So I didn’t think the day I voluntarily agreed to climb a mountain and actually go through with it would ever, ever come however Saturday 17th October 2009 was that day, and the mountain was the Baekundae Peak in Bukhansan National Park, apparently the world’s most visited National Park. Bukhansan is situated just north of Seoul, South of Munsan so is fairly ‘local’ – despite this fact it somehow took us 3 hours to get there – longer than it took to actually get up and down the peak itself. Baekundae Peak is the highest peak in the park at 837 metres (above sea level??) and climbing it was possibly the most terrifying experience of my life and the closest I have actually come to death.
To cut a very dull ‘Why it took us three hours to get there’ story short I’m going to cut to the chase and explain that thanks to the detour via Seoul and having to take a bus from Seoul, we managed to meet this great Korean dude called Sonny who became our voluntary guide for the journey. I don’t think he realised what he was letting himself in for. Essentially he gave us our route, and helped us navigate our feet into the right place. The first half was steep but dealable. The second half was hell, the rough terrain turned into sheer rock face which we had to pull ourselves up with the aid of ropes and steel fencing that was attached to the mountain, luckily there were several Koreans around to give us a much needed boost, and to grab us so we didn’t slip and splat ourselves on the ground. It was like rock climbing but without the harness. The views we got from the top were worth it, incredibly beautiful, we could see all of the National Park, and most of Seoul that was stretched out infront of us. The route down was far less stressful and thanks to our Korean guide, we were able to go through a ‘No Entry sign’ (all the Koreans were doing it) and through Guknyeongsa Temple and see The Grand Buddha, a giant Buddha that sits within the temple grounds and is an incredible sight. After the hike, we headed to one of the outdoor restaurants for Korean Pizza, Barbecue Pork, beer and Soju with Sonny to say thankyou to the poor guy for the stress we put him through. We then went to another retstaurant (now sure how this happened) where we had more soju and beer, this very bizarre almond jelly salad and a potato pancake… again traditional Korean dishes. The salad was great, it was the most salad-like thing I have seen since arriving in Korea although the Almond Jelly was rather odd… Climbing the mountain was amazing and I am going to go back at some point and climb one of the other three peaks. We also had and idea of climbing Seorokasan, which is towards the East coast – its a great adrenalin rush and it made me feel amazed… if a little pained the next day!