North Han Mountain
Posted by Heliocentrism on August 21, 2010
November 18, 2007
Dress Warmly and Don’t be Afraid
I don’t know what I was thinking. One of my co-workers had the crazy idea of hiking up the biggest mountain near Seoul. I’m not sure if Bukhansan is actually the biggest mountain, but that’s what we were going for. He asked everyone at work to join him and his girlfriend for the trek. I was the only one of the co-workers who showed up.
We met at Hoeryong Station early one morning to begin our climb up. I thought I was well prepared because I had a hat, scarf, and thermal underwear on. None of us were really prepared and it became apparent when we passed a little food stand selling cup noodles.
That’s when I remember that I didn’t bring any snacks with me, nor did I eat breakfast that morning. Aaron and Hee-Jung did bring snacks, nuts and dried fruit, but they didn’t have breakfast either. So we stopped to eat.
When we were done we started on the hike again. At first things weren’t too bad. We all had plenty of energy. We stopped every 15 minutes to climb into a dry river bed or to climb up some rocks to take interesting pictures. I was beginning to think that hiking up mountains was easy.
There are many food stalls along the easy-to-walk sections of hiking trails in Korea. Once we passed the last set, the hike got more and more tiring. It got colder. I began to notice what a bad idea hiking in running shoes was.
There are two main problems with hiking in the winter with running shoes. First off, hiking should never, never, never be done in running shoes. Running shoes are soft and flexible. This is so your feet can bend when running. When hiking you need shoes with hard soles, so that you can walk comfortably on rocky unpaved surfaces for a long time. My feet hurt for several days after this hike.
Another disadvantage of hiking in the cold with running shoes is that they don’t keep your feet warm. Your feet sweat when you run. Running shoes are very breathable to allow your feet to dry off. Otherwise you’ll get athlete’s foot. On a cold hike, breathability is the last thing you want. When your feet are cold, you will feel really cold.
Never hike in anything other than hiking shoes. The cheapest hiking shoes are better than the most expensive sneakers. So it doesn’t matter if you buy them at Wal-mart or Payless. If they’re comfortable and they have a hard sole, they’ll do fine.
So I was freezing and my feet hurt. But when I saw the gate, I thought that my torture was almost over. Once at the gate, I knew it was not. The gate marks the end of the hike and the beginning of the climb. The smile you see in the picture above is a fake.
I wanted to stop there. I told Hee-Jung that I would meet her and Aaron when they came back down. But Aaron wouldn’t have it. “You don’t want to wuss out, do you? Besides, we’re not coming back this way. We’re going down on the other side.”
That’s when DongHee, the chiropractor entered the picture. He was hiking up Bukhansan for fun by himself. He offered to help us. He had done this hike several times this year alone and would give us pointers.
At first, I didn’t think we needed any help, unless he was going to physically carry one of us up to the top. But there were sections on the climb where I would have turned back if he didn’t tell me that is was perfectly safe.
At one point, it got very windy and we had to use a rope to hoist ourselves up. There was no way to go down since there was a long line of people waiting to pass through this very narrow section.
Hee-Jung got very scared and started to cry. I almost cried going through myself, but DongHee helped me. He went back to talk Hee-Jung through and eventually got her up the rope. It was really high up.
I felt that one missed placed step could cause me to slip and I’d slide right off the face of the mountain. I had the urge to pee the whole time I was on the peak. I could not stop shaking, but I made my way to the top.
At the very top, my legs just stopped working. I could not make myself stand up so I just slid on my butt. Seoul was very far down. But I made it; all the way to the top! I enjoyed it, even though I was too scared to look at the view.
How to get there:
- You can enter by plane, boat, or train, though entry by train is rare if not damn impossible for most non-presidents of North or South Korea.
- Most citizens from many countries do not need to get a visa before going to South Korea.
- People of most nationalities will get a 90-day visa at the airport or ferry port.
- To be completely sure, check with the Korean embassy in your country.
- Useful Phone Numbers when in South Korea
- Tourist Complaint Center 02-735-0101
- Police 112
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Eat Your Kim Chi – Life in Korea as lived by 2 Canadians
- Korea is a generally safe country. You don’t really have to watch out for pickpockets,muggers, or scam artists.
- You should watch out when crossing the streets, beware of scooters on the sidewalk, and the little old ladies that will push you to get that last seat on the bus or subway.
- Use common sense and you will be okay.
- Things are generally inexpensive and there are many wonderful things to buy.
Enjoy Korea! I live there for 2 years and had a fantastic time.
By Public Transportation –
- To to Hoeryong Station.
- or Take bus #36, 39, 136, 139, 1148, 1151 or 9101 to Hoeryong Station.
- It’s a 20 minute walk from the subway station. Just follow the people in hiking gear.
San 68-1 Ui-dong,
- There are only fees for parking.
- You can hike up the mountain for free.
- You can hiking any time, but you should not go at night.
- Like most mountains in Korea there are many restaurants and vendors along the trail up this mountain.