much exertion needed for that. We soon came to Sangwonsa Temple, which was just up a pretty short flight of stairs. The temple looked gorgeous! It was built of the side of the rock with each floor jutting out from the one below. This coupled with the snow on the roofs made it look so, so pretty. We had a little look around the temple. I loved the big, long icicles that were hanging off the roof of the temple's shop. There was also a fountain so we could get some more water. I followed the steps to the right of the temple and climbed the easy path. The path had these stone lanterns that were very pretty. I wasn't sure however if they were lanterns as some seemed to emit monk music. It added nicely to the atmosphere. I soon reached Jeongmyeolbogung, which is the sanctum of the temple. It was a very pretty building and it looked well cared for with nice, bright paint.

I headed back down the temple's steps and headed off to the left. There was a sign indicating that this was the way to Birobong peak. It felt like I was venturing off the proper path as it seemed like this trail, through the woods, got little traffic, but it was definitely the right way to go. I think, from the start, it is about 3.3 kilometres to the peak. The trail was nice, fairly steep in parts, but not too difficult that I wanted to give up. Some parts were pretty slippery ad I used the rope handrails to keep myself upright. There were also quite a lot of stairs. Some were proper staircases, others were more natural. I was happy, when I made it to the peak, which is 1,563 metres above sea level. I was glad that it was a nice bright sunny day. I could see for miles. The views were gorgeous. I could see lots of other mountains and even down to the coast at Gangneung. I then retraced my steps, to a spot just under the peak, where we would sit and have lunch.

I was freezing after eating my lunch. It still feels very much like winter, especially when you stop moving. I was ready to get hiking again. From Birobong, we headed to the second peak, Sangwangbong, which was 2.3 kilometres away. Sangwangbong is 1,491 metres above sea level, so slightly smaller than the first peak. I think it took about an hour to reach the second peak. From Birobong, we headed down a bit, that was quite slippery and I did fall over at one point, it's a good job the snow makes a nice soft landing. This part of the trail was out in the open and it was fairly sunny, but windy too. The top of my ears were red, but we couldn't decide whether it was from the sun or the wind, probably a combination of both. This part of the trail was very quite. Most people must just head up to the peak and back down the same way. It was nice to feel like I was the only person walking the trail at times. Also, there was no one at the second peak, when we arrived. This area was a lot smaller than the first peak, and the peak marker was off to one side. However, when I went over to photograph it another group of hikers appeared and took it over.

From the second peak, we headed in the direction of the pass, which I have forgotten the name of. I knew that we wouldn't be staying on this path for too long, as we were doing a circular route back in the direction of Sangwonsa Temple. This trail seemed less well travelled. There was a lot more deep snow and the trail was difficult to see in places. There were very few people about and I did worry sometimes that I had ventured off in the wrong direction. One part of the trail was a bit treacherous, the path was very narrow, and there was a bit of a drop on one side. I had to be careful on that part and give it my full attention. The next part wasn't too bad as it was through the woods, but the snow was pretty deep in places. I followed the trail and came out onto a road. I was surprised by that, I had expected to keep going through the forest or on a trail similar to the one I had come up on. I think the road route was about five kilometres long. The path was nice and wide and although covered in snow, not slippery. Parts of the path were quite cold as they were shaded, so it was nice when the road turned the corner and I was back in the sun for a bit. The views were great, I could see up to the peaks that I had come from and the surrounding mountains' peaks.

Once we were all back on the bus, we drove out of the park to find some dinner. We only drove for about twenty minutes until we came across a few restaurants nearish to the park's entrance. The restaurant didn't have a great variety of inexpensive dishes, but they did have bibimbap for less than a man won. Not my favourite thing, but it was good and filling. There were also plenty of sides and they gave us big bowls of dwenjang jjigae to share, that was delicious. It was filled with tofu and veggies. Feeling warm and full, we headed back to the bus for the journey back to Seoul. We were a little worried about the traffic, as although it was just a one day holiday, many people (the lucky buggers who can pick their own holidays) had taken the Monday off to create a four day weekend. There was one point where two big roads merged with lots of cars, but it wasn't too bad and we made it back to Seoul pretty early.

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