Saturday, December 05, 2015

Winter on Halla


... comes faster than I guessed.

Nearly two weeks ago, the heavens gave Hallasan white highlights.  While pretty from a distance, one of my coworkers told me that the Yeongshil (영실) trail leads to a stunning view of the peak and especially in the winter.  Naturally, I decided I had to go and on Friday morning, I set out.

Note: As with any of the trails that go up Halla, there is a time constraint and you can't start going up after a certain time (depending on the season).

Before I add my pictures, let me explain that the weather on Jeju has been around 10˚C (50 in Fahrenheit) and that all the trees around my school still have all their leaves.  While it's no longer short weather, the days are still nice.  And so going into my hike, I wasn't really sure what to expect on the mountain.  Sure, there was snow, but from my school, I can't tell how much--nor am I totally sure how high up it starts.  Plus, with it sweater weather down here, how bad can it be a couple hundred feet higher?  (Ha.)

My first warning came from another man at the bus stop.  On vacation from Seoul, he was all geared up for the hike.  After looking at mine and my friend's clothing, he asked if we would be okay on the mountain.  At that point, I honestly didn't know.  And then we got to the entrance.
This is the road leading from the parking lot to the trail head.
Snow.  Lots of snow.  More than I expected considering we were still a long way from the summit.
Shortly after starting up the main trail.  The surrounding woods were stunning.
It was also colder than I thought it would be. I wasn't freezing, but by the time we were done, my fingers were numb and all I wanted was a warm bath.  Too bad I don't have a bathtub...

As we climbed higher, the white world only continue to dazzle.  It was as though someone dumped paint on everything and huge globs clung to the bushes and trees while the rest fell to blanket the ground.
Close up of one of the bushes.
Looking up the trail and out over the snow-covered shrubs.
Me, a little cold, but happy to be in a winter wonderland!
This was my favourite tree from the climb.
 As the wind blows across the mountain's face, it sculpts and molds the snow covered statues into its own creation. My friend turned to me around this time and said, "Look at all the snow flowers!" and his description is so accurate.
The wind blows the snow into these petal like-shapes and they surround the rope like a flower chain.
While it was still a beautiful hike, the weather wasn't the best for the view.  Clouds clung to the mountainside like peanut butter on bread: thick and impossible to see through.  I felt as though I had jumped into the pages of an adventure story.  Sort of a strange mix between the trekking from Tolkien's LoTR and the Dark Island from Lewis' Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  It was both surreal and humbling.  As we broke the tree line, the wind began to blow something fierce and visibility only got worse.  Without the string running along the trail, we wouldn't have been able to go much farther.  As it was, we didn't stay on the top ridge for long and decided to turn back due to wind and cold.

The cloud cover lifted slightly on the way down.  Here are two pictures of the same tree.  The first was taken on the way up and the second on the way down.
View from a lookout on the way up.
View from the lookout about 1.5 hours later.
I long to go back sometime in the next couple of months better prepared and hopefully with clearer weather. Until then, other adventures await.

Love and hugs!

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