Wow, is this post long overdue. Craig and I hiked up Wolchulsan on 17 November. We took the train down to Busan late Friday night, as we like to do, in order to be able to have a bit of a lie in, but still get on the trail early(ish) in the morning.
The trains heading south on Friday nights can be full, and this occasion was no different. Being old, we like the extra space (and relative quiet) of first class, so we usually aren’t affected, as long as we remember to buy tickets in advance. The hall monitors are pretty good at kicking standing passengers out of the first class cars, but they must have been particularly busy that night. In front of us, there was a family of three with one ticket between them. For a window seat. That didn’t bother the dad, who leaned over the woman with the aisle seat to talk to his wife and child. To that woman’s credit, she didn’t stab him or even jab him with her elbow.
We had stayed at a yogwan across from Peace Square last year and recalled that it was nice, so we went back. Fortunately, our recollections were correct. In the past, we have been punished by having memories good enough to get us back to previous accommodations, but there is a fair chance we will have forgotten that it was too hot/ cold/ loud or clearly had not been serviced recently. The Seine, however, was just as good as we remembered, and in a good area, across from the ocean and near a bunch of restaurants and coffee shops.
In the morning, we took at taxi to Dogapsa and started up. The parking lot was pretty much the last bit of level ground until the end. They must not have gotten the memo that I like flat stretches and DO NOT like ropes or ladders or stairs, each of which were abundant. There was also a 700m loop to cross a suspension bridge, but by the time we got there, we decided that we had enjoyed the hike enough. Also, once I saw how steep it was, I thought my chances of getting to the top were pretty slim, since it involved hundreds of steps which basically seemed to go straight up a cliff face. I’m sure it wasn’t quite that steep, but that’s how it looked from where we could see it. There weren’t even any landings where one could catch one’s breath. In other words, whenever I got too tired to keep climbing, everyone behind me would have been stuck waiting. No pressure…
The peak, as ever, was crowded, but outside of a 30 minute area around the peak, there were few hikers. On the peak, however, there were families having large picnics and cooking. Clearly there was a parking lot hidden nearby. Cheaters! The picnickers seemed even more excited than usual hikers to see foreigners on their mountain. One guy even took a bunch of photos of us. After talking to him, we found out he was leading a tour group. I imagine we’ll be in their next brochure. LOL
I’ve been slow to adopt hiking gear, as it seems part of the Korean hiking uniform, but it really seemed to bother people that I was wearing a street coat and scarf, even though I’m 99% sure my coat was warmer than their jackets. Whatever. Just as I was slowly brought around to the joy of hiking pants, I am now coming around to the idea that poles are a good thing. We’ve been hiking ever more steep hills with more scrambling required, and I think they would be helpful to me with my limited strength and ability to haul myself up and down tall rocks. Craig is always good about hauling me up or down, but I don’t think that’s really fair.
Despite the scrambling and stairs, I managed to finish the hike, but our plans for a second hike on Sunday was not possible– climbing the stairs into the coffee shop Sunday morning nearly did me in, and there was coffee at the end of that walk. Someday, I’ll be fit enough to hike Wolchulsan, including the suspension bridge, and hike the next day, but not yet.