Bukhansan, Seoul, South Korea: Climbing the Hard Way

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One of the daunting peaks at Bukhansan National Park

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Forest Canopy from the peak

The answer to question of what a typical normal Korean would be doing on their weekend would be to climb a mountain. So in my assimilation training, I picked up a friend and we’re off to Gupabal Station on Metro Line 3 on an excellent warm summer Saturday morning. We’re in shorts and t-shirt while the fellow hikers at the Metro station are all in Gore-tex and week long packs with titanium cups hanging off it. Reminds me of the old hikers in Japan, overdressed for the occasion. All I had was a bag with my camera and GPS in it, expecting an easy walk all the way to the top.

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Blue line shows the GPS plots from this trip. The peak is marked with the GPS coordinates, reason being I have no idea what the peak is called as of writing.

Target this weekend is one of the peak at Bukhansan National Park, a bunch of peaks to the North of Seoul City Centre. Its technically inside the city, surrounded by urban sprawl. Some of the peaks in the National Park are quite scary indeed, craggy peaks with no visible easy route other than with crampons and drilling holes in the rocks. And most of them are 500-800m high. Nuts. This is one of those weekends where my mind is in a “what the hell” mode and that’s how most memorable adventures start.

At Gupabal Metro station, there is a large crowd of hikers (remember what I said about what Koreans do on weekends?) waiting at the bus stop. Follow them and you won’t go wrong. The bus goes fast here, they are probably the proverbial race car drivers in their previous career. But quickly we get off at a nice village. Having a friend that knows Korean helps, but not mine as we’re all first timers here at Bukhansan. So I took out my GPS and said that peak looks interesting and lets go the path of least resistance which is straight as the eye can see.

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Make no mistake. This is the EASY part of the climb. I don’t have pictures of the tough part because obviously I’m hanging on for dear life.

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View across the valley. While I doubt climbers for that mountain will have to scale those rock face, they still look scary.

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Seoul, South Korea: Inwangsan


I have been having free weekends in Seoul lately and this weekend I was quite determined to go somewhere outdoors after a few disappointing sights around Insadong. Saturday was not that great, it rained. Pretty heavily too. Sunday started off good, not a sunny day, but with low clouds and chance of rain. I did a quick check of the weather, clouds are moving relatively fast, but the texture seems consistent and there doens’t seem to be too much risk of heavy rain, so umbrellas were not required. So picked up my small utility bag with a D300 SLR and a Nikkor 12-24mm lens and a GPS and I was out without a clue of the route to take, but as long as I’m going uphill I’m on the right path.

Target today is Inwangsan, a mountain just to the northern border of Seoul. Close enough to be able to reach it by Metro line 3, Dongnimmun Station. Not the mountain top, of course. The station straddles below a main road that leads out of the city to the north. This destination took up only a small portion of Lonely Planet guide book which I did not bother to bring along with me. So I started looking around for a way to get up the mountain. (By the way, realised after this climb that the proper and easy way up is on the east of the mountain, so you will need to walk anticlockwise around it from the Metro station. I went clockwise.)

Going up north, I came across a bunch of apartments and a pedestrian foot bridge after going slightly uphill, still along the main road with mountains on both sides. Figuring that as long as I go uphill, I’d get to a trail, I decided to go up a very steep concrete road, which leads to a small village on the foot of Inwangsan. Its a tough slog up this slope that runs about 200m. There were a few old hikers loitering around so I followed one. Look for the playground behind the village, where you will find the start of the trail identified by a map board which is unfortunately in Korean. It looks like the old city wall goes up this mountain along the spine so this should be fun.

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Hong Kong Trail Part 1, Hong Kong: Peak to Aberdeen

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Two IFC Tower from the Peak

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This section of the trail is going through mainly Pok Fu Lam reservoir system

I have always thought that the Hong Kong trail was at least 100km long, but I was brought to realize that it is only half of that. It is Maclehose Trail that is of that distance. Then again, the closest one to where I live should always be the one to try out first. So, the rough plan is this (there is never a real plan when it comes to a good hike) I will break it down to either 4 or 5 sections that I can do in a day each (finally it ended up that I will need 5 days to cover it all), and time it so that I start off around noon, and end up before sundown someplace where I can extract myself back to civilization, which for me means a public transport of some sort. That should put the daily distance between 12-15km. My GPS and a camera will come along to document the trip. The Hong Kong trail is an interesting one, and what a way to present a long hike but like this: start off in the picturesque vista up on the Peak mingling with the tourists and ending the hike couple of days later at Shek O beach right on the eastern end of Hong Kong island.

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Google Earth view of the first half of the trek

However, let me start by saying that I suck at writing, and especially checking for typing errors – but it has to be done. I start the hike by taking bus 15 from the bus terminus at Central, next to the Hong Kong Airport Express station. This bus is filled to the brim with tourists, but guess tourists would be the first group you’d expect to be taking that bus up to the Peak. The bus winds its way up till it reaches Peak Galeria (22.270343, 114.14996). This is one last chance to top up that big bottle of water, and some ice cream and coffee before I dive into nature.

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Private apartment buildings in Central

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View of Hong Kong Central from Lugard Road

Continue reading “Hong Kong Trail Part 1, Hong Kong: Peak to Aberdeen”

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