The “That’s-a-hard-mountain” Mt. Seorak

January 11-12, 2020

The third highest mountain in South Korea, Seorak-san (Mt. Seorak) stands at around 1,700 meters high. That’s not a lot – is what I thought. But talking to two Koreans who I know hikes, their first reaction was – “Are you sure? That’s a hard mountain!”

Either way, I still did it. Oh, and they were right haha.

Before the Hike

  1. Reserve the shelter. Go to this link via your laptop. (Mobile access is not allowed, so you’ll have to change the settings of your phone to desktop site if you insist on using your phone.) Reserve “Jungcheong”, as it is the biggest one and merely 15 minutes ish from the summit. Shelter reservations are tricky – first come, first served, and with a very specific time frame. A quick example, February 1-15 reservations can only be done on January 15. February 16-28 can be reserved on February 1, 10am Korean Time. Take a screenshot just to be safe.
  2. Reserve the bus (Seoul to Sokcho). It can be done online – IF you have a Korean card. If you don’t, then this is not applicable. OR, find someone who does to do it for you. Is it needed? In my case, I was hiking in winter which is not peak season. I bet it’ll be a different story in autumn or spring.

Itinerary

Saturday

  • 05:45. Arrival at the Dong Seoul Bus Terminal, sometimes referred to as East Seoul Bus Terminal. I did not reserve a bus as I don’t have a Korean card, but I was able to buy the ticket (KRW15,000 ish). There were two companies – one at the first floor and another at the second floor. I don’t care about the company, but I wanted the 6:05 bus, and once we asked, it’s at the first floor. Simply say “Sokcho” and you’re good.
  • 08:10. Arrival at Sokcho Terminal. Just wait for the last stop, but I think it’s here.
  • 08:15. Take the Bus 7-1 (yes, there’s a dash) at the bus stop. Just go to the main street, and the bus stop is about 5 meters to the right. Pay KRW1,400 ish – just insert the money at the transparent looking box, and if you need a change the driver will provide it. We were charged KRW2,900, but I just assumed he shafted us. Haha. Oh well.
  • 08:45. Arrival at Seoraksan trailhead. It’s the last stop of the bus, but here’s the pin for google maps.
  • 09:00. Start hike. Ok, the hike is divided into sections, with the first 3-4kms mainly flat. It’s about 11kms in total, with an elevation gain of about 1,600meters. So expect stairs and plenty of ascent.
  • 15:00. Arrival at Jungcheong. Check in, pay. (KRW12,000, changes depending on whether it is peak season or off season). Tidied up. Their shelters are awesome!
    • On “rooms”. The rooms are fully heated. Rooms are misleading. There’s a space for 100+ people, two big rooms.
    • On “beds”. You get a little space where you can put a blanket (rental at KRW2,000 per sheet, max of 2 per person). It’s about the size of half a single bed. You can see the pictures at the reservation site.
    • On food. There’s little food available (mainly snacks – like the small packet of chocolate pie), so make sure you have your own stove and food. The most substantial “meal” they sell is microwavable white rice. So if you want some meat/viand with your rice, you’re out of luck.
    • On water. Water is sold at KRW3,000 per 2 liter bottles. No faucets etc, so leave the water filter at home.
    • Others. Gas canisters are also sold, so are some crampons, spikes.
    • In summary, DO NOT rely on the shelter other than for blankets, heated room (and toilets!), and bottles of water.
  • 15:30ish. Headed out to summit.
  • 16:00ish. Summit! Took plenty of pics, then left. Haha.
  • 16:30ish. Started on dinner, then went to sleep.

Sunday

  • 06:30. Woke up, breakfast and coffee.
  • 07:30. Sunrise. Take note – the beautiful view is blocked by the summit and CANNOT be seen from the shelter. I’d still rather not freeze so I’m happy missing it haha.
  • 09:00. Started going down.
  • 13:00ish. Back at the bus stop.
  • 13:40ish. Took bus 7-1 again going back to the bus station.
  • 14:50. Bus back to Seoul. It was supposed to be a two hour, ten minute bus.
  • 19:00. Arrived at Seoul. Ouch with the traffic.

AC: Day 12

December 28, 2019

A long walk for a view. So we’re done with the Thorong La pass, but we still want to do Poon Hill – which is a good viewing point they said. So off we gk.

  • 05:30. Wake up, get ready.
  • 06:30. Breakfast.
  • 07:30 ish. Head out.
  • 13:00 lunch on the road.
  • 15:30ish. Arrive at the Ghorepani.

It is a 1,800 meter ascent I think?

AC: Day 11

December 27, 2019

People are more stressful than mountains. Mountains are scarier in that they kill you, but they are straightforward about it. People stress me out a lot with all the lies and mind games, mainly for financial gain. Either way.

  • 06:30. Get up. We don’t have 3 in 1 coffee anymore so we just needed to wait for the 7:30am breakfast.
  • 07:30. Breakfast. We had some freebies because apparently it is the New Year’s of the Mustang Area (we were at Muktinah)
  • 08:30 ish. Headed out.
  • 08:40 ish. Got into the jeep stop. We were looking for the jeep going to Jomsom, and the hotel and my research shows a 300 rupee per person fare. However, once we got there, there were no public buses for the day. The thing is, all drivers started asking to be chartered somewhere between 3,000 to 5,000 rupees. But if you are willing to wait, you can join other passengers going to Jomsom. Of course, as Nepali people lie a LOT (at least those who make money from tourists in my experience), they will tell you that there is nobody going to Jomsom anymore). Ten minutes later a group of four Indians came and we had a 500 per person deal.
  • 11:00. Somewhere one of the tires busted, and so we had to stop at the mechanic. Got into the mechanic’s place around 11, stayed for 30 minutes (driver said 5 minutes. Read: Nepali peoplle lie a LOT). The drop off point was less than a five minute drive from there. Why he kept us with him? Probably so he can personally “accompany” tourists to his friends’ hotel.
  • 11:45. We were just looking for the bus stop. Found one, were told that the bus just left a couple of minutes back and try for other bus companies. Told to wait til 12:30 so he can confirm if there will be a bus, called again at 12:30, no answer. Called every 5 minutes, no answer. Around 1pm he calls me saying a bus will be coming in 20 minutes. Note: local phones are critical when scheduling.
  • 13:20ish got into the bus. Rushed to find a seat, and started the bumpiest bus ride of my life.
  • 18:00ish. Asked to transfer to another bus as there was a landslide and we had to walk across the river.
  • 18:30ish. Found the stop for the night. This one took more effort to find because they are all asking for 600 rupees per room, and normally it should be free with food. But after asking a couple of shops, we finally found a “free one”. Had dinner, shopped for trail food, coffeee etc, refilled our waters, and off to bed!

AC: Day 10

December 26, 2019

The Reckoning!

  • 03:50 wake up. We met up with some folks in the lodge and we are joining them in their 5:30am hike. So since we’re having breakfast at 5am and we need an hour to prepare…. but darn, 4950meters is darn cold.
  • 05:30 head out. And be immediately left behind. It was a difficult trip. The warmest temperature is around -15c. Ouchie. About an hour into the trip, strong winds forced the group to take shelter for about half an hour in an emergency hut ish place. The locals were burning stuff (trash?) found in the hut.
  • 10:30 Arrived at the pass! Darn. I was just bawling. It was supposed to be a 3 to 5 hours, so i am also very very happy. But it was sooooo cold and so we had to go! We have no water because our hydration packs were froze solid from the inside!
  • 15:40 Arrived at the guesthouse in Muktinah.

Darn. This is the culmination of the entire hike, and I am just grateful we were able to pass.

AC: Day 9

December 25, 2019

Christmas up the Himalayas! The elevation is killing me.

  • 06:30. Wake up, coffee, pack.
  • 07:30. Breakfast. Had lemon pancakes. So sour. Will just stick to chocolate next time.
  • 08:00. Head out.
  • 11:10. Arrived at Thorang Pendi, rested for a couple of minutes.
  • 14:00. Arrived at High Camp. Darn that was gruelling trip up. Just one full assault. It was hard. What is supposed to be an hour took us three haha. Altitude combined with my cough and cold is kicking my ass.

But! I am now at 4950meters. Arrived at the lodge (only one) with a 250 rupee fee, and had to rest for a while because I was that nauseous. It’s 15:40 now, and I’m having tea. Will have dinner soon.

AC: Day 8

December 24, 2019

Everybody’s celebrating Christmas, and here we are experiencing the harsh life in the Himalayas….

  • 06:30 Wake up.
  • 07:30 Order breakfast.
  • 08:00 Breakfast.
  • 08:30ish. Head out.
  • 12:00ish. Lunch at Yak Kharka.
  • 13:40ish. Arrive at Letdar. Took the first hut, 100 rupees per night.
  • 18:00 Dinner.

Ugh. We feel so so so awful. The view is amazing, but the weather is harsh. I have a cold, and my partner has food poisoning. Add the altitude? Darn.

AC: Day 7

December 23, 2019

A nice, leisurely (wait, do i have to poop?) walk to Manang.

  • 06:30. Wake up, coffee, pack bags.
  • 07:30. Breakfast. Had scrambled eggs. Paid our bill of 5,500 rupees, tipped 500 (for 2 pax, room is free)
  • 08:30. Headed out.
  • 11:30. Napped en route.
  • 13:00 ish. Passed Braka. Wait, Braka? Our planned route was to take faster one that DOES not pass throught Braka. Huh. Oh well. Showed the permits at the checkpoint, got told that Tilicho Lake is not visible right now and not optional as the teahouse is not open.
  • 14:00 ish. Arrived at Manang. Trued to negotiate a lodge, didn’t think it’s worth it, so now we’re paying 400 rupees per night.
  • 14:30. Went to the health center coz myhiking buddy’s not feeling well. Meds and consultation are free!
  • 17:00. Dinner.
  • 18:00. Pumped water, used steripen, steripen died on me, charged steripen, used it again. Then brushed my teeth and off to bed!

Ugh, Manang is 3450meters compared to Nyawal’s 3,650. But it feels colder in Manang!