Yeongsil trail

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Here are some photos from the Yeongsil trail, on the western side of Mt Halla. The trail doesn’t go to the top of Halla but climbs through woodland before emerging onto the treeless mountainside below the crater. The start is just below 1300m and  the goal is the Witsae-oreum shelter at around 1700m. Much of the route is on wooden steps and walkways, roped to prevent walkers from wandering off the straight and narrow.

Weather permitting, there are views to the coast on the north, west and south sides of the island, and you can look down at the oreum-covered landscape of western Jeju.

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A taste of winter on Halla

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It might be spring on the rest of Jeju but it definitely felt like winter on the side of Mt Halla today. There’s still snow on the ground in places and this morning there were flurries of snow in the air. We climbed the Yeongsil route, from the west, and after some discussion (shall we say) with the park ranger, descended using the Donnaeko route.

It’s not possible to get to the very top using these routes. Instead, the path passes below the high buttress that protects the south side of the summit. Even so, the path reaches around 1800 m above sea level. At times today, the top was shrouded in mist; at other times, the mist lifted and we could see the rock face towering above us.

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The noodle hut near the high point showed the temperature to be below zero, without taking wind chill into account, and it was the wind whistling over the hillside that made it feel so cold and made it tricky to keep balance on the rocky path, especially on the descent.

Those hot noodles were very welcome, I can tell you.

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Mulchat in the snow

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We were at sea level yesterday but above the snow line today. This is Mulchat oreum, reasonably high on the eastern slopes of Mt Halla. The top of the oreum was off limits today (for conservation reasons?) so we didn’t get to look into the crater. Instead, I’ll just have to imagine it from the description on the notice at the highest point on the path we walked:

“There’s a funnel figured crater lake with watered, year round and it’s one of the very precious crater lake in Jeju island with 1km out-diameter.”

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Mt Halla in the snow

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This is Mt Halla last Thursday, a completely clear day, with signs of snow near the summit. It must be about 20 miles away. I took it from the roof of school – that’s not a bad view to have.

In the foreground are some different oreum. I don’t know the name of any of them but it’s a typical Jeju landscape. You can get a sense of how it might have been when Halla was an active volcano, with lava breaking through to the surface at different places around the main peak.

Climbing Mt Halla

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Another day, another volcanic crater. This time it’s the big one, Mt Halla, 1950m tall and the highest point in South Korea. It’s a four-hour hike to the top and another four hours down. No map is necessary, even if you could get a decent one, as there’s no way of losing the trail which is mostly roped, largely man-managed, and has plenty of wooden walkways to ease the way. Even so, it’s a long and tiring day.

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There were plenty of other hikers – including some nuns who made it to the top at the same time as we did. A few hikers exchanged some words of English (“Where are you from?”, “Premier League, Manchester United, Ji-Sung Park”), and we were offered food at regular intervals. At a stop half way up, a lady gave us two tangerines. At the next stop, another lady gave us two more, and moments later we were given two small chocolates. On the way down, let another lady offered us slices of Chinese pear. When we met her again later, she gave us some sweets made from rice. It’s amazing – the kindness of strangers.

The scenery on the way down was a treat – steep cliffs, deep valleys, tree-covered hillsides, early Autumn colours.

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