After a self-satisfying attempt at a winter hiking in Sutonggol, the hiking group’s next target was naturally the extension of our most recent achievement. As I mentioned in previous post, Sutonggol Valley, although extremely convenient and popular hiking destination for locals, is a mere tip of a chain of peaks known as Gyeryongsan National Park. The real deal lies farther away from the city’s boarder. The group rendezvoused early in the morning at Daejeon National Cemetery station and hopped on a busy 107 bus en route to Donghaksa loop.
Thank god for internet I was able to gather some useful information before we began. There are several hiking courses available in Gyeryongsan but for our group a 5-hour, intermediate-level route that includes a few attractions and summits seemed suitable.
My experienced hiking buddy also tipped that starting the course backwards would save us entrance fee. Normally most tourists would begin their hike from Donghaksa entrance where a small cash fee is requested. But serious hikers like us would find a way to go around that.
The first resting area is where the “brother and sister” towers stand proudly by a rocky cliff. Wherever there was a place to sit there were clouds of hikers gathered around, sipping hot beverage out of thermos and chatting about the new year’s hike.
Our path leads us towards two of the tallest peaks of Gyeryongsan. As we ascend, I couldn’t help but express my disappointment to see that most the snow has already melted despite the fresh accumulation a few days ago. The day before the hike was surprised by a sudden warmth that many welcomed but I was anxious that I might not get to walk in the winter wonderland of the mountain. On the bright side, the roads were safer and we need not a set of crampons throughout the hike.
More snow and some icy path as we climb up the metal stairs. Going down was a definite challenge but we managed to finish in one piece.
Two peaks, sambul-bong and gwangeum-bong, cleared within 4 hours and 40 minutes. Talk about achievement!
There are traditional diners lined up from entrance of Donghaksa temple to the bus loop where we first arrived. The ladies in apron would pop out of these eateries as we pass by in attempts of soliciting. Yelling “delicious!” as we try not to meet eyes with them but still scan the menu to see if anything interesting. We ended up walking randomly into a place unlike any of the others on the street and ordered assorted Korean pancakes and makgeolli, a bottled Korean rice wine. A perfectly Korean way to end a hiking in Gyeryongsan.