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.

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